Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Modern Cuisine. Local Ingredients. Masterfully Executed at Gallery by Chele...

When the familiar suddenly becomes refreshingly new, dining is elevated to an almost sublime experience.

Gallery by Chele takes you on a culinary journey of discovery with comfortingly familiar local ingredients as seen and tasted by a foreign master chef armed with a wealth of knowledge from the world's finest Michelin starred restaurants. It's a refreshingly new perspective, and a personal one for Chele Gonzalez whose name greets guests at the entrance of the new restaurant. For Chele, the preservation, sustainability and exploration of food and local flavors of the region remain at the heart of the new dining concept's culinary philosophy, driven by a constant curiosity in the use of local ingredients applied with modern techniques for a unique and memorable dining experience. And let me tell you, it's one flavorful journey...

Gallery by Chele is the latest dining concept of Chele Gonzalez reflecting his experiences from the past five years and his continuing culinary journey exploring the diversity and depth of local ingredients around the country. It's this seamless fusion of modern cuisine with local ingredients that makes Gallery by Chele an experience in itself.

The new concept exudes a more casual and relaxed vibe designed to appeal to walk-ins as well as formal reservations. The bar is immediately noticed when you enter Gallery by Chele with its long polished wood topped with elegant marble. The wide open interiors designed by partner-owner and architect Carlo Calma maximizes the use of space with the open kitchen retained allowing guests a peek at the culinary magic behind each dish. The wood tones exude a comforting warmth complementing the furniture designed by Kenneth Cobonpue. Various art pieces displayed throughout the space reflect the vibrant creative energy at Gallery by Chele, but the emphasis for Chele's newest concept remains casual and relaxed. Gallery by Chele represents the evolution of Chele's own journey, firmly planting his own roots in the country.

Right beside Gallery by Chele is the Stvdio Lab, the creative hub of Chef Chele's consultative services and operations. The innovative Stvdio Lab is at the heart of Chele's many new dishes where his team continuously create and seek inspiration. The glass walls are filled with scribbles forming the foundation for the next culinary innovation. 

Loyal diners and fans of the previous Gallery by Vask will be glad to know that the al fresco area (L), with its impressive views of Bonifacio Global City, is still part of the new Gallery by Chele. But it's the expanded dining area (R) with its elegant yet casual interiors inside Gallery by Chele where the magic happens.

Inside Gallery by Chele, the open kitchen comes alive preparing for the dinner service (L). Over at the bar (R), early visitors settle in with a few handcrafted cocktails with many of the signature creations following the same local philosophy of the cuisine. 

Evolving from its previous degustacion-only experience with Gallery by Vask (for more on the former Gallery by Vask, see my post from fours years back at The Vask Experience), the new concept offers small and big plates ala carte, both short and long tasting menus that can be customized with signature dishes as well as vegetarian options consistent with its more casual character. Along with Chef Carlos Villaflor, Chele explained the concept behind the new restaurant focusing on modern cuisine and local ingredients, and their passion for understanding both the soul and personality of the local food culture. Chele and Team Gallery have embarked on numerous travels around the country researching and documenting local indigenous flavors and cooking techniques, going deeper for a more comprehensive appreciation of the country's diverse palate. All these, interpreted by a foreigner's eyes and palate with a firm background in modern cuisine can result in some interesting cross-cultural expressions. And that's where Gallery by Chele shines...

Gallery by Chele offers Tasting Menus with Three (P 1,500/head), Five (P 1,950) and Nine Courses (P 2,950) with the flexibility to add dishes for a customized experience. Chele then heads to the kitchen, and with his team, prepared our menu for the evening. Once finalized, Chele's team picks up the pace to prep the dishes...

Our dinner featured items from both his signature ala carte dishes and the Tasting Menu, including tasty nibbles from his Bites selection. The various Bites range from P 160 to P 395, but the execution of each small plate remains consistent with the high standards set by Team Gallery. 

As the courses were prepared at the kitchen, we were served some of Gallery by Chele's signature cocktails. The bar follows the same culinary philosophy with the use of local ingredients for some truly creative and soothing cocktails, like the Guava Mojito (P 375), a refreshing blend of guava, tarragon and homemade spirits. Above the bar, one can spot numerous glass jars filled with ingredients steeped in liquor. They make many of the different components for the cocktails in-house.

Gallery by Chele's Ube Pan de Sal served with Coconut Butter kicked off our feast, a preview of Chele and Team Gallery's playfully inventive execution of local flavors. The subtle nutty sweetness of purple yam just pairs so well with the coconut butter, you'll want another bite. 

The first of eight tasty bites were then served, starting with the Tomato Mochi (P 260) filled with cheese, basil and smoked fish. The soft chewy texture of the mochi releases the sharp smoky notes of the local tinapa followed by the distinct notes of fresh basil. Gallery by Chele's tasty bites are all about balance and subtleties, with each flavor complementing the other in new and creative combinations.

