Valentine’s and Shark Week of the non-National Geographic Channel kind sure make for a Red Letter Day. Historically, it is associated with multiple martyrs, had a bloody massacre to its name, and it continues to be so of so many innocents. The week leading up to it had me The Matrix-style dodging feline hairballs coughed up by that hormonal rollercoaster whilst making considerations for the many celebration options put out online. Boy, did those offers look more like invitations to Red Cross Bloodletting Drives.
“Flowers wilt and fade but love endures forever.” Go ahead and call me a cheapskate but I wear the Practical badge with much pride. If there was one thing The PussyKat and I have in common it would be the love for a good bite. While a dozen roses would probably produce enough heady jam for one breakfast and elbows the upcycling member of that flock of birds, the effort outweighs the substantiality. Still quite the romantic, I straddled the fence and made her Bacon Roses. “A moment on your lips, a lifetime on your hips.” Beat that De Beers!
To recoup last year’s plans marred by transport delays and bad weather, I made good on making a reservation at La Maison Rose and scored a spot on the 6PM dinner service. Traffic to the Lahug location was strangely light for a weekend and a big night at that. Six on the dot and first to arrive, we were ushered to our table on the patio overlooking the garden of light-up cherry trees. The table was set for a three course meal and, cheeky to me, strewn with rose petals.
La Maison Rose’s special Valentine’s menu came in three sets of three coursers. I opted for the latter two for better variety. A complimentary Baguette Basket was served first followed by an amuse-bouche of Squash Soup with Black Sesame, Salted Éclair and, Pork Pate Crostini. The pure puree of squash only had the vegetal sweetness broken by the nutty crunch of sesame. The delightfully soft éclair piece introduced the savories. The smidgen of pork pate was a tease enough for what was to come.
For starters, we had La Maison Rose’s Ravioli de Homard, Amoricaine a’la Coriander. Seafood-sweet Lobster pieces were encased in plain Ravioli and bathed in “American- style” Sauce of tomato, white wine and coriander. Like saltine bobba popping balls, a dollop of caviar rested on top to further tie-in the seafood flavor.
The PussyKat isn’t a fan of salmon but enjoyed her Mille Feuille de Saumon Fumee. Smoked Salmon alternated layers with cream cheese and puff pastry sheets. The naturally rich flavor of the fish, which can be too aggressive for some, is slightly dulled by the smoking and cut by the tang of the cream cheese which in turn bound all the above flavors onto the pastry. Again, some caviar figured into the seafoody picture.
I fell in love with duck in Beijing what with the paper-thin crisps of skin, the velvety meat and, the buttery fat. That love now translates to French in La Maison Rose’s Magret de Canard Laque Aumile et au Tandoori et Veloute de Asperge. Meaty Duck Breast was glazed with Honey and Tandoori Spice. The smell of duck was neutralized by the smokiness of the spice which also gave it an almost indistinguishable heat on the caramelized honey. The meat inside kept juicy, soft and unadulterated by the treatment with the gamey flavor full-on. A Cream of Asparagus sauce helped marry the steamed vegetables and the crispy grated Potato Fritter the duck sat on to the entire dish. At that point, not that it distracts from the main flavors, I noted the chef’s preference for the use of black sesame. And was that a chocolate sauce stripe there? Surprising little touch.
In the St. Jaques Grille Et Son Fume al’ Anis Etoilee avec Puree de Carot Au Cumin, grill-seared Scallops were served on Star Anise sauce, giving some earthiness to the unseasoned, bright, briny sweet flavor of the shellfish. Mashed Carrots with Cumin looked like and registered the taste of butternut squash. Potato wedges with skins on added weight. I loved the combination of very clean tastes but was thoroughly annoyed by the melaware this particular dish was served on. The sound it makes with the utensils against it and the thought of having paid a premium for fancy food served on what is basically a plastic plate just threw us off.
On our refill of the complimentary Lhuillier-brand Sparkling Wine, desserts were served and that helped in appeasement. La Maison Rose’s Poire Belle Helene was Pears poached in wine served sliced in Hot Chocolate Sauce with a scoop of Vanilla Ice Cream. The pears had a bit of buzz from the alcohol going with the soft crunch and the fruit’s distinctive flavor. The ice cream and chocolate sauce tickled the insides of the mouth with the temperature contrasts and that of the plain vanilla and rich chocolate flavors.
A fitting finale was the Moelleux au Chocolat et Son Coer de Fruit Rouge. Molten Red Mixed-Berry ganache (as I suspected it to be instead of an actual molten batter center) spill out of the spongy, darkly chocolate cake. Sweet sours from the red berries liven up the hot chocolate in an exciting combination.
Happy, we basked in our own glow and that of the light-up cherry trees while enjoying the last few swills of wine. Some Euro guy went around to request the other patrons to clap when he proposes to his Pinay girlfriend. We hope she said yes. Well, of course she did. But we didn’t stay for that. The adjacent La Vie Parisienne was starting to fill up with the after-dinner crowd and the night was young. St. Valentine’s scored multiple wins that night and Roy Schneider survived to make it to the next sequel in the franchise.
*Cue in the two-note E and F ‘da-dum’ cello and bass chords*