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Still Looking for the Foie, Lusso-Makati

 

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LUSSO
Greenbelt 5
Makati
632-756-LUXE
632-756-5893

I generally avoid fine dining perhaps because I’ve been around it so much. It kind of reminds me of work, I spend more money and quite often leave disappointed. There are plenty of casual spots in town I would much rather go to.

Too often they will capture the look of a fine dining restaurant but not the substance, the meat of it. Manila in particular still has a long way to go to start opening true fine dining restaurants. Too often they capture the look of a fine dining restaurant (and the price) but when it comes to the substance, the meat of it, they ring hollow.

Lusso was opened Margarita Fores in Greenbelt 5 in 2009. The name is Italian but the menu reflected more of French or even American slant with a number of classic brasserie foods and sandwiches.

The interior is really well done by Jorge Yulo in beige and amber tones, featuring a large chandelier from the ballroom of the Peninsula Manila. There are nice cushiony chairs and the waiters and the napkins are both starched and pressed.

The service was well-meaning. They clearly had some training and had the best of intentions (which really is the most important thing). However from a technical (timing, communication, service technique) standpoint they were a bit awkward.

I actually got a little bit excited when I saw some of the items on the menu. Foie gras everywhere, bone marrow, confit de canard (duck confit), what’s not to love? First to arrive were the Truffle Chips. It’s an old trick but a good one. Even with the fake truffle oil they just taste good.

I’ll take a bag of these

Someone at our table ordered the Bone Marrow Vol-au-vent. It really seemed more like a passed hors d’oeuvre than a plated appetizer. I also stole a bite of the Demi Pound Burger (foie gras, cambozola bath, prosecco onions) that Lusso is known for. The burger was good but the foie was also not really detectable. I’m starting to notice an alarming trend develop here.

The Demi Pound Burger (only half shown here). I wish they spent less on expensive china and more on foie gras.

Of the two dishes I ordered both were disappointing. I began with the Foie Gras Brûlée. Maybe I was expecting something different and maybe I should have asked first, but it was really just a crème brûlée with the addition of a barely detectable quantity of foie gras. The foie was in small pieces in the center of what was otherwise a dessert. It was served with toast points but did not go well with bread. This dish suffers from a clear identity crisis.

Foie Gras Brûlée

So, a swing and a miss. Fine, let’s move on. I was still quite excited for my Confit de Canard. It looked really nice when it arrived and just as I was about to ask for Dijon the waiter brought some French whole grain mustard. Galing! The salad greens were very fresh and dressed perfectly with a nice pungent vinaigrette but the potato purée was completely unseasoned and had a bit of a gloppy texture.

But then I cut into the confit. The skin peeled off in one limp swath. Grrr! Now it’s personal! Clearly the skin had been fried, but then something else must have occurred. Either it was covered and allowed to steam soggy or it was microwaved. Either way I don’t care because they’re both amateur mistakes. The meat was also quite salty.

Confit de Canard, the color indicates it was fried crisp, but then allowed to become soggy.

All mistakes were forgivable up to this point but now they’ve ruined my favorite bistro dish. I guess now I should get to work on a confit de canard to redeem this experience.

In conclusion Lusso might be a nice place to go for a glass of wine in the afternoon with some light snacks. The ambiance is nice and they do have some good small dishes to have with drinks. I would not order the more expensive dishes on the menu because they make big promises they can’t keep. In keeping with the name, Lusso’s menu showcases a number of luxury ingredients. Unfortunately these luxury ingredients don’t really carry a presence to the plate.

Comments

  1. joey says:

    I like the foie burger at Chef Jessie’s in Rockwell :)

  2. Nana says:

    I agree! Manila fine dining restaurants are generally underwhelming. I finf that it is more fun to find hole in the wall restaurants.

    • StreetFoodie says:

      Yes! I’ve felt that way for the longest time. Especially when you’ve experienced first hand working inside their kitchens. I’d rather eat at a carienderia. Seriously.

