Monday, April 27, 2015

Scenes and Flavors at Madrid Fusion Manila's Fiesta by the Bay

The best of Filipino cuisine takes the spotlight at Madrid Fusion Manila in a festival of diverse local flavors at Fiesta by the Bay...

The first day's activities for the recently concluded Madrid Fusion Manila kicked-off with a festive feast at SM By the Bay, dubbed Fiesta by the Bay, and offered visiting international chefs and delegates a unique taste of local cuisine. The most anticipated culinary event of the year, Madrid Fusion Manila brought together the world's best in an epic celebration of food.

Fiesta by the Bay shared the best of the Philippines with the world's best chefs in an evening of food and music, bannered by the country's noted restaurants. Arriving early to beat the Friday traffic, I got a peek at the various preparations of the recreated "fiesta", just in time for the famed Manila Bay sunset...

The different food stations were set-up, as chefs from the metro's best restaurants prepared for the evening's feast. A final sound check, technical adjustments, and rehearsal for the musical performance added to the heightened level of excitement at SM by the Bay.

Each table was set with fresh floral centerpieces adding to the fiesta mood, as displays of the country's fresh produce were neatly stacked and arranged throughout the area. As each area was given a final check, one can already feel the excitement build up for the much anticipated opening dinner of Madrid Fusion Manila.

And with time to spare, all the logistical arrangements, including the set-up of various seating areas, were done right on schedule. The colorful banderitas completed the fiesta vibe, as the crews and performers take a much needed breather. It's now the turn of the chefs from the different restaurants to create their own magic... 

At the entrance, horse-drawn Calesas decked in flowers queue along SM by the Bay, reliving the Spanish Colonial era. It's an appropriate and fitting touch to celebrate the arrival of Spain's very best chefs to Madrid Fusion Manila's Fiesta by the Bay.

And as the sun slowly disappeared behind behind the distant horizon, a fiery amber glow draped over the bay, setting the stage for the fiesta of local flavors, and a stunning backdrop for the evening's festivities.

The cityscape is then illuminated by lights, adding to the festive vibe at SM City by the Bay. Madrid Fusion Manila's delegates and chefs were then welcomed by the rhythmic beat of a local percussion band. Madrid Fusion Manila's Fiesta by the Bay has begun...

Servers from the different food stations made the rounds with a sampling of local bites, as cocktails flowed getting everyone in the groove in no time. The evening's food and renowned international chefs added to the dazzling lights of the cityscape in one grand celebration of a shared history and passion for food. 

For the next three days, a connection from common cultural linkages will be rebonded, with lots of food in between. At the end of the festival, one can only wonder at the exchange of culinary ideas, and its impact on modern Filipino cuisine. Things are definitely looking good for the local food scene.

No fiesta is complete without the mandatory whole roasted pig, the classic lechon, served by some of the most well-known names, like Mila's, Elars, Cirkulo, Pepita's Kitchen, Charlie's Pritchon and  many more...

Lechon, in all its regional varieties and styles, highlighted the diverse palate of Filipino cuisine, drawing a constant line of guests at all the lechon stations. There's just nothing quite like lechon, giving the visiting foreign chefs an insightful look and feel of a typical Filipino fiesta, the very heart and soul of our local culture and rich culinary heritage. 

Rows and rows of tables displaying some of the country's best lechon makes for one impressive sight. But other flavorful dishes were also served that night, adding to the wide range of flavors and culinary diversity of Filipino cuisine.

Around SM By the Bay's North Fountain, some of the metro's best restaurants showcased their playful reinterpretation of classic Filipino cuisine, like Manam's inventive Crispy Pork Sinigang (L), with pork crackling and sharp sinigang broth served in a shooter, and the flavorful Dinuguan Terrine with Crispy Pork (R) from Vikings.

Vikings Luxury Buffet Restaurant takes on the iconic Filipino street food, Balut, with their creative Deconstructed Balut (L), retaining all the familiar flavor elements with new textures and forms for a different flavor experience. The familiar Kinilaw is also represented with their Tuna Ceviche with Pinoy Salsa (R).    

Vikings Luxury Buffet Restaurant complete their spread with an array of indulgent and intricate desserts (L), including another popular street food classic, Taho (R), velvety smooth silken tofu with tapioca pearls and syrup served in the usual "street" style. 

Mesa Filipino Moderne featured their comforting Hito Flakes on a Spoon (L), deep-fried crispy catfish flakes drizzled with green mango salad, honey bagoong, and chili; and the familiar Sisig reinvented with their Sisig in a Pouch (R), with sauteed pork ears and cheeks wrapped in a crispy wrapper knotted with leaks, with a  spicy vinegar dip.

Kai Neo Japanese Cuisine shared their own take on Filipino cuisine with a unique Asian and Japanese twist, with the simple yet refreshing skewered raw GenSan Tuna with Watermelon (L) drizzled with patis (local fish sauce) and sea salt; and the equally refreshing Pechay Salad (R), local bokchoy with salted egg and herbs. 

The acclaimed Spanish chefs were then introduced on stage along with some of the country's notable culinary icons, with (L-R) Paco Torreblanca, Mario Sandoval, Francis Paniego, and Claude Tayag of Bale Dutung sharing a toast. That same evening, Andoni Luis Aduriz of the world famous Mugaritz and Elena Arzak of Spain's Arzak hosted special dinners at Vask with Chef Chele Gonzalez and Mecha Uma with Chef Bruce Rickets respectively. Despite their absence, it was still quite an impressive sight to see the world's best together on stage. For more on the Filipino delegates to Madrid Fusion Manila, check out my previous post here at

In an evening lit by the world's brightest culinary stars, it seemed right to cap the night with some fireworks...

...and as the last of the fireworks faded against the night skies, one can only wait in eager anticipation what the country's best chefs will dish out in the future from this exchange of culinary ideas and innovation, and what Spain's very best chefs take back with them, with inspiration from our own local flavors.

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