MANILA, OCTOBER 11, 2006 (STAR) By Büm D. Tenorio Jr. - A visit to Florabel, the nine-month-old fine-dining restaurant at the ground floor of The Podium, is a gastronomic trip. The food here – at least the new dishes that have been added to the restaurant’s continuously growing menu – are served with a twist. Simply put, the fare at Florabel is simple yet it rocks your gustatory membrane.

Here, the famous braised beef short ribs are served Korean-style, minus the anise seeds. Sprawled on top of the meat is pan-fried foie gras that is so tender it melts in the mouth. It’s comfort food that goes well with… well, rice.

The 21-day aged porterhouse – I like mine medium-well – is another entrée to die for. It is served with double baked potato with truffle cream sauce, vegetables and a choice of peppercorn medley, au jus, bearnaise and mushroom sauces. Don’t be surprised if you see your steak slathered with wasabi butter.

The lamb short ribs with fennel relish are another appetizing treat. The meat is roasted in the oven for hours until it becomes so tender that it seems to detach itself from the bone. It goes well with mint jelly, of course. And with mashed potatoes, too. But pardon my seeming un-sophistication if I tell you that I love my lamb short ribs with… oh, well, rice.

If you’re conscious of your carbo intake, then the pan-seared prawns and scallops in lemon caviar butter sauce with three-rice risotto with dried fruits are for you. Florabel Co, the owner and chef of the restaurant, says her risotto is made of high protein-slash-good-carbo barley rice, brown rice, and wild rice. The flavor of tiger prawns and the Japanese scallops are complemented by the sweetness of blueberries, cranberries, and almond flakes.

But if you want no carbs at all, the squid spaghetti is for you. Oops, spaghetti? That’s pasta, right? Uhmm, no. Spaghetti at Florabel is mock-pasta. The pasta-like ingredient is actually strips of squid sautéed in olive oil. To give it more of a twist – say, a Japanese twist – uni is added for a more flavorful taste.

Still craving for the freshest catch from the sea? You can’t go wrong with lapu-lapu stuffed with prawn mousse in leek sauce. Yes, that’s a two-seafood treat in one dish. The leek sauce, by the way, leaves a sweet aftertaste that you’d wish would stay long in your taste buds.

If you want to go healthy all the way – and this is a staple on Florabel’s South Beach Diet menu – opt for roasted pears with nuts and blue cheese with maple vinaigrette. This is very refreshing.

Refreshing, too, is the tomato soup topped with ricotta cheese and baby arugula.

Since you’re in the mood to feel fresh, down everything you eat at Florabel’s with kamias juice. As the fruit puree goes down your throat, you wonder why it has no trace of sourness at all. It’s perfectly sweet – it tastes like a cross between cantaloupe and mango juice. Or am I just imagining things?

Well, if I would be found guilty of making it up about the sweetness of the kamias juice, perhaps this time – with the yummy desserts at Florabel – I am not anymore imagining. The sweet seduction here is irresistible. The dessert menu is a long list that if one were to line the granules of sugar and dusts of confectionery used in creating these saccharine masterpieces, one could be sure that it would be an exercise in eternity, if not futility. Lest I be branded of creating another hyperbolic statement, just point to the almond meringue cake with chocolate curls, chocolate butter crème cake with walnut brittle, sugar-free chocolate decadence or low-fat ricotta cheese cake and you’ll know what I mean. Did I mention the walnut balls with hot fudge? Oh, boy, this frozen mantecado ice cream cone with chopped walnuts will surely make your summer cold and your winter hot. If I am wrong there, punish me by not giving me my sweet, sweet sensations even during spring and fall.

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E-mail the author at bumbaki@yahoo.com. 

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