Sunday, June 3, 2007

YAT'S INTERNATIONAL WINE CLUB – May 29, 2007 (first visit)

In the 90s, there was a Brit chef by the name of Philip Golding who became a celebrity of sorts in Manila: he cooked well, was photogenic and recognizable as the onscreen model for a brand of pasta, if memory serves. I thought he had disappeared, because last I heard he was chef-patron of the now defunct Azzuro in Glorietta (now occupied by Banana Leaf), and it was a surprise when my friend invited me to Clark today to send off her niece and boyfriend at the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport and for a long lunch at Yat’s, helmed by the very same Chef Philip Golding.

Chef Philip came to Manila because he had a Filipina wife whom he met in London. By his account, the future Mrs. Golding fell for him – literally – when she slipped on the kitchen floor of the restaurant where he was working. He invited the winsome Cebuana to dinner to make up for his gaffe and 11 years later, they have made a life for themselves and their two boys in the Clark Economic Zone, with their base of operations at the YAT'S INTERNATIONAL WINE CLUB in the Mimosa Compound.

Yat’s is serious about its wine, proof of which is its wine cellar that holds a veritable king’s ransom in wines, ranging from a very, very rare and very, very expensive bottle of a 1900 Premier Grand Cru Chateau Margaux obtained by Yat’s at an auction. It is not for sale, but in case you’re interested, the bottle carries a tag price of P1,062,800. Yes. You got them zeroes right. The wine steward offered the bottle for me to hold. Like I dared; if I break it I’d have to liquidate all my assets and I’d still be only halfway paying for that bottle. If you’re working on a tight budget, you could settle for the 1947 Chateau Cheval Blanc: a steal at P600,000. Or a bottle of Heidsick champagne salvaged from a ship that sank in the Baltic Sea in 1906. This will set you back by about P400,000. All of these rare wines are kept in a humidity and temperature controlled room, and the more affordable selection in a separate room. The house wine is a fine Farnese which goes for P200 a glass. Guess which wine I got to sample at lunch today? And oh, have you heard of vintage beer? Yat’s carries a selection of fine triple-fermented beer and today I got a taste of UN FIN DU MONDE from Montreal. I never tasted beer this good: the top note is apricot with an equally fruit-like nose, and a refined finish I never thought possible in a beer. It comes corked, presented and chilled like a champagne bottle, and appears to complement most food choices.

Chef Philip’s philosophy is to serve people who love their wine, with fine food to complement their fine wine choices. And boy, is the food fine. Our group included a friend who is a food writer, therefore our group was accorded preferential treatment. We sat at the main dining room but were later asked to take a table at the members-only Burgundy Room. Each of Yat’s dining rooms has a different menu, but Chef Philip told us that he and his highly efficient and friendly staff would be more than happy to accommodate any diner’s culinary whim – so long as they have the ingredients in stock. Or they could serve you “dampa” style. Bring your own foie gras, alligator meat, or any special ingredient and you can ask Yat’s to cook it for you.

The service is a story unto itself: our party of 5 was served by 3 waiters, one of whom wore cotton gloves throughout the service. Last I saw highly formal service in Manila was at the Rotisserie of the now-defunct Manila Hilton in 1982 when I was taking my practicum as part of my HRA curriculum.

The menu is pretty interesting, and prices are understandably on the steep side (think of P3,000/per plate if you are to get a soup or appetizer, a glass of wine, an entrée and dessert), considering the high quality of food and service that Yat’s provides each guest. The grill items are especially good (the wagyu tenderloin is to die for – literally – it’s fat marbling is unbelievable). I had an espresso of plum tomatoes and my fellow diners who had the broccoli cream and capsicum and coconut cream soups declared them delicious. Our starter of chilled lobster infused with a sardine sauce was a surprising delight, literally an amuse bouche. This was followed by a delectable and creamy mango sorbet, preceding my porterhouse and veal osso buco combo, which was served with pan fried baby potatoes, a remarkable mushroom risotto resonant with cream and butter notes, and sautéed fresh garden vegetables. The serving size was hefty, and so was my appetite. The presentation left a little to be desired for a fine dining restaurant, as did the quality of the bread served (I am very particular with my bread, and in my opinion Prince Albert and Le Souffle serve the best bread in town, but that’s another story), but this quibble was silenced by the excellent over-all food quality, and totally forgotten by the time I finished off my plate of warm chocolate espresso pudding with a buttercream crust served with homemade vanilla ice cream.

Yat’s serves exotic stuff, like kangaroo and alligator meat. Not very popular choices but appropriate for the serious foodie. Go and take the trek to Clark. It is worth the trip of about 70 minutes each way, or plan a side trip if flying through Clark or going to Baguio. And if Chef Philip is around, he will probably sit down with you and regale you with an extra that is off-menu: his impassioned stories of gastronomy, what’s going on in the local and international hotel and restaurant industry and future plans to make Clark the foodie hub of the Philippines. I look forward to the opening of The London Pub, also in Mimosa, featuring English fare like bangers and mash, prepared “right proper.”

Yat’s is open for lunch daily and closes at 11 p.m., and major credit cards are accepted. Reservations are not necessary, unless you plan to book the entire place. It is a fine dining restaurant (remember, the waiters wear gloves) so don’t expect to be welcomed if you are in shorts, sandals or wife-beaters.


If you like to eat well, live well, listen well and have the patience to go through my kilometric but hopefully entertaining blogs, then this is the page for you. I chose EATERSHIP because it sounds like "leadership," and because if you jumble it up, it could also read "hip eaters." Eat and read on!