“Passion and Pleasure sixteen storeys above Makati’s Centrail Business District”
Chef Luis Chikiamco is one of the best chefs in the country. “Luis who?” you’re probably asking yourself. In this era of celebrity chefs and foodie fandom, many chefs – thanks to television appearances and endorsements— have become household names. And they deserve to be wellknown, because they are talented, and work hard at their craft. Discovery Primea’s Executive Chef fits that mold: he’s soft spoken but eloquent, he projects well on camera, and he’s truly gifted.
But Luis, or Louie as he’s known among his peers, would rather spend his time in the kitchen, rather than in the spotlight. I respect his determination and decision to let his food speak for itself. I prefer that much more than the myriad pretenders who spend their time creating obnoxious YouTube videos, purportedly cooking Filipino food. One in particular, with a significant social media following, massacres our local favorites and offhandedly excuses his travesties with annoying accents and “cute” antics. Videos like his are an insult to all legit Filipino kitchen professionals all over the globe, and a slap in the face in our industry’s efforts to elevate our cuisine as we introduce it to the world. I am triggered by these execrable “cooking videos” that insult my intelligence, and desecrate my palate. It’s a good thing indeed that there are many more bona fide chefs like Louie who don’t waste their time pimping on social media, but instead, concentrate their efforts on elevating Filipino food .
His new menu at Discovery Primea’s Flame is masterful. I was already a fan of his dishes, as are many of my favorite food critics, but his new menu ups the game towards truly world class levels. Flame has, since it opened three years ago, been a favorite for romantic dinners. It’s high up over Makati, and in the evenings, outside the restaurant’s pristine picture windows, the city’s skyline twinkles, the lights in the high rises seeming to wink knowingly at the couples falling in love with their food, and with each other. The signature special from the first menu was the “Lobster Fried Rice”: imagine the best Yang Chow ever, made with the highest quality rice, fluffy and sticky, with generous amounts of plump, fresh, and juicy lobster chunks. The whole production, cannily plated as if spilling out of a Chinese take-out box. Don’t worry. It’s still there on the menu, which has now taken on a more distinct Filipino character with the addition of the new specials.
The croquetas, on the surface, seem traditional. But then you notice the playful streak of uni atop each piece, and the béchamel and then the dashi as you bite into one. Each flavor, every texture, complimenting the other. Then there’s a dish influenced by the irresistible sweet-smoky essence of Pinoy Barbecue. Chef Louie uses wonderful cuts of Iberian pork, the fat marbled with the meat, and grills them in a Josper oven. The result is a dish that can only be described as tender love, deeply tasty barbecue that will remind you of those sheets of red Chinese tapa that you tore into as a child. Don’t miss the Wagyu Claypot Rice, it’s inspired by the Kamameshi rice from Louie’s favorite family restaurant. The taste is spot on retro, but the premium Wagyu makes the dish all grown up. For dessert, my favorite is simply called a “Yema Cake” but it brought back the sweetest memories of the fruitiest Crema de Fruta ever. It’s all food that’s quite familiar from our childhood, but in Flame, our favorites are now “adulting”.
Louie Chikiamco worked with and was trained by two highly respected chefs: Cyrille Soenen and David Pardo de Ayala. He learned his lessons well. He’s now creating food that is not only worthy of his mentors’ praise, but ours as well. Louie’s coming up with food that you will certainly fall for, and keep coming back to, again and again.
Flame Restaurant/Edge Bar is located at 16/F 6749 Ayala Avenue, Makati. 955.8888.
02 1 Yema Cake2 Chef Luis Chikiamco
03 3 Secreto Pinoy BBQ
04 4 Uni Croquetas5 Josper-Grilled Chicken Wings6 Flame Interiors7 Duck Congee