  3. Margarita Fores says:

    Thank you very much for your feedback about Lusso. We appreciate your thoughts and constructive criticism…this is the only way we can deliver the best to you, our valued clients, and do our work better. Trust that we will look into all your observations and see where we may have fallen short the day you visited us. Our potato mash is usually flavorful, thus the chef may have been less thorough that day. Our truffle oil is of good quality, carried home by me from Italy, and is certainly not fake, and is subtly sprayed onto our chips after they are fried.
    The foie in our burger is placed raw in the center of the burger before it is grilled , and not seared and placed on top of it, and is meant to melt onto the meat, thus as in your photo, will not be visible whole. But it will definitely flavor the patty when it is absorbed as it is grilled….this may just not be to your liking, and is different from many foie burgers whose foie is visibly sitting on top of the patty .
    Regarding the duck confit, please allow me to inform you that, the confit may have been an imperfect piece that day, but it certainly was not microwaved as we do NOT have a microwave in Lusso’s kitchen. I am very against the use of the microwave oven in restaurants, and in all my 25 years in the business, have never used one in any of my catering kitchens and commissaries, and have never had any as well in all 12 branches of Cibo, 3 branches of Cafe Bola or Pepato’s kitchen.
    In closing, we thank you again for your feedback. We will certainly look into where we may have fallen short, food quality wise, so that we don’t disappoint you or any of our clients the same way in the future.
    I put Lusso together to allow Manila an old-world experience steeped in elegance, since ambiance with food like this in Manila is nearly non-existent. Trust that we will try harder to make what may have been an underwhelming food experience, overwhelming next time. We will make the quality of the food as exquisite as the ambiance, and all the fine details we have painstakingly put together to create the whole package that is Lusso……and yes, with integrity, keep the big promises we make.
    We appreciate your taking time to make a post on your experience! Much appreciated…..and we hope that Manila’s dining scene, composed of many hardworking creative restaurateurs and chefs, satisfies you more in the future…..

    • Jeremy says:

      Chef Fores,

      Thank you for response. I understand exactly how much work and dedication is required in opening and operating a restaurant and would only wish you success in all of your ventures.

      As such I do stand by my observations and hope my remarks will be taken as constructive criticism. As the overwhelming majority of reviews have been positive, I will give Lusso another visit and would be very happy to report a better second dining experience to my readers.

      To clarify one point, it has not been Manila’s dining scene so much as Manila’s fine dining scene that has been disappointing. I have had great experiences from countless casual dining restaurants that I feel deliver more value for the money.

      Again, thank you for your straightforward response and I look forward to my next visit.

      Jeremy

    • danjo says:

      I love you Gaita Fores!!! From the bottom of my heart!:)

  4. ML says:

    I must agree with you. It’s truly perplexing and disappointing how “the best” restaurants in Manila fall short. Creativity is in abundance but technique, execution, and flavor is not up to standard. I often wonder how these restaurants survive at all. Sorry to say that Lusso is certainly one of these restaurants. I’ve been there twice and both times the food was disappointing. Having had excellent truffled fries, truffled popcorn, and truffled mash potatoes abroad, have never had bad ones come to think of it, I was surprised at how it could go so wrong in a restaurant like Lusso. Bland and the texture of the fries was weird. Were they frozen not fresh? The next couple of dishes were not what I was expecting as well. The moussaka, dates with bacon, etc. In fairness I have to say I’ve also been to parties catered by M. Fores and the Italian food was always excellent (Filipino, not so much), so I’m wondering what could be wrong in her restaurants? Maybe it’s the fine dining aspect where she falls short. Her catered food is usually buffet style (the ones I’ve been to) and, again, very good. But to continue my criticism (sorry but I think this is sorely needed), there were indeed several restaurants with “old-world experience steeped in elegance” in Metro Mla, so it is a mistake to say that Lusso is introducing such a concept. The other thing is I didn’t get that feeling of old-world experience steeped in elegance at all. The restaurant design is whimsical and the menu is smart-casual. None of which I have a problem with. The problem is the food. My advice: train the cooks better because the idea is not being executed very well.

  5. Jill says:

    Aren’t most truffle oils FAKE? I don’t think it matters if it came from Italy or France. If real truffles were used to make the oil I doubt we would be able to afford the “truffle” potato chips at Lusso. Read more about the truffle oil scam here – http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/16/dining/16truf.html?pagewanted=all

    • Jeremy says:

      “Something from the truffle that is not the truffle.” The Force is strong in this one.

    • ML says:

      I’m not sure about fake truffle oils, but I suppose it’s like anything else where the source is important. Also, one doesn’t use truffle oil to deep fry potatoes. It’s tossed in afterwards, using only a few drops which is enough to add that umami flavor. It’s expensive, but unless you’re eating a bucket of fries a day it usually lasts awhile. Truffles are a complicated thing. Even fresh truffles in the market do not always all have that intense mushroom flavor. It’s all about the source. Talking about fake food products you should read The Billionaire’s Vinegar.

  6. ML says:

    Forgot to add… when talking about fine dining restaurants, affordability, unfortunately, is not part of the equation. Although, you can sometimes find the same quality of food in more casual less expensive restaurants. Such as Va Bene Pasta Deli, which is where I intend to eat lunch tomorrow.

    • Jeremy says:

      I still think value can be achieved at a higher price point. It’s just not really happening in Manila so much right now. Va Bene definitely delivers though :)

  7. madresuperiore says:

    typical “high end” restaurants, blah. all they really care about is their food cost. but i can’t blame them, it’s a business.

    • Jeremy says:

      I would argue that a good high end restaurant is less worried about their food costs than a low end restaurant. In some that I’ve worked we would give out more comped items than you would ever see in a lower end establishment. However this was not a good high end restaurant.

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