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A New French Chef Revitalizes Provençal Cooking at Mirèio

When defining French cuisine (or any cuisine for that matter), you’ll soon find out it’s never that simple. There’s haute cuisine found in France’s Michelin-starred formal restaurants. And then there’s regional and country cooking, with Provençal more distinct than most. In the Philippines, there’s not much occasion to experience the food of Provence, but thankfully there is Mirèio, Raffles Makati’s gorgeous brasserie-style restaurant that celebrates the flavors of Provence, a vast area that encompasses the south of France, touching the Mediterranean Sea as well as the Alps.

Now charged with preparing exquisite Provençal dishes is Mirèio’s new master chef, Chef de Cuisine Hervé Clair, who comes with a storied culinary pedigree, having trained under the celebrated chef Alain Ducasse in France, as well as with the legendary Pierre Gagnaire at his restaurant La Maison 1888 in Danang Sun Peninsula Resort, Vietnam.

Chef Herve´ Clair with Raffles Executive Chef Anne-Cecile Degenne

 

At Mirèio, Chef Hervé gave us his own take on Provençal cooking through a sampling of dishes from his new menu for us to try. While he skewed closely to the restaurant’s French Mediterranean identity, he also explored beyond the region’s borders in creative and delicious ways. Nonetheless, we recognized the following essential elements of Provençal cooking mastered by Chef Hervé:

 

A light touch

No heavy butter or cream, only extra virgin olive oil to cook and flavor Provençal dishes. Chef Hervé served a Soupe au Pistou, Provence’s answer to a minestrone with basil pesto, tomatoes, fresh vegetables, and not a touch of cream. The soup refreshes especially when paired with a Côtes de Provence – Château Roubine Rosé 2016, with rosé wines being typical of the region, matching its mild weather.

 

Traditional Provenc¸al pesto soup

 

Seafood from the Mediterranean

The food of Provence revolves around the freshest shellfish and fish caught from the Mediterranean Sea. Chef Hervé started the meal with Slow Cooked Octopus with White Bean Salad, Lemon Confit and Kalamata Olives—soft and tender octopus paired with typical ingredients of the Mediterranean diet. Chef Hervé’s seafood course did veer a bit away from typical Mediterranean fish, using salmon instead because of its flavor and texture. Nevertheless, he still cooked it in the Provençal style, pan seared and served with wilted spinach, tomato confit, and a virgin citrus sauce. It’s a dish that shows Mirèio’s Provençal roots but its willingness to play outside the region.

 

Slow cooked. octopus, white bean salad, lemon confit, and kalamata olives

 

Pan seared salmon, wilted spinach, tomato confit, virgin citrus sauce

 

Farm fresh ingredients

Provençal cooking isn’t just about the seafood, but about what its farms can offer, in this case, Crispy Braised Pork Belly with Potato, Carrot, Green Pea Fricassée. The pork is first braised, then roasted to achieve the crispiest layer of pork skin, atop tender pork meat. Farm fresh vegetables are then stewed in typical French fashion. This dish was paired with IGP Ile de Beauté – François Labet 2015, a Pinot Noir from the island of Corsica.

 

Crispy braised pork belly, potato, carrot, green pea fricasse´e

 

A concession to cream

Typical Provençal desserts are usually light on the butter and cream, and heavy on dried fruits, nuts, honey, wine, lavender, and olive oil. However, Chef Hervé decided to serve us something that isn’t typically Provençal, a giant Cream Puff with Salted Caramel Ice Cream and Nougatine. We’ll allow Chef Hervé this one indulgence to everything rich and creamy, as the dessert delivered in terms of sweet-salty-creamy combination, with the nougatine providing a delightfully sweet crunch.

 

Crispy braised pork belly, potato, carrot, green pea fricasse´e

 

1 Raffles Drive, Makati Avenue, Makati City, (02) 555-9840, mireioatraffles.com

 

Photos by Chris Clemente