LI LI

A lovely lady holds court in New World Manila Bay’s sig­na­ture Chi­nese restau­rant

Let’s Eat - - WHAT'S INSIDE - WORDS BY SPANKY HIZON ENRQUEZ

There’s a ro­man­tic tale be­hind one of the most rav­ish­ing restau­rants in Manila. Le­gend has it that dur­ing a more gen­teel age, a gra­cious so­cialite from Hong Kong so in­spired and in­flu­enced the city’s cui­sine and cul­ture, that she was hon­ored with a restau­rant that now bears her name. “Li Li” is a trib­ute, not only to the lady’s in­nate class, but to her re­fined taste as well.

I loved hear­ing that story, es­pe­cially when it was told in tan­dem by Lau­rie and Loni, the two charm­ing ladies who in­tro­duced me to the de­lights of Li Li. Seven years ago, I first stepped into her name­sake restau­rant, and was im­me­di­ately smit­ten. Seven years later, I’ve grown to love Li Li even more. She has cer­tainly aged well; as el­e­gant as ever, she can now truly be con­sid­ered as a time­less beauty.

Li Li, how­ever, still re­tains an air of mys­tery, as it re­mains undis­cov­ered by many. Cer­tainly, its lo­ca­tion in the cen­ter of the city of Manila may make it chal­leng­ing to the ma­jor­ity used to the prox­im­ity and con­ve­nience of Makati and the BGC. The traf­fic and the travel may seem daunt­ing to many, but those who take the time to make the trip will be re­warded richly. Li Li has al­ways been rec­og­nized as one of the best Chi­nese restau­rants in the coun­try ever since it opened, and it is poised to be­come even bet­ter with the in­no­va­tions of its new Ex­ec­u­tive Chi­nese Chef, Ray­mond Ye­ung.

The Hong Kong na­tive has mas­tered the craft of Can­tonese cui­sine with over a quar­ter of a cen­tury’s ex­pe­ri­ence. His ex­cel­lence was rec­og­nized with the In­ter­na­tional Culi­nary Clas­sic Gold Award, which he was awarded in 2009. The chef has cooked for lu­mi­nar­ies all over Asia, in­clud­ing the Pres­i­dent of Viet­nam, dur­ing his sojourn in Saigon. His pas­sion has not di­min­ished; his ex­cite­ment and en­thu­si­asm were tan­gi­ble when I met him for lunch to sam­ple his new cre­ations for Li Li. His “Taro Tower” is a stun­ner, strings of the root crop, glazed with caramel sweet­ness, flash fried to a per­fect crisp­ness, ar­ranged into a del­i­cate pyra­mid. Plump, fresh, and juicy prawns tossed in a mango in­fused may­on­naise. The high­est grade Wagyu from the Saga Pre­fec­ture, the in­tensely mar­bled steak, em­braced by an ex­otic black pep­per sauce. Chef Ray­mond ob­vi­ously adores us­ing un­con­ven­tional in­gre­di­ents in his Can­tonese cook­ing, and his cre­ativ­ity ex­tends

to the stun­ning and stim­u­lat­ing touches in the plat­ing of his spe­cials. The man has the mind of a chef, and the soul of an artist. Li Li cer­tainly is in good hands.

But there’s a se­cret I must share: about one par­tic­u­lar item on the menu that I’ve been rav­ing about ever since my first time to dine in Li Li back in 2010. You see, I’ve tried ev­ery pork bun in ev­ery Chi­nese restau­rant in Metro Manila. I even used to or­der the most pop­u­lar one from Hong Kong be­fore it be­came avail­able here in the Philip­pines. But here’s what I know for sure: the finest pork buns that I’ve ever had in my life? They’re right here in Li Li. Lam­i­nated dough, filled with a di­vine blend of sweet and spicy bar­be­cued pork, baked to heav­enly per­fec­tion. I con­sider them the best pork buns ever, bar none. I would love for you to agree with me, and there’s only one way to find out. It’s time to fi­nally meet Li Li.

LI LI STILL RE­TAINS AN AIR OF MYS­TERY, AS IT RE­MAINS UNDIS­COV­ERED BY MANY.

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PHO­TOS BY GABBY CANTERO

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05 LET'S EAT

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1 Bar­be­cued Pork Buns 2 Tra­di­tional Chi­nese Tea Ser­vice 3 Crispy Ja­panese Tofu 4 Golden Hakaw 5 Taro Tower 6 Chef Ray­mond Ye­ung

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