Before it opened to the public last year, I was among the privileged few who were able to tour around (and even under!) the lavish and elegantly designed interiors of Solaire Resort and Casinos.
SOLAIRE, a French word which means “the breeze from the sun” or “relative to the sun” sought to “CHANGE THE GAME” by bringing in a world-class Casino that is better than those in Macau or Atlantic City and at par with the world’s best in Las Vegas.
But Solaire’s entry not only elevated the standards of the entertainment and gaming industry, it also treated Filipinos to an international culinary journey and the finest restaurant experience Manila has ever known.
A few weeks ago, I got another invitation from Solaire, I was hoping they’d let me try some of those slot machines, but it was an even more tempting offer– to try their summer dessert menu!
Although I’ve interviewed several of their chefs, as well as some of their food and beverage managers before, the only restaurant I was able to try then was Fresh. As its name implies, they only use the freshest ingredients. No frozen or canned stuff in the kitchen (they don’t even have a can opener!), so as expected their buffet spread was one of the best I’ve tried and I’m sure they’ve even improved on some of the dishes.
This time, I get to try out four more of their restaurants, which made even the butterflies in my stomach craving some sweet treats.
WASABI and SORBET at YAKUMI
Whether it’s Sushi, Sashimi, Robatayaki or the freshest fish and crustaceans, world-class ingredients are the highlight of Yakumi.
Solaire’s signature Japanese restaurant was the first stop of our Dessert tour.
Yakumi features an expansive open kitchen that allows patrons of the restaurant to witness how the ingredients–sourced largely from Japan, are prepared carefully like a perfected way of life, and how it is blended using aged traditional techniques, and modern presentations to provide dining customers’ palate, an incredible experience, no other Japanese restaurant here in Manila can provide.
Prior to joining Solaire, Chef Norimasa Kosaka who heads the Yakumi team, was the Japanese Chef de Cuisine of Crown Melbourne Limited, Australia and among the prided chefs at Shangri-la Hotels and Resorts India and the One & Only Reethi Rah in Maldives.
For our group, Chef Norimasa prepared two desserts that you can only find in Solaire—Mango and Guyabano Ice Cream sorbet and Wasabi Panna Cotta.
While I like my mangoes semi-ripe that is a bit on the sour side, I’ve never eaten Guyabano before, nor tried any of its derivatives. But this unconventional and unique combination of Mango and Guyabano laced with sugar was a welcome introduction to the fruit.
The pairing can both be perfect palate cleanser and a cool escape from the sweltering heat, although you won’t experience that while you’re in Solaire. The mango scoop isn’t too sweet and a combination of the two will make your tongue do the tango with your taste buds.
The second featured dessert is a bit more adventurous. The Wasabi Panna Cota, is both an intriguing and daring dish since most of us want our deserts sweet instead of spicy.
Before letting us try it out, Chef Norimasa demonstrated how he grates a wasabi root, and explained that it is his Japanese take on the traditional panna cotta. Infused with milk, sugar, wasabi, cream and gelatin, this panna cotta is not as thick and creamy with just the right amount of sweetness to complement that spicy tangy kick from the wasabi. The strawberry and white chocolate straw on top also balances the flavour and you can add a bit more spice with the wasabi powder that is sprinkled on the side. One of us even decided to mix in the strawberry with the panna cotta, to add more flavour I guess. Like I said it’s a bit daring but not too dangerous to try.
FLOWERS AND RICE BALLS AT RED LANTERN
Our Asian dessert journey then took us to Red Lantern, Solaire Resort and Casino’s signature Chinese restaurant.
Like a beacon of hope calling out to guests looking for a quick and quiet reprieve from the busy gaming tables, Red Lantern provides a wide array of delicious homemade dim sums, Suckling Pig, Peking Duck, and mouthwatering gourmet spectacles that dining patrons will never forget.
Chef de Cuisine Chef Lo Ka Cheung Sam may not speak much English but his creations can say “delicious” in any known language.
Chef Lo was an Assistant Executive Chef at Conrad Centennial Singapore and he also served as Chinese Executive Chef at Old Hong Kong Kitchen in Singapore and Maxims Club in Genting Highlands, Malaysia.
With his mastery of traditional Cantonese cuisine, Chef Lo presented us with a “floral” dessert and a traditional Asian dessert that symbolizes togetherness.
Flowers and Aloe Vera. For dessert.
The jellied flower and berries mixed in a thick semi-sweet syrup is both a treat for the eyes and for tastebuds looking for something that is both healthy and digestive friendly.
Osmanthus Flowers, wolfberries and aloe vera each have its own health benefits so mixing the three together creates a very nutritional combination. It has a peculiar taste, but it doesn’t mean it isn’t delicious. Light and refreshing, it also helps digestion so it’s the perfect end after a heavy meal.
It’s the exact opposite of my reaction when Chef Lo presented his next creation– Glutinous rice balls with red bean cream! Similar to our favourite guinataan bilo bilo, sweet rice balls are one of the favourite desserts of the Chinese. Chef Lo explained this dish is often served during weddings to symbolize togetherness and the lasting celebration of the couple’s marriage.
