If every pastry on a plate is an indulgence, then this is indulgence times ten.
Two questions that are always asked of Roberto Molleman, the Mandarin Oriental’s new Executive pastry chef, are: Why are you called Roberto when you’re Dutch? and How tall are you, anyway? The name is a nostalgic reminder of Roberto’s parents’ Italian sojourn, and the man is 6’6”. Yes, he’s really tall.
Having worked in Africa, London, and Beijing and baked for royalty ”“ a particularly memorable multi-flavored, 13-tier wedding cake with handmade floral designs that took weeks to create ”“ Roberto is now in Manila bringing sweet dreams to life. His desserts mix seemingly incongruous flavors and textures like the Coffee & Tea Chocolate Mousse (all miniature cakes P119++). Leaves of Earl Grey tea are steeped in cream before being folded into the chocolate. The surprise happens in the mouth subtly but it’s there: bergamot’s citrus tang melding with cacao’s dark embrace.
The Crispy Praline Chocolate Cake is what I call a no-brainer. There’s very little to dislike about a four-layer temptation that consists of a brownie base, crispy praline and “Krispies,” and more milk chocolate and cream. My only complaint is that I don’t get enough of it this afternoon.
Chef Roberto’s cakes are topped with flair ”“ chocolate filigrees, chocolate in shards, chocolate truffles, a jaunty “tophat” in white chocolate, and a cornucopia of color and fruit on the Fresh Fruit Tart. One of my favorites is the Lemon and Raspberry Tart, sour enough to make the sides of my cheeks pucker and ticklish enough to make me giggle.
Mesmerize me with mooncake
This year, the Chinese Mid-Autumn Moon Festival falls on Saturday, October 3, the middle of the eighth month of the Chinese calendar when the moon is full. Second in importance to the Chinese after the Spring Festival, the full moon symbolizes peace and prosperity. I’ve eaten many a mooncake but nothing like the Mandarin Oriental’s snowskin mooncakes.
So named for its opaque covering made from a mixture of glutinous fried rice flour (kou fein) powdered sugar, shortening (or lard), water, and a dairy liquid, it’s softer than a traditional mooncake, more delicate. New flavors like rum white lotus (all P460++ each), milk custard with double egg yolk, and my favorite, taro paste with double egg yolk provide unique savor to a treat I’ve eaten all my life.
The double yolk is my reason for eating mooncake ”“ those two orbs glow golden especially when held up to sunlight, their somewhat nubby texture contrasting with the silkiness of the lotus paste made from cooked lotus seeds that have been mashed, moistened, and macerated. So I’m flabbergasted when, as I’m paying for my mooncake, a woman orders the snowskin taro variant without the eggs! I didn’t even know that was possible.
Mandarin Oriental Manila
Makati Avenue, Makati City
Mooncakes will be available until Oct. 3, 2009