Saturday, May 17, 2014

The Vask Experience

There are only a few places in the metro where dining takes on a whole new meaning, a complete sensory experience that's almost sublime, where creativity and a passion for perfection combine in each and every plate. And Vask is one of those places... 

Meticulously crafted dishes, from appetizers to mains to desserts, roll out of Vask's kitchens under the guidance of Executive Chef Jose Luis Gonzalez, in a virtual parade of plated perfection.

Located away from the commercial strip within The Fort, the modern Clipp Center is an appropriate venue. Situated at the fifth floor, the sleek facade is already a visual cue, and you just know dining at Vask will be special. 
And it is. Esquire Philippines recently awarded Vask as Restaurant of the Year for 2013. Vask offers four unique dining experiences, all under one roof. The casual Dining Room offers both modern and traditional dishes, with a focus on Basque cuisine.
Over at Gallery Vask, the exclusive fine dining area, the emphasis shifts to a more formal vibe, where delicate flavors and elegant plating highlight Chef Chele's creative cuisine. Gallery Vask also features an open kitchen concept to complete the experience.
After dinner, one can chill at Curve, a lounge with a bar and live performances on selected days. Ideal for both small and large groups, with a number of seating options and configurations. And don't forget to check out those cool holograms...  
The Deck, Vask's unique open space and the perfect spot to enjoy the sunset with a few cocktails. Each area offers its own unique menu, and Vask is the only restaurant offering four unique dining experiences all under one roof.

They say the best restaurants are clearly defined and personified by their executive chefs, and Executive Chef Jose Luis Gonzalez clearly is the face and personality behind Vask. Fondly called Chele by his friends, Chef Jose Luis Gonzalez brings with him a wealth of experience working in Spain's best and world-class restaurants, including El Bulli, a pioneer in deconstructivist cuisine; El Celler de Can Roca, Mugaritz, Nerua-Guggenheim, and Juan Mari Arzak's restaurant, regarded as the Father of Modern Spanish Cuisine. At Vask, Chef Jose Luis Gonzalez balances modern techniques with an Asian perspective, infusing new flavors and ingredients for unique and surprisingly fun combinations. Sampling some of Vask's signature dishes gives one a sneak peak into Chef Jose Luis Gonzalez' continuing culinary journey. And as the sun slowly sets, Chef Chele spins a few tunes at the Deck before the dinner service...

...and the Deck is just the place to catch the setting sun against Makati's skyline. The cool breeze and cozy yet sleek modern furniture provides the perfect start to your Vask experience.

And there's no better way to enjoy the sunset than with a few of the Deck's signature cocktails. I go for a smooth Old-Fashioned served in a distinct slanted glass. A few more shots and that glass should be in the proper orientation, but then again, who cares. The setting sun, the cool vibe, slanted cocktail glasses...just can't get better than that.

After a few more cocktails, we leave the Deck and enter Vask's Dining Room. At the Bar, Vask's signature Pintxos are laid out, offering a wide range of traditional and modern flavors. The assortment of pintxos, the Basque equivalent of tapas, include crusty bread topped with Jamon Parmesan Mousse, Salmon and Crab Tartar, Sous Vide Tuna with garlic chili oil, Wagyu beef with tximichurri, and Mushroom with Irdazabal cheese.

Jean Fernando then briefs the group on the menu prepared by Chef Chele, which includes signature dishes from Vask's Dining Room, Gallery Vask and Curve lounge for that unique, and complete, Vask experience. 

More tapas were served, starting with the Croquetas de Jamon y Pollo, crisp croquettes with Jamon and chicken, followed by Croquetas de Gambas, or shrimp croquettes. Each delicate croquette has a thin and crisp layer over soft, almost creamy filling for contrasting textures.

Crispy Shrimp, deep-fried spring rolls with plump shrimps and Jamon Iberico, drizzled with a sharp and flavorful Jerez reduction. The Jamon Iberico adds a distinct, bold note blending with the sweet Jerez reduction for another medley of complex flavors.

Mejiliones Tigre, spicy and crisp breaded mussels on a half shell, best enjoyed with a spoon. Simply scoop up the savory filling along with the crispy outer layer, and enjoy the clean flavors of fresh mussels spiked by chili and fresh peppers.

Rabas, breaded fresh squid deep-fried to crispy perfection, served with a rich Basil Mayonnaise dip. Unlike the usual squid rings, Vask uses long strips of fresh squid. The basil mayo adds a rich layer of flavor to the deep-fried squid, great with a few more cocktails.

Carnitas, crispy pockets filled with ear chicharon drizzled with a rich Orange Cilantro sauce and topped with fresh herbs. The subtle flavors of the chicharon are punctuated by the tart orange and cilantro sauce for contrasting yet balanced flavors.

Wagyu Carpaccio, premium Wagyu beef topped with crispy Parmesan, pine nuts, herbs, and a rich and smooth Parmesan ice cream. The tender, thinly sliced, melt-in-your-mouth Wagyu beef has a butter-like texture that plays well with the crisp Parmesan shards and pine nuts, and the creamy yet sharp Parmesan ice cream simply completes the dish. Simple, fresh, and premium ingredients provide all the flavors, and Chef Chele's Parmesan ice cream typifies his creative approach. Carpaccio with ice for me.