The thick creamy sweetened red bean sauce syrup complements the chewy rice balls and the surprise filling that it conceals inside. I swear you’ll be asking for seconds.
STRAWBERRIES AND CHOCOLATE AT THE STRIP
We had no time for seconds though as we needed to proceed to our next dessert destination. The Strip is Solaire’s signature steakhouse, where only the finest tender cuts of meat, and premium steak are seared to perfection.
Beyond the extensive bar menu in the restaurant lounge, the 3,000 bottles at the wine wall and the fantastic views of Manila Bay are the dessert creations of Chef Eric Turgeon.
Chef Eric, who admits to falling in love with the country, was formerly the Jr. Sous-Chef for Cuiscene restaurant a Fairmont Hotel and Resorts and the Sr. Chef de Partie for Marco Pierre White Steakhouse and Grill in Abu Dhabi.
Compared to the unusual ones we initially tasted, Chef Eric’s creations are a bit more mainstream. He said he wanted to offer his guests desserts that would complement a heavy steak dinner, but with his own personal touch.
After proudly showing us his very clean and organized kitchen he then prepared his signature desserts right in front of us. For this summer, Strip showcases Strawberries & Cream and Dark Chocolate Mousse.
Made with fresh strawberries, shortbread crumble and dry meringue with a luxury cream Chantilly all in one bite, Strawberries and Cream is something everyone can enjoy.
The next one was even more tempting, composed of light and airy chocolate mousse and caramel sand with torched banana toppings and garnished with roasted macadamia nuts, its an easy choice for anyone who loves chocolate. The bittersweet chocolates and the caramelized banana and macadamia nuts create a melody of dessert heaven in every bite.
It was unfortunate that I had to leave after the third restaurant as Solaire had two more restaurants and four more desserts that I heard was even more awesome.
Thank you RIA LUMANDOG for letting me use your photos!
Finestra, Solaire’s signature Italian restaurant is led by Chef Slavatore de Vicentis whose more than 20 years experience earned him the award for Best Executive Chef for Italian Cuisine at the WOFEX Worldwide Competition Awards, Best Italian Restaurant for Edsa Shangri-La Manila’s Paparazzi at the 2009 Nescafe Gold Spot Awards, and Best Italian Restaurant for Mezzo Mezzo, JW Marriot Hotel, Mumbai at the 2012 Times Food and Nightlife Awards.
Inspired by his family’s storied tradition of Italian home cooking, Salvatore encourages every food lover to enjoy classic Italian cuisine with a flair of Dolce Vita.
His summer creations are the Gelatto Samplers trio and the Vanilla Panna Cotta with coffee cream and chocolate biscotti.
The first sampler is composed of Nutella gelato with biscotti crumbs and candied walnuts; the next is made of Homemade strawberry coconut gelato with strawberry coulis and pistachio biscotti while the third is Homemade Mascarpone Gelato— which is guaranteed to make you lick your spoon.
Finestra’s second featured dessert is Vanilla Panna cotta with coffee cream and chocolate biscotti.
My reunion with Fresh also had to wait, which made me regret it more when I learned that Chef Josef Teuschler had prepared my two favourite desserts—cakes and Halo Halo.
Before being Solaire’s Executive Pastry Chef Josef Teuschler had a very impressive portfolio that includes serving at the Jumeirah Emirates Tower, Dubai; The Ritz-Carlton, Doha, Qatar, Sand Lane Hotel, Barbados; The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, Canada; and Four Seasons in Toronto, Carribbean and U.S.A.
Josef’s 30 years of pastry passion earned him the prestigious Pastry Chef of the Year award at the Gourmet Abu Dhabi Festival in 2012. He was also among the select chefs featured in numerous episodes of Great Chefs of the World and Great Chefs of the Carribbean.
Chef Josef shares his love of pastries through his modern take on classic desserts with his signature creations including the Solaire Chocolate Cake – the first chocolate cake topped with 24-karat gold in the Philippines!
The signature cake consist of layers of rich flourless chocolate cake filled with caramel chocolate mousse, cocoa gel and croustillant cookie crisp. Finished with bitter chocolate coverture glaze and signature gold flakes.
24k gold aside, however, I was even more disappointed to miss the Halo-Halo—the official favourite comfort food of Pinoys every summer.
Solaire’s take on this popular dessert is prepared with Ube spread, Buko pandan, Macapuno strips, Guyabano parfait, Sweet bananas, nata de coco and Marshmallows. Topped with Pandan flavoured crushed Ice, Ube Ice cream, Leche Flan and Yema.
Now you’d have no choice but to sacrifice some of Fresh’ irresistible buffet dishes to make room for Halo-Halo!
See you at Solaire!
Solaire Resort & Casino
1 Asean Avenue
Parañaque City 1701
Telephone No: + 63 2 888-8888