June 8, 2004  (STAR) By Kathy Moran  -  It’s a new service altogether," says chef David Pardo de Ayala, chef de cuisine of Soleil Restaurant in Greenbelt 2 when we meet him for breakfast one morning last week.

I admit it. I am not a breakfast person, but the promise of a good and interesting meal was enough to get me out of the gym in time for breakfast chow. And yes, my parents always told me when I was growing up that the best way to start the day is with a healthy breakfast.

"We recognized the potential of Soleil and this area for breakfast service," says chef David. "So we decided to go for it. Now we have a breakfast selection and it is starting to gather momentum."

Several considerations went into the choice of food that they serve for breakfast, chef David says. At the onset, he was concerned with combining recipes that would match the spirit of the restaurant and at the same time have a price range that would capture the right volume of business.

"Of course, I wanted to prepare a menu that would allow me to have a little fun in the kitchen, too," he smiled.

Interesting indeed.

The menu features a few Filipino dishes, which would please the Filipino palate that’s used to eating tocino from Pampanga or beef tapa or Lucban longanisa. But chef David pointed out that these traditional Filipino dishes are served with a special vinegar (not just vinegar with chilis, but one with a lot of spices added to it), which gives them a distinct flavor – a Soleil flavor, to be specific.

There are other real breakfast classics, like eggs benedict or cheese omelet, and then there are other dishes – huevos rancheros con chorizo picante, an omelet with onions, pimento salsa and chorizo pamplona, or the calentado, a Latino breakfast rice with tenderloin tips, onions and roasted potatoes. These are dishes cooked up with a flavor that that has a little bit of Colombia – where chef David grew up – in it.

"We also have French scrambled eggs, which are cooked very slowly and turn out very creamy, moist and delicious," adds chef David.

And that’s not all.

There are a lot of interesting beverages to try out from the menu.

Aside from the traditional fruit shakes, Soleil features smoothies, which are made with soy milk, and yummies, which use yogurt fruit blends. For those who like it hot, Soleil does not disappoint. There is an interesting selection of brewed teas, like Morrocan mint (whole nana mint leaves), green lemon grass (hibiscus and sun-dried lemon grass).

And then there is the chocolate colombiano. "It is the way they make hot chocolate in my home," says chef David. "It is not as thick as the chocolate for churros and it is infused with cinnamon and cloves. It is very good."

Chef David couldn’t be happier with the menu Soleil has for people who opt to have breakfast there. He says that he was given a "wide canvas" to work with and he has done his best to make sure that there is something that every diner will appreciate.

‘Nuff said.

The meal began with a green apple green tea smoothie made of pure fruit essence. It was a hot morning and the cool smoothie hit the perfect spot. I loved the combination of flavors – a mix that a workout buff like me would describe as healthy, but the smoothie was equally appreciated by my breakfast companions who were not health buffs.

We were served the chocolate colombiano next. The chocolate lover in me jumped for joy at the first sip of this interesting hot drink. I had to stop myself from drinking up the whole cup, calorie watcher that I am.

Huevos rancheros con chorizo picante was next in line. But since I am vegetarian, chef David made the dish minus the chorizos. The onion and pimento salsa with a bite of chili wrapped in omelet was delightful. Picante is a word I like because I like my food a little on the spicy side – and for spice lovers, this dish is just right.

"When it comes to special requests from customers, my policy has all been if I can do it, why not?" quips chef David. Thus, my request for a vegetarian meal was no problem.

Eggs "Meurette" are poached eggs with wild mushrooms, bacon and a red wine sauce. "This is a different touch to eating eggs and bacon," says chef David. And from the satisfied looks on the faces of my breakfast companions, I am sure the dish was just right.

Calentado came next. On the menu, calentado falls under the Almost Brunch selection.

"This meal should be able to carry any one who orders it through lunch," says chef David. "It is the cilantro that gives it its distinct flavor. And it is also one of the most popular dishes among Filipinos who have tried it."

Chef David tells me that "calentado is a dish, which we normally serve the day after with rice and the leftovers thrown in." He adds that what he does is to get the best cuts of meat and prepare it from scratch.

And then it was time for dessert. But before that, I had one more drink, an orange yogurt yummy. "Yummy" it was. The cool blend of yogurt and fruits as usual brought me to health drink heaven.

To cap the meal, we had Nutella crepes, which were served with chilled marinated oranges. "Nutella is to Europeans what peanut butter is to Americans," adds chef David.

I was stuffed – and happy, too.

There are so many other interesting dishes on the menu to choose from, like the cinnamon crepes made with mango and brown sugar, omelet fines herbes, which is made with fresh herbs from Tagaytay and a little Gruyère cheese. And meat eaters would be attracted to the steak and eggs, like the grilled tenderloin steak with tomato-pimiento salsa and fried eggs. And if you’re watching your cholesterol level, you can ask for an all-egg white omelet.

The perfect blend of a breakfast menu comes as no surprise since chef David shares with us that he started tinkering in the kitchen when he was a kid.

"It was my mother who encouraged me to cook. She even gave me ‘candy money’ if I helped her prepare lunch," says chef David. "Since then, I had always known that cooking would be my one and only profession and passion."

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Soleil is at Greenbelt 2, Makati City. It is open for breakfast daily from 7 to 10 a.m.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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