Friday, June 14, 2013

Mesclun Bistro In Serendra

A Mix of This and That: Mesclun Bistro

by Beatriz Acosta
It was infatuation at first sight, a flirtatious encounter upon seeing her arrive and rest on our table. Perfectly golden, she glistened in the afternoon sun. While I gently crack open the thick later of chewy, cheesy crust, she gave a bit of a fight, tugging at my spoon with her clingy gruyere. "Okay, just a little," I thought. I gave in, nibbling a piece of the gooey cheese, enough to tease my tastebuds before setting my sights on what was underneath. What a sight the soup was to behold: a bowl of hearty, cloudy beef broth, muddled with caramelized onions to envelope each spoonful of soup with a tad of crunchy and sweet. Elevating this experience further were these pillows of croutons so stout from soaking up the hearty broth, that each bite into them released a burst of warm, soupy glory inside your mouth.

Falling in love with a beautiful French Onion Soup in 2008
That is how I remember my close encounter with Cuillere's French Onion Soup, back in 2008 when the restaurant just recently opened.
It is now mid 2013, and the French restaurant in Serendra has long closed. Now housed in the same location is still an epicurean destination by Chef Katrina Arce-Kuhn: Mesclun Bistro. Little did I know my trip to try her new restaurant--a spin-off and casual counterpart of sorts of her Linden Suites establishment Mesclun Restaurant and Cafe--will reunite me with my first soupy love.
Now open: Mesclun Bistro in Serendra
"This is basically a more laid back Mesclun," Kat shares, comparing her new restaurant to its first outlet in Ortigas. Mesclun Restaurant and Cafe has bigger space, accomodating more patrons for both guests of the hotel and walk-ins for their all day dining menu. The chef also mentions that the restaurant and cafe accomodates breakfast buffet for the hotel. They handle Linden's room-service menu as well.
At the bistro, interiors are also more casual. The use of dark wood planks for the ceiling (in comaprison to stark white of the first branch) and tiny drop lights lend a more casual and cozy feel to the place. There are still elements that tie the two restaurants together, such as the wall of wine bottles, and the use of the same plush green chairs. It's a good place to be in to kick back with wine after work, or perhaps an afternoon respite from a day of shopping around BGC. Mesclun at Serendra is a "servers-in-jeans kinda thing," Kat adds. So feel at home here and ease in one of their seats as you savor old Mesclun favorites, and some new items on the menu.
The flammekeuche, a long-time Mesclun best seller and Chef Katrina's personal favorite
We begin our afternoon feast with a couple of cocktails--because, why not? We were at a new restaurant that's perfect for kicking back, and cold glasses of mixed drinks definitely set the mood for a casual hang out with a good friend. Drinks of choice: sweet Amelie (P240), an electric green glass of of vodka, midori lime, pineapple juice; and the refeshing Ginger Caiprinha (P240), made with rum, fresh mint leaves, fresh ginger, and splash of ginger ale.
Ginger Caiprinha
Complimentary bread and butter
For starters, we tried something new and something old. First was Andre's Poke (P345), a reinvention of a Hawaiian salad  that's influenced by Japanese cuisine. This version of tuna ceviche is sweet and spicy, with soy-sesame dressing and Sriracha mayonnaise. A dollop of poke on top of crostini will give you that play of soft and crisp textures with every bite.
Andre's Poke
"I'll serve you our onion soup," Kat tells me. Immediately my eyes widened and I gasped. "You have it here?! The one from Cuillere?!" and then she gives me a knowing smile as the server presents it to our table. "Oh my God," I exclaimed, "it's the soup." My friend who was eating with me that afternoon probably was wondering why the French Onion Soup (P275) gave me quite a stir, so I just told him to try it for himself. I might have romanticized my memory of my first experience with this particular soup, but oh boy. This one at Mesclun Bistro is still a magnificent version of the classic: a marriage of caramelized onions, beef broth, and gruyere cheese crust. I have fallen in love again, and I think my friend was smitten with its delicious flavors, too. We shared one bowl, and kept coming back for more spoonfuls in between dishes.
French Onion Soup
...and it (still) feels so good!
"It's hard to define what cuisine or kind of food Mesclun specializes in," Kat shares; the restaurant's name 'mesclun' best describes what they offer, as they have a mix of this and that, an assortment of old favorites and new flavors that comfort rather than intimidate. "We're not fusion, and we have both classic and modern dishes, and we're definitely not limited to one type of cuisine," she says. "You can say it's old world meets new."
A prime example of a classic dish marrying new flavors is the Sisig Spaghetti (P245). Imagining it prior to having it presented to us on the table, I was honestly expecting a bowl of oil-slicked pasta loaded with chunks and chunks of pork sisig straight from a sizzling plate. Thank goodness the reality turned better than expectation, as what was presented to us was a beautiful plating of creamy pasta, topped with chicharon bits. Having a light cream sauce for the crisp sisig bits actually works, and squeezing the calamansi balances everything by cutting the richness level down.
Sisig Spaghetti
If you're a fan of Chuck's Deli (another restaurant by Chef Kat) and are a fan of their version of the classic Reuben sandwich, then you ought to try Mesclun Bistro's House Cured Corned Beef (P595). This dish uses the same house cured US Angus corned beef, which takes days to brine and eight to ten hours to cook. Your palate will surely appreciate the slow cooking process of the meat, as it is fork tender and perfectly cooked. The beef is served with cabbage, potatoes, and carrots; on the side are Pommery mustard-horseradish sauce, the beef's cooking broth (you can have it like soup or pour it on the beef), and rice.
House Cured Corned Beef
Because French cuisine is close to Chef Kat's heart, she offers a unique spin on the crisp ham and cheese sandwich at Mesclun. To add a different kind of texture to the sandwiches, she chose to use slices of brioche to add a tender texture and a slightly sweet profile to her Brioche Croque Monsieur (P295) and Brioche Croque Madame (P325). "I have something new, you'll be the first ones to try it!" Kat excitedly tells us, and then she has a plate of Brioche Croque Ma Duck (P325) brought out. This amusingly named sandwich is all parts awesome -- it's simply a croque monsieur that is topped with duck egg, or a croque madame that uses duck egg instead of chicken--whichever description is easier for one to grasp. It was a sight to behold: French ham, loaves of toasted brioche, bechamel and ementhal cheese gratin, some greens and potato chips on the side. Duck eggs are special to me, as I've always looked forward to having them as pasalubong from my mother whenever she visits her province--it would be a breakfast staple for days until we run out of stock. So to see a perfectly cooked duck egg atop the sandwich was such a delight!
Brioche Croque Ma Duck
As a duck's egg is extra tasty with its richer and larger yolk, we split the sandwich in two--less calories and less cholesterol that way. The sight of the yolk spilling into the crevices of the sandwich made my mouth water. The best way, I found, of enjoying this to the fullest, was to wipe the sandwich pieces on the saucy egg yolk that spilled on our plate before popping them into my mouth. De-li-cious.

