Being born in Sydney to Singaporean parents, I’ve truly experienced the best of both cultures. From this, I learnt that a large component of what defines ‘culture’ is ‘food’ – a beautifully simple notion that has the ability to unite and reflect the customs and traditions of a nation. So what better way to share something new and different with others than making the introduction through a mutual friend, food?
The Grace Hotel, Sydney has successfully achieved this through their numerous “Flavours of….” Food festivals, all of which have proved their true embrace of multiculturalism while introducing us Sydney-siders to the ‘different’ and ‘new’. As Mama works at the Grace, I was lucky enough to attend the launch of their latest cultural affair, “Flavours of the Philippines”. Never having tried Filipino cuisine before, I admit that I was intrigued and slightly excited…ok…very excited to meet this new ‘friend’. The prospect of the buffet might have whet my appetite as well.
The vibrant culmination of spices and fresh foods enveloped the guests in a warm embrace as they entered the Grace Brasserie. A certain authenticity was immediately instilled by the culinary creations of Head Chef, Colin Yee and the expert Filipino chefs flown in by The Grace especially for the event.
Introductions were made to the organisers of the event – Boon Yiam and Jason and a sea of fellow diners, followed by the ‘guest of honour’, the Philippines as the ice was broken by an array of appetizing salads.
On first bite of the crackling pork salad, I knew that this was the start of a beautiful friendship! The kitchen certainly knew how to generate anticipation for the rest of the buffet line through the absolute freshness of the appetisers. The most interesting of these was definitely the smoked oysters with mushrooms…we all know how I feel about seafood J! Analogous to personality and friendship, the uniqueness of this dish may not be appreciated by all but it certainly agreed with my tastebuds!
A little quirk thrown into the introduction was the very tempting basket of bread, which I could not refuse! How glad I was to have tried these lil’ buns of goodness, which managed to infuse the best of salty and sweet with fluffy innards!
Conversation with this new friend deepened as I met the array of main courses – all different and culturally significant. Friendship developed over the oh so tender “Chicken Adobo” and “Ox-Tail in Peanut Sauce”. The ox-tail was most definitely a favourite of mine as the meat fell of the bone and met the subtle peanut sauce.
Normally, I’m not too keen on fish at buffets because they tend to be overcooked and lose their flavour, but I decided to make an exception in order to really understand my new friend! (Also maybe because it looked too good to resist!) Like Mama says ‘if you don’t try you don’t know!’ and I admit that this dish was absolutely worth trying. The barramundi – “Pinais Na Isda” retained its flavour and was well accompanied by the curry-like sauce.
Finally the conversation climaxed at the….wait for it…suckling pig! Oh the crackling pork….crackling accompanied by the sinful lard…Mama I promise my new best friend is not going to be a bad influence on me! The kitchen deserves an over-enthusiastic hi-five for this! The simplicity and unmasked splendour of the dish, completely perfect without any sauce or fanciful seasoning established what reminds me of the ‘honesty’ of friendship. Coupled with the light “sautéed egg and glass noodles with shrimp and Chinese sausage” – “Bam-I Guisado” I may have been completely content with these two dishes!
There is no better way to cement a friendship than through dessert. The dessert selection had me super excited from the minute I had stepped into the brasserie and spotted the bright future of the meal! There was such a great and interesting selection that only made me nudge Mama numerous times with absolute excitement. The Cassava Rolls with Cheddar Cheese, Crisp Banana Rolls with Sesame Seeds – “Turones de Saba” are just a few of the available dessert delights!
My absolute favourtes..yes favourites as in plural, would have to have been the “Caramel Leche” with its super smooth texture and sweetness that brought me to a happy place and the genius dessert that consisted of shaved ice topped with the multicoloured affair of jelly, red beans, jack fruit, finished off with the best part of all…carnation milk. This made me reminiscent of my Singaporean Eis Kachang…Oh the memories! This bowl of milky goodness was a light and fun way to end the meal as I went down the line of toppings having too much fun! It was truly the ‘sweet’ beginning to a new friendship!
This culinary journey had undoubtedly brought the Philippines to me in an authentic and sincere way. Maybe if I tell Mama how educational the experience was there will be more meals like this…teehee!
Thanks and congratulations must go to the operations and food and beverage team at the Grace Hotel for introducing me to a new friend. May they continue to establish new ties between numerous different culture and Sydney siders!
The Grace Hotel
77 York Street, Sydney NSW 2000
Ph: 9272 6888