It was one hot and humid summer day in February. The weather was enough to feel lazy but I was rather excited as I found myself looking around Jose Soriano’s kitchen and dining room. No walls separate the two areas, only the trick of theatrical lighting. The feeling was surreal, as if I was strutting through Lalaland.
The place was sleek. The reflective countertops and off-kilter angles made the kitchen an exact pattern of a vision of the future. Even the cooktop has a stylish bent, fusing ultramodern technology with the actual stove and making sticky cookbooks and flour-spattered smartphones obsolete. I was in a perfect place to celebrate food while celebrating a special occasion, only there’s no special occasion.
Jose Soriano is an interior designer by profession. His inimitable eye for color crafted the stunning spaces in his own home that shape the way urbanites live, dine, and play. Aside from interior designing, his heart is also into cooking. He confessed that he grew up in a family where everyone cooks. He learned to appreciate gourmet food at a young age. His combined talent in interior designing and cooking created impressive outputs. His food preparation encompasses how he feels at the moment and how he sees the object. The food he prepares is a result of his creative interpretation. Cooking can be a lot more rustic than interior designing but for Chef Soriano, he feels a lot more like himself when he cooks. It is like a coming of age.
It’s easy to tell that the kitchen and dining area serves as a playground of chef Soriano’s favorite ingredients: tubs filled with various ingredients, large batches of flavorings, and aromatic spices blend from heaven-knows-where.
The food was sublime. Every plate served before us on the counter is a summit of “Haute Gastronomie”.
We had tomato basil grilled bruschetta for an appetizer which really shows off the garden's gifts of tomatoes, basil, and the freshness of it all. It tasted so delicious that I almost finished a plate. I had to remind myself it was just a prelude for the next big thing - US beef tenderloin with balsamic and wine reduction.
The tenderloin was both the most tender and the most leaner. It came out perfectly with the relatively brief cooking. The wine reduction, made from the flavorful pan juices, was quickly assembled while the roast rests. It was amazing!
We also had Squash soup and Arugula salad with calamansi vinaigrette. I did not stop munching until the jaw-dropping dessert was served for a finale -- cheesecake with strawberry compote.
The food prepared speaks for themselves. They do not need so much tableside explanation.
I adore Chef Soriano’s place as it is unlisted in any guide yet. Its presence will reach only those who deserve it through word of mouth. It is a place where the clientele is beautifully free of cliques, a rare treat in Metro Manila.
If you want to reserve the place for a day and enjoy his cooking, you must directly contact him. Also, as of this writing, Chef Soriano has no desire to cash in on the clone of a second place which can be available to the public.
“I’m trying to attain a less stress business and going mainstream would involve a lot of factors like the number of customers, food stocking and wastage. I’m afraid of the risk of losing some level of quality if I go mainstream” he said. “I chose to become a chef because I got tired of inconsistencies with the food the restaurants served. One time the servings are great but get disappointed on the next visit. I do not want that to happen.”
He is also reluctant to lend his name to brand products, and there is no vision yet to compile his recipes into a book.
I am sure if he decides to go mainstream, it would not take much time before publishers start cajoling him for his recipes and restaurateurs will start knocking on his door offering business partnerships.
Next time, he will introduce himself as the brigadier responsible for the next lunch of the most illustrious gastronomic society in the country, if there’s any. I am sure when he decides to set up his very own restaurant and do an elaborate tasting menu, it will quickly be one of the most anticipated openings in the country. Not so long, he will become a favorite in the gastronomic world.
When Chef Soriano detours from the straight and narrow streets of Malate, consider meandering along behind him. You may wind up having the best gooey brownies, the stuff chocoholics dream about.
Host: Jose Soriano
Writer : Missy Penaverde-Ilarde
Video by: Mark Tarroza Dizon
Photographer: Anna Frumenti
HMUA: Elle Lubigan