And since we are in the topic of indulgent, delicious food, why not go for the gold and order Mesclun Bistro's Foie Gras Baguette Sandwich (P1,395)? Don't panic with its four digit pricing--let me first say that this sandwich can be split into four, so find your fellow foodies that want to splurge and spoil their tastebuds with this baby. This particular sandwich was inspired by one of Chef Kat's travels to Europe, where she encountered a similar sandwich being sold at a food truck. This baguette sandwich is a gourmet bánh mì of sorts, with generous servings of pan-seared duck liver (actual pieces, not just a pate!) on freshly baked bread with raspberry-infused Port wine reduction and shredded greens. When your teeth mashes into the crisp bread, meeting the fruity-sweet sauce that cuts through the delicate softness of the fatty liver? That is what I can easily call a foodgasm!
Foie Gras Baguette Sandwich
We chose to end our afternoon feast after the two sandwiches, waving the white flag and calling it a day. I had another day with another set of friends to indulge on their Flourless Chocolate Cake (P245) after our trip to the gym. Warm and served a la mode with vanilla ice cream, we gobbled it up spoon after spoon, reminding ourselves that we burned a lot of calories earlier that can merit more dessert space in our bellies. Oh well! We'll always have excuses to eat good food, and Mesclun is slowly but surely becoming one of my go-to places for exactly that.
Flourless Chocolate Cake
Additional images by JA Atienza

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