Thursday, January 1, 2015

An Epic Year-Ender Lunch at Brasserie Cicou

And just like that, another year has passed, and a new year of fresh flavors and discoveries lie ahead. And to properly end the year that was, it seemed appropriate to close the year on a high culinary note. Make that a culinary punctuation, with another memorable dining experience at Brasserie Cicou...

Cyrille Soenen, and his lovely wife Anna, prepare a special off-the-menu lunch to end the year at Brasserie Cicou, with several courses drawn from the Chef's personal favorites and creative reinterpretations of classic dishes. 

Located along Annapolis Street in Greenhills, Brasserie Cisou has been serving authentic French cuisine since 2012 in its current location. A culmination of Cyrille Soenen's culinary journey, which began at Hotel Ritz in Paris and other renowned Michelin starred establishments, leading to the top post at Intercon's Prince Albert.

And now, Cyrille Soenen (L) has a place he can truly call his own. He arrives and greets his guests then quickly checks the kitchen. Cyrille's son, Antonin (R), is already busy at his station, preparing a fresh batch of Brasserie Cicou's Kouign Amann. It's a family affair at Brasserie Cicou, adding to the cozy and rustic vibe. 

I remember the first time I spent almost a day at Brasserie Cicou (more on that equally epic experience on my previous post here at starting with their traditional Le Bouchon Lyonnais menu, which included a variety of rustic dishes served at a leisurely pace paired with wine and cocktails, and I just knew that this would be yet another memorable experience. Our feast begins with a platter of Brasserie Cicou's signature Appetizers, including chorizo on crostini and the iconic Pork Head Pate served on a stone slate (for more on the Pork Head Pate, check out my previous post here at Each delicate bite-sized morsel packs pure, real and rustic flavors, with more still to come.

No meal at Brasserie Cicou is complete without their signature Kouign Amann, (for more on Brasserie Cicou's signature Kouign Amann, and the new KA by Cicou, check out my previous post here at That day, we sampled Brasserie Cicou's savory Kouign Amann, including Leeks & Goat Cheese, Sundried Tomato & Basil, Chorizo, and Bacon.

A refreshing glass of Kir, the classic French cocktail made with Creme de Cassis or black currant liqueur topped up with white wine, is served along with the starters to get you in the proper groove. Crisp and refreshingly sweet, each sip adds to the festive mood.

Probably the best freshly baked Baguettes in the metro, Brasserie Cicou offers its oven-fresh bread as part of your meal. The warm crusty baguette and a dab of butter is just what you need before the feast.

Then, the first course is served. The friendly staff instructed us not to open the lid until everyone is served. With growing anticipation, I stare at my bowl wondering what Cyrille Soenen has in store for us...

Almost immediately after lifting the lid, a robust smoky aroma is released. Cyrille Soenen's Smoked Prawn Ravioli with Double Prawn Consomme and Green Pea Foam is his take on the stuffed soup dumpling, served in a soft and chewy ravioli with a rich and flavorful broth. The richly flavored soup stock, blended with a delicate green pea foam, is further enhanced by just a whisper of smoky notes to complete the flavors. It is this blend of delicate layers of flavors that leave a lasting impression, and the first course sets the tone as the next round of dishes are served.

Salmon Gravlax Marinated in Red Wine with Pan-Fried Duck Liver and Goat Cheese, another dish with pure and clean flavors made from the finest ingredients. The buttery flavor and texture of the salmon is perfectly complemented by the richness of the goat cheese, balanced by the equally rich duck liver. Paired with white wine, the richness of the dish is tempered and you're ready for another bite. And another.

The tempo inside Brasserie Cicou's kitchen picks up as the next dish is prepped for plating. Like clockwork, precision and timing play a vital role in each dish, with each component prepared separately. The dish is then constructed and plated with all the components in the prep area. 