The Black Blinis (P 295) is inspired by the local dinuguan with blood rice cake topped with sour cream and salmon roe for another interesting blend of local flavors and modern cuisine. The deep notes of the blood rice cake come through brightened up by the sour cream and briny sweetness of salmon roe for another tasty play on flavor and texture. Like many of Gallery by Chele's creations, there's always that sense of unexpected surprise with each plate served which keeps you guessing in anticipation for the next dish.

The delicate Meringue de Sal (P 160) draws inspiration from the southern inasal with light and crisp meringue filled with a chicken soy mousse. Recreating the essence of its inspiration, the flavors are delicate and light yet triggering memories of a comforting and familiar regional dish. The tasty bites at Gallery by Chele are like flavorful stops in a culinary journey of rediscovery of local notes. 

The Black Crisp (P 200) with uni mousse, corn and celery teases the palate with its light and airy crispness and delicate yet intense flavors. It's just amazing how Gallery by Chele packs so much flavor in these little bites.

The wittingly named Breakfast (P 200) with longganisa, pickles and quail egg garnished with local lantana flower adds a whimsical and playful element of fun to your dining experience at Gallery by Chele, and why not. When you can savor all the flavors of a comforting local breakfast in one bite, that's pretty special. Both textural contrasts and rich, bold flavors come into play with these little bites and your culinary journey with Team Gallery at Gallery by Chele is off to a great start. 

The Empanaditas (P 250), hot flour pockets filled with fish, green chili and emulsion seems familiar, but one bite immediately tells you this is another flavorful expression of Chele's immersion in the local culture. The light and delicate notes of the fish are enhanced by a whisper of heat from the chili for another flavorful combination. Garnished with the local lantana flower, each plate becomes a canvas for Gallery by Chele's culinary creations.

The Steamed Brioche Bun (P 395) with humba, banana blossom and pinakurat mayo is another homage to a local favorite with the sweet and savory richness of the humba tempered by the creamy and subtle sharpness of the pinakurat mayo. Taking hints from local staples, Chele and Team Gallery recreates and transforms each inspiration into a new flavor experience. And the wonders never cease at Gallery by Chele...

...as another plate is served. Definitely not your usual toast, Gallery by Chele's Moringa Toast (P 380) is a soft brioche with bone marrow and corn coating your palate with a buttery richness in just one bite. And you'll definitely want another.

With the Bites done, the next courses reveal yet another layer in Gallery by Chele's impressive repertoire of Starters...

...like the Beef and Tuna Tartar topped with duck egg and served with purple rice crisps. Freshness is a premium, delivering all the flavors even in the simplest of dishes. Simply grab a piece of the purple rice crisp and add a heaping spoonful of the Beef and Tuna Tartar and enjoy. Real, honest flavors. Just can't get better than that.

The Ube Chawanmushi (P 295) with purple yam, custard and tinapa dashi topped with succulent crab meat, seaweed and herbs recreates Asian notes with a local spin. The light, nutty sweetness of the purple yam is balanced by the gentle salty and smoky hints of the homemade dashi prepared with the local smoked fish. The sweet and briny notes of the succulent crab and seaweed complete the flavors. 

Fresh from the Josper Grill named Lucy, the Fired! Pulpo (P 550) with grilled octopus, chicken jus, papaya and pickled shallots is served next. The octopus is perfectly grilled, remaining tender with its lightly charred edges adding even more flavor with bold smoky hints. It's the kind of flavor that can only come from a Josper Grill, aptly named Lucy by Team Gallery due to its "hellish" heat. A slice delivers hints of sweetness, smoke and briny flavors all at once, complemented by the richness of the chicken jus and sharpness of the pickled shallots.  

In between bites, another cocktail was served. The Biasong Margarita (P 425) is a unique cocktail with tequila, mango ginger schrub, kaffir and liqueur that soothes and cleanses the palate for the next round of savory courses...

Back at the open kitchen, Chele leads team Gallery in the preparation of the mains. The open kitchen becomes a scene of perfectly choreographed moves highlighted by both precision and timing. And guests can have a glimpse of the action for a better appreciation of the dishes served at Gallery by Chele...

One final check with the finishing touches, and the dishes are expedited and served...

The Bana-Lu from the Nine-Course Tasting Menu features a succulent lobster tail with eggplant and okra delivering fresh and vibrant flavors. The lobster has an audible snap with each slice, a sure sign of freshness, releasing a rich briny sweetness capped by the texture and subtle notes of the okra and eggplant. Freshness is flavor, and with premium ingredients, you get all that and more. 

The Heritage from the Nine-Course Tasting Menu is a localized version of the traditional pairing of jamon iberico and artichokes, replaced by banana heart and laid on a thick peanut sauce. It's a dish that perfectly illustrates the philosophy of Gallery by Chele with local ingredients executed with modern culinary techniques and cross-cultural references. The banana heart mimics the texture of artichokes, with a sweeter finish that pairs well with the saltiness of the jamon iberico and completed by the nutty hints of the peanut sauce.

The utter simplicity of the next main course becomes the next flavorful surprise...

