A Very Special Lechon And More Surprises Await At This 12-Course Dinner Collab By The Lechon Diva And Hey Handsome
Chef Quenee Vilar, Dedet de la Fuente, Chef Nicco Santos with their Hayop na Lechon (Photo by Cyrene de la Rosa)
Anyone who has been fortunate enough to taste the legendary stuffed lechon of Pepita’s Kitchen is in for an extra treat. The Lechon Diva herself, Dedet de la Fuente, is partnering with Hey Handsome, led by Chefs Nicco Santos and Quenee Vilar, for a two-night only epic 12-course dinner this April 25 and 26.
While Pepita’s Kitchen has already collaborated with restaurants in Hong Kong, Singapore, and even London, this is actually the first time Dedet and her team will be working with a local restaurant. And Nicco Santos isn’t just any chef, as he is well known for his interpretations of Asian cuisines, primarily Singaporean and Malaysian, in bold, unexpected ways. On the other hand, Dedet’s playground is Filipino food where she gets to express her creativity and humor through her dishes. The collaboration is a meeting of creative minds, with Dedet’s generous spirit and Chef Nicco’s more cerebral approach.
At a recent preview, the Pepita’s Kitchen and Hey Handsome teams presented a host of dishes they’re preparing for their series of dinners.
Baon by Pepita’s Kitchen
Taking off from her Hayop na Degustation menu (“hayop” or “animal” referring to Dedet’s predilection for meat and seafood, no vegetarians here!), Dedet presents dishes filled with nostalgia for childhood dishes long gone. The amuse bouche is called Baon, three mini pandesals with different fillings inside a brown paper bag (attached with my name written on a torn sheet from a spiral notebook), harking back to the baon Dedet used to bring to school. The only difference is a touch of foie gras spread inside each sandwich. The Street Food Sampler is her take on kwek kwek, fish balls, and arroz caldo presented in mini pots, mini sandok included.
Gata Bi-Cool by Pepita’s Kitchen
Dedet also takes inspiration from her travels, presenting Luslob Buwa or sisig rice wrapped like Cebu puso in banana leaves and served with a special liver dip. From Bicol, she cooks Gata Bi-Cool, a refined noodle dish accompanied by a glass of rich coconut cream sauce to be poured into the noodles.
Sinantolan na Suso by Hey Handsome
The Hey Handsome dishes showcase Chef Nicco’s expert grasp of flavor and texture to produce such pleasurable bites. Sinantolan na Suso hides tender snails under santol and a coconut cream emulsion.
Pukis at Dinuguan by Hey Handsome
For his Kilawin na Banak, he pickles banak fish and serves it with sweet potato purée. Another standout is Pukis at Dinuguan, his more refined version of diniguan and puto that features a soft, bouncy burnt puto or rice cake with a savory dinuguan sauce, coconut cream, and a sprinkling of crispy chicharon bulaklak.
Hayop sa Lechon
Of course, the highlight of the dinner is Dedet’s famous stuffed lechon. Called Hayop sa Lechon, this lechon variant features Chefs Nicco and Quenee’s burnt coconut rice stuffing that adds a touch of smokiness to each bite of soft lechon meat and crispy thin skin. It is served with Hey Handsome’s refreshing sambal and Pepita’s bestselling labuyo chili sauce, adding another extra dimension of heat to an already superb dish.
More surprises await for dessert, with Dedet’s Abracadabra (a mysterious dish with a bit of magic) and Hey Handsome’s take-home Pasalubong of tien ob smoked milk with lavender butter.
Through twelve courses, diners will get to experience two varied interpretations of Filipino food, both exceedingly creative, playing with the familiar and the exotic in unexpected yet ultimately pleasurable ways.
The 12-course tasting menu is offered on April 25 and 26 at Hey Handsome, G/F Net Park Building, 5th Avenue, Bonifacio Global City. Limited slots available. For reservations, call (0917) 859-3168.