Pen serves crocodile, kangaroo in 'kitchen party'

Posted at 01/31/13 5:56 PM

MANILA, Philippines – The Peninsula Manila opened its banquet kitchen on Wednesday night for a unique “kitchen party” as part of a week-long Australian promotion at the Makati hotel.

Guests nibbled on Australian treats prepared on the spot by the hotel’s kitchen crew, led by guest Australian chefs Greg Doyle of Sydney’s The Sailors Club and Adam Mathis, visiting executive chef from The Peninsula Tokyo.

Peninsula Manila’s banquet kitchen served as the venue for a casual cocktail party on Wednesday. Photo by Vladimir Bunoan for ABS-CBNnews.com

The hotel set up several stations in the kitchen, including one devoted to Australian wines (including the highly rated Penfolds), cheeses and desserts. The kitchen was brightened up by plants, giving the neatly arranged kitchen a sense of the outdoors.

A good way to kick off the culinary evening was with Doyle’s asparagus carpaccio, a refreshingly light soup, presented in a martini glass, which is also served at the hotel’s Old Manila restaurant during the “Tasting Australia” promotion, which ends on February 3.

The seared tuna appetizer had a spicy kick, while the prawns, spiced with the lemon myrtle found in the Australian outback, and served with bellpepper relish was a clear favorite of the guests. There were also fresh-off-the-grill lamb chops smeared with mint jelly, as well as fish and chips.

Fish and chips. Photo by Vladimir Bunoan for ABS-CBNnews.com

However, the uniquely Australian ingredients -- kangaroo and crocodile -- commanded the most attention.

The surprisingly tender crocodile meat was served as a thinly sliced ceviche and served on top of mango and beat skewers with an Asian-inspired sauce using Thai basil and other herbs. According to Mathis, this is his preferred way of serving crocodile meat.

Crocodile ceviche. Photo by Vladimir Bunoan for ABS-CBNnews.com

The kangaroo, on the other hand, was served two ways: as a burger filling and as cured meat. With its gamey taste, the cured kangaroo was quite addicting, while the mini-burgers looked truly appetizing. Mathis said he chose not to mince the kangaroo meat to make patties and instead used grilled slices of kangaroo loin for the bite-sized sandwiches garnished with beet.

Mini kangaroo burgers. Photo by Vladimir Bunoan for ABS-CBNnews.com

I tried the loin, cooked medium rare, on their own and wished they also prepared full-sized kangaroo steaks.

One must not miss the cheese station, which had several kinds of Australian cheeses like smoke cheddar, camembert, brie and the unique “blue brie,” which is brie and bleu cheese in one.

A selection of Australian cheeses. Photo by Vladimir Bunoan for ABS-CBNnews.com

The desserts included several chocolates, as well as the Australian specialty cake lamingtons, which are sponge cakes rolled in desiccated coconut.

Chocolate tiramisu. Photo by Vladimir Bunoan for ABS-CBNnews.com

But the intriguing dessert is Doyle’s modern take on the Italian classic tiramisu, which he serves at The Sailors Club. This deconstructed tiramisu is finished off with nitrogen, which gives it an unusual sensation on the mouth (think of the kiddie treat Pop Rocks) although flavor wise, this should appeal to those who like it really sweet, thanks to the caramel and toffee at the bottom. In fact, I hardly tasted the mascarpone cheese. Definitely a must-try.

Those who prefer an outdoor Aussie party may drop by at the hotel on Friday and Saturday night for the Weekend Barbie by the Pool for dinner.