The year comes to a close, with milestones and transitions marking the passage of another year.
After eight flavorful years, Brasserie Cicou closes its doors on December 31, 2015, ending a storied chapter in the metro's colorful culinary scene. And for one last time, I get to savor the year's best signature dishes from Brasserie Cicou in an elegant Thanksgiving Lunch. But this is not the end of the story, far from it, as Chef Cyrille Soenen and Brasserie Cicou embark on a new chapter...
Very few restaurants in the metro reflect the very soul and personality of the man behind the kitchen, and Chef Cyrille Soenen's Brasserie Cicou is one of those rare establishments. Brasserie Cicou is Chef Cyrille Soenen, personified, serving authentic French cuisine including rustic, homestyle dishes recreated from cherished family recipes and signature dishes perfected with years of experience in Michelin-starred restaurants in Paris and numerous stints with prestigious hotels around the world, including The Ritz in Paris, and the Intercontinental in Manila. But the dream of opening his own establishment remained his ultimate goal.
And he did, with a restaurant that bears his childhood nickname. Along the way, Chef Cyrille Soenen was awarded Master Chef of France by the prestigious Maitres Cuisiniers de France, in recognition for his passion and contribution to the local culinary scene (more on the appointment of Chef Cyrille Soenen as Master Chef of France and the Maitres Cuisiniers de France on my previous post here).
Inside Brasserie Cicou's kitchen, Chef Cyrille Soenen prepared one of his signature holiday treats, and watching a master at work is a privilege and an experience in itself. Brasserie Cicou has always been special, not only for the countless memorable dining experiences, it's also where I learned to don the chef's apron the proper way and prepare a perfectly poached egg (for more on my experience behind Brasserie Cicou's kitchen, see my previous post here, and more on Brasserie Cicou's "Do It Like A Chef" series here). It's also at Brasserie Cicou where friendships were firmly established, and Chef Cyrille and Anna Soenen, Chef Jill and the entire team, and Jenny along with the staff, will always remain special.
A few more final touches, and the holiday treat is chilled, ready to be served at the end of the Thanksgiving lunch. The kitchen is the chef's private domain, and it's a privilege to be allowed inside, at the peak of the busy lunch service. It's this kind of access and trust that I'll miss from Brasserie Cicou...
Our Thanksgiving Lunch at Brasserie Cicou began with a round of Kir, a popular French cocktail with Creme de Cassis and crisp white wine.
After a few more rounds of Kir, Brasserie Cicou's signature starters were served, the Bonbon of Lamb Shoulder Tajine-Style, Gougere of Herbed Goat Cheese, and Tuna Tartare on Toasted Cicou Bread, elegantly plated and presented in the classic Brasserie Cicou style (for more on Brasserie Cicou's authentic and rustic French cuisine, check out my previous post here, and the Thanksgiving Lunch last year here). Each starter was perfectly executed, delivering a richness in flavor Brasserie Cicou has long been known for, with each and every bite. Brasserie Cicou's young culinary team headed by Executive Chef Jill Osias continued to impress, as the rest of the dishes were served...
The second course then arrived, the delicate Parfait of Smoked Fish Mousse, Seafood Aspic, Herring Caviar, Squid Ink Tuille, and Micro Salad, elegantly executed in the Brasserie Cicou style.
The subtle smoky notes of the smoked fish mousse blend with the mildly briny hint of the seafood aspic and herring caviar at the bottom, capped by the distinct flavors of the crisp squid ink tuille and minty micro greens, each blending seamlessly in this delicate dish.
Chef Cyrille Soenen then presented his creative and playful yet elegant "Egg in the Forest," a comforting dish with Slow-Cooked Egg, Creamy Chestnut Puree and Chestnut Chips, Sauteed Cauliflower and Assorted Mushrooms a la Bordelaise, Bacon Foam and Tuille.
Gently break the yolk and simply let it run and blend with the sweet chestnut puree for rustic and comforting flavors. The nutty notes of the mushroom evoke the woody flavors of forest, with the bacon foam completing the dish with its mild smoky hint. It's the kind of egg dish I'd love to have everyday, anytime of day.
For the next course, Chef Cyrille Soenen and his team served a bowl with instructions not to lift the lid. At his signal, the lids were lifted releasing a smoky and fragrant aroma. Chef Cyrille Soenen's Fricassee of Escargot, Romaine Lettuce, and Lardons, Royale of Sea Urchin, Smoked Parsley Cream Sauce, Squid, and Flounder, served in dramatic fashion. The soft and tender mix of seafood delivered mild and delicate notes, with the fresh and crisp vegetables adding both flavor and texture. Perfect.
For the main course, Brasseie Cicou draws inspiration from a French classic, with the "Boeuf Bourguignon Revisited," with Sous-Vide Hanging Beef Tender Stuffed with Foie Gras, Boeuf Bourguignon Cromesquis, Truffle Potato Pave, Glazed Baby Vegetables, and Bourguignon Sauce.
The tender and juicy beef is given an added layer of indulgent richness with the foie gras and red wine sauce, and the delicately layered truffle potato pave and crisp glazed baby vegetables completed the dish.
For dessert, a selection of Brasserie Cicou's signature pastries were served, including Lemon Meringue Tartelette, Mousse au Chocolat, and Kouignette, a bite-sized version of their popular Kouign Amann.
No meal at Brasserie Cicou would be complete without their bestselling Kouign Amann. And Chef Cyrille Soenen takes the Kouign Amann to a whole new level with the Don Papa Rum Raisin Kouign Amann with Creme Legere (for more on Brasserie Cicou's classic Kouign Amann, see my previous posts here and sweet and savory Kouign Amann creations here, and even more inventive Kouign Amman variations here). After pouring a shot or two of Don Papa, the flavors are immediately absorbed by the flaky Kouign Amann, as the buttery notes and creme legere temper the smoky sharpness of the rum. Leave it Chef Cyrille Soenen to constantly reinvent the Kouign Amann making a good thing even better...
...like the festive Buche de Noel, an indulgent Log of Kouign Amann covered with Chocolate Chantilly, Chocolate Shards, and Mushroom Meringue topped with fresh strawberries. And everything you love about the buttery and flaky Kouign Amann is all here, reinvented in a holiday log.
And just like old times, the countless memories of round after round of Calvados at Brasserie Cicou are fondly remembered with another round of Kir and Ricard Pastis. Good times.
After lunch, Chef Cyrille Soenen then called Brasserie Cicou's team of young and skilled chefs led by Executive Chef Jill Osias...
...along with the service staff led by Jenny before the guests, as a round of applause ended the Thanksgiving Lunch. To Brasserie Cicou's faithful and loyal diners, you can still enjoy Chef Cyrille Soenen's signature dishes until the end of the month, for one more chance to savor authentic French cuisine. But this isn't a lasting goodbye, but rather an optimistic "till we meet again..." in classic French fashion. And as the year comes to a close, I look forward to the coming of the new year, and once again see my old friends from Brasserie Cicou in their new home.
Brasserie Cicou is located at 57 Annapolis Street, Greenhills, San Juan, Metro Manila or call 0917-885-8841 for inquiries.
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