Huevos con Txistorra, sous vide egg with Chistorra Chorizo, breadcrumbs, dates, mushrooms and Truffle oil. Simply mix it all together for another complex blend of flavors and textures. The richness of the delicate sous vide egg is tempered by the sharp Chistorra chorizo, for yet another plate of balanced and comforting flavors.

Then, Chef Chele serves up a pair of hearty risotto dishes. Scallops and Black Ink Risotto, carnaroli rice with squid ink and green asparagus. Rich, moist and flavorful risotto topped with a perfectly seared scallop...

...and Mushroom Risotto, perfectly cooked risotto topped with a shard of crisp parmesan. The rich nutty notes of the risotto are enhanced by the bold flavor of the Parmesan, as Chef Chele continues to play with contrasting flavors and textures in every dish.

Atun Crujiente, crispy tuna on caramelized onions with sauteed foie gras and black sesame. The subtle flavors of the tuna are perfectly balanced by a crisp layer of thinly sliced fried onions on a bed of sweet caramelized onions. The foie gras adds that indulgent finishing touch.

Bakalao Confitade, a tender and delicate Bacalao confit with pipermaela, garlic alioli and crispy Jamon Iberico. You definitely must have bacalao to complete your Spanish feast, and Chef Chele's version includes crispy strips of Jamon Iberico to complete the delicate, subtle briny flavor of the salted cod. And these are just the appetizers...

For the main course, the staff presents a perfectly roasted whole Quarter of Lechon de Leche, to the delight of the group, before being chopped into bite-sized pieces. Vask's Cochinillo, crisp and tender quarter of Lechon de Leche with caramelized onion, sauteed foie gras, and stewed potatoes served with a side of green salad. Richly seasoned, it's great as is, with no need for any sauce. Tender and juicy pork with a perfectly crisp layer of seriously good Cochinillo.

Next up, Vask's Tenderloin, tender grilled US Tenderloin on Bacon Mashed Potatoes, beet root, and port wine demiglace. Perfectly grilled with a juicy pink center, this one single dish provides a whole range of flavors with the bacon mashed potatoes, crisp strips of Jamon Iberico, and the sweet port wine sauce. From starters to mains, Chef Chele presents a rich palette of flavors and textures in each and every dish. And his creative and playful approach to modern cuisine goes into full gear with Vask's unique desserts...

Then, the group headed over to Gallery Vask for their signature desserts. And Chef Chele's culinary journey continues with his fusion of local flavors and modern techniques. The unique and elegantly plated Palm Crisp, a refreshingly light yet flavorful and creamy coconut sorbet presented in true Vask style. A rich foam of coconut cream is frozen in seconds in a bowl filled with liquid nitrogen to form the creamy dessert. One bite and the lightly frozen outer layer breaks and releases a burst of rich and creamy flavors. The deceptively simple dessert is packed with flavor, in a masterful blend of traditional ingredients with modern techniques. Molecular gastronomy, deconstructivist cuisine, call it what you want, this coconut sorbet is a winner.

Then, Chef Chele applies his own creative spin to a local snack. The classic Taho, made with sheep milk tofu, caramelized tapioca and sweet ginger essence served in a test tube like a shooter. The sharp notes of the ginger essence tempers the richness of the taho and sweetness of the caramelized tapioca for balanced flavors. Chef Chele continues to push the envelope, creating new ways to enjoy familiar flavors, and that's what makes dining at Vask different and special.

And Chef Chele isn't done. Not quite yet. Chef Chele and his team prepare the signature desserts of Curve.

Deconstructed Lemon Cake, sweet pistachio sponge cake with golden biscuits, Greek yogurt mousse, and a rich lemon custard. Chef Chele's previous stint at El Bulli clearly shows in this elaborate and elegantly plated dessert. And it just tastes as good as it looks. 

Calamansi Tart, with cream cheese ice cream. The sweet, tart and lightly sour calamansi combines with the rich and creamy ice cream. Rich, creatively plated, a feast for the eyes as well as the palate. 

Caramel Chocolate Lava, an indulgent dessert with rich and smooth Dulce Valhrona Chocolate, Financier crumbs, coconut ice cream, pine nuts, and fresh mint. Pure perfection on a plate.

And finally, the Torrija, a soft and fluffy milk brioche with a sharp Anise ice cream. Light and moist, with a crisp outer layer almost like a French toast, and a soft and buttery center concentrated with flavors. The desserts at Vask are equally impressive, presented in a whole new way, in a perfect blend of modernist culinary techniques with familiar flavors.

And as Chef Chele discovers new local flavors, one can expect even more creative dishes as he continues on a flavorful culinary journey at Vask. And if you're looking for something new and exciting, go on a wild flavorful ride with Chef Chele for one awesome experience at Vask.

Vask is located at the 5th Floor, Clipp Center, 11th Avenue corner 39th Street, Bonifacio Global City, 1634 Taguig City. For reservations, call +639155077047 (Globe), +639081912702 (Smart), +6322176563 (Landline), and +639178065292 (Globe Duo), or e-mail at

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