Cyrille Soenen checks each plate, and only with his approval are the plates expedited and served. The young chefs led by Jil Osias are calm and composed, plating each dish with a specific component down the line. And with Cyrille's final approval, the dishes are served...

Elegantly plated, Cyrille's young chefs add the final touch to complete the dish. A rich broth is poured over the dish, and the parade of flavors continue at Brasserie Cicou with another inventive dish.

Fresh Pasta Stuffed with Boeuf Bourguignon on Roasted Bone Marrow with Parsley Garlic Butter Cream Sauce and Beef Broth, a rich and complex blend of flavors in one dish. The soft and savory beef-filled pasta pairs well with the richly flavored broth. But it gets way better...

...with the addition of the bone marrow. Simply scoop out the marrow with a knife and mix it with the broth for that distinct buttery note. The well-seasoned broth delivers sharp flavors, balancing the richness of the marrow.  Just perfect.

Next, Cyrille Soenen served his Lamb Shoulder Confit Sauce Grand Veneur, Pear in Syrup, Chestnut Puree, Red Onion Marmalade, Sauteed Cabbage with Lardons. Slow cooked at a constant low temperature, the lamb shoulder is fork tender with a buttery mouth feel, punching through with clean flavors with no gamey hints. Pair this with a glass of red wine to complete the experience.

And it's the sauce that makes the dish, a complex blend made with red wine reduction, thickened like a rich gravy. The other components of the dish weave their own distinct notes, from the sweetness of the pears, the subtle nutty hints of the chestnut puree, and the bold flavors of the red onion marmalade. The diversity of flavors are balanced, and the sauteed cabbage with crisp lardons add even more flavor and texture. But Cyrille isn't done yet, as Brasserie Cicou prepares the next dish...

Cyrille Soenen, flanked by young chefs Jil Osias (L) and Khris Borja (R), present a traditional French dessert prepared during the holiday season. Cyrille Soenen shares a piece of home with the rustic Galette du Rois, a homemade puff pastry filled with rich almond cream.

Served during the holidays, the indulgent Galette du Rois includes a special surprise. As the Galette du Rois is sliced, guests are asked to find a little trinket, a ceramic figurine from the nativity scene, adding to the fun and celebration.

And the lucky guest who finds the trinket becomes "king" for the day. Also called the "King Cake", Brasserie Cicou's Galette du Rois beautifully recreates the French holiday tradition. The layers of thin and soft dough contrasts with the crisp and flaky crust, and the sweet almond cream completes the flavors. Pair this with a glass of sweet sparkling wine or champagne to cap your feast.

And there's always a fresh batch of sweet and indugent Kouign Amann at Brasserie Cicou.  Chocolate, Caramel, Lemon, Coffee, Choc-Nut, PB Jelly, Ensaymada and Cheesecake, take your pick.

Then, Cyrille Soenen shares his own private stash of spirits, and the festive mood continues at Brasserie Cicou...

Calvados, a traditional pear and apple-based brandy from the Normandy region, is served. Smooth and the perfect digestif after an epic feast at Brasserie Cicou, with the hint of sweet and tart apple or pear peering through the rich and smoky notes of the aged brandy. Debating theories on how the pear or apple is inserted in the decanter makes for some lively you go for another round.

Cyrille then brings out another bottle...the Verveine du Velay Extra, a French liqueur with a light oak hue, is a smooth blend of premium aged cognac and thirty-two kinds of botanicals, including spices, aromatic herbs and honey. The rich blend of herbs give it a distinct, almost medicinal flavor, and another sip sends a soothing and calming feeling. Nice. A fitting ending to cap a memorable lunch at Brasserie Cicou.

Creativity and authenticity, from the very first course to the last, an epic feast to end the year on a high culinary note. From Brasserie Cicou's culinary team, here's wishing everyone a Happy New Year...Bonne Annee et Bonne Sante!

Brasserie Cicou is located at 57 Annapolis Street, Greenhills, San Juan or call 661-9200 or 0917-885-8841 for inquiries and reservations.

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