From the ala carte selection, the Silly Too Na (P 750) with prime tuna belly, red wine cherry and malunggay pesto topped with pickled chili offers delicately balanced flavors. The rich yet clean notes of the tuna belly are punctuated by the sharpness of the pickled chili maintaining the distinct layers of flavors from each ingredient. It's this delicate balance of nuanced notes that characterize each dish at Gallery by Chele.  

And if you want more heat, grab another chili. Gallery by Chele pickles their own local vegetables in-house, pairing well with their extensive menu offerings.

If you go overboard with the chili, no worries. The Pomelo Whiskey Sour (P 595) is a mildly sweet, sour and tart cocktail with green tea kaffir, pomelo, celery, and bourbon to gently wash away the heat.

The Cochinito is part of the Five Course Tasting Menu with roasted pork neck marinated with Cebu spices and served with langka and bok choy combining elements of regional cuisine in one dish. The sweetness of the jackfruit and mild bitter hints of the bok choy cuts the richness of the tender and juicy pork for balanced flavors. And again, Lucy does a great job in finishing the tender pork neck with vibrant smoky notes. Just perfect with Gallery by Chele's Pomelo Whiskey Sour.

Lucy impresses once more with a selection of premium in-house dry-aged beef. Aged at Stvdio Lab's special Aging Chiller, Gallery by Chele offers a wide selection of various meats and cuts, including USDA Angus Striploin and Ribeye, Argentinian Ribeye, and Snake River Farms Wagyu Ribcap, each aged for different periods to develop rich flavors. To fully enjoy Gallery by Chele's dry-aged steaks, they recommend a minimum cut of at least 300 grams for the complete experience. That evening, we sampled different cuts aged from one week to two weeks, each one with its own distinct crust and flavor. Lucy, Gallery by Chele's Josper Grill, adds the finishing touches. The unique charcoal and wood-fire grill adds a bold smokiness to the meat for intense flavors. 

We also sampled Gallery by Chele's Unaged Beef with its sharp beefy notes. The variety of meats and cuts are just some of the reasons to visit Gallery by Chele. And a perfect introduction to Lucy.

And what a feast. Here's a toast to the hard-working and fired-up Lucy. All steaks are served with Gallery by Chele's signature sides for a complete and sumptuous feast, best paired with wine or cocktails. Enjoy your steak with Gallery by Chele's Grilled Leeks with mushrooms...
...Red Wine Tomatoes (L) and Organic Grilled Baby Corn (R). Other sides include Sweet Potato Mash and Oyster Mushrooms for that perfect steak pairing. A feast capped by a juicy steak fresh from the wood-fired and charcoal grill is the perfect ending to an epic feast at Gallery by Chele...

But there's more. Cross-cultural influences take centerstage once more with Gallery by Chele's savory Beef Tendon simmered in five spice with broccoli. The savory sweetness of the dish from the star anise and the melt-in-your-mouth texture of the tendon add that punctuation mark to the Gallery by Chele dining experience.

As we near the end of our feast at Gallery by Chele, the inventive Ampalaya Negroni just cleanses the palate with its pleasingly sharp notes. Soothing and refreshing, the bar kept pace with the kitchen for a memorable evening at Gallery by Chele.

And just in case you want to end your experience with some rice, try Gallery by Chele's Heirloom Rice rendered in beef fat. Seriously good.

For dessert, Gallery by Chele offers an equally impressive selection of indulgent creations like the Coco-Nuts from the Tasting Menu with jackfruit, pomelo and kaffir lime...

...and other temptations like the Ube Torrija, a sweet coconut rum brioche, the Coffee Polvoron, and many others.  

For Chele, Gallery by Chele is a new page in a continuing culinary journey. And the opening chapter looks good. With renewed passion, Gallery by Chele lets diners rediscover local flavors and ingredients in a fresh new way, allowing you to embark on your own culinary journey of discovery.

Good food. Good times. Good vibes. Made even better at Gallery by Chele. And for our group, FourScene, it's just the beginning of more flavorful adventures yet to come (take a peek at what FourScene saw and tasted at Gallery by Chele in a short video here at https://youtu.be/S3rFQ_7K2ko).

Gallery by Chele is located at the 5th Floor, CLIPP Center, 11th Avenue corner 39th Street, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City or call 0917-546-1673 for inquiries and reservations. You can also check out their FB Page at https://www.facebook.com/gallerybychele/. Doors open at 5:00 pm for cocktails every Tuesday to Saturday. Reservations for Dining Area accepted from 6:00 pm to 10:15 pm. Bar and Lounge available for walk-ins. After hours drinks and bites served from 10:30 pm to 1:00 am.

Dude for Food is now on Facebook and Instagram, check out the FB Page and IG Feed for regular updates on good eats. Better yet, click "Like" and "Follow" and enjoy the ride...just look for the FB and IG widgets on the right sidebar. 

For more on FourScene, check out the FB Page here at https://www.facebook.com/FourScene/

Check out FourScene's short video on YouTube at https://youtu.be/S3rFQ_7K2ko

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