Eli Brown, author of the culinary novel Cinnamon and Gunpowder, so aptly spoke comfort food...
“Some foods are so comforting, so nourishing of body and soul, that to eat them is to be home again after a long journey. To eat such a meal is to remember that, though the world is full of knives and storms, the body is built for kindness. The angels, who know no hunger, have never been as satisfied.”This is how I would sum up the lunch we had at Stew by Chef Michelle Adrillana.
A friend would always say, "Any stew will get you through winter," and in our case here in the country- any storm. Figuratively and literally saying, it is true, as a stew is any slow-cooked rich choice of meat, caressed by a deeply flavored, beautiful sauce from the vegetables, herbs and spices combined.
Imagine a hot pot that had been simmering for long hours with some of the sauces reaching its top, some caramelization stuck on the rim and lid, on a cold night. And you came home from the most stressful day, donned in your day clothes or even in your PJ, ready to tackle the delicious mess on that pot. Who cares about washing the dishes and that pot anyway, only to realize that your stress had been melted away by the tender, fall-of-the-bone meat and spoonfuls of the warm, thickened savory broth.
Hence, how can a restaurant by its namesake not fulfill its definition? Nothing could describe more aptly Chef Michelle's newest baby than the famous kitchen term that is "stew."
With a menu that's spot on, Chef Michelle chose several of her favorite signature dishes, inspired from the things that tickle her fancy, married with the skills and science she learned from years of working in different kitchens and managing her catering business - Flavors on Fire.
Tucked within the residential areas of San Juan and had just settled in at a new building along P. Zamora, Stew is a fresh addition to the slowly emerging food hub in that area. Chef is so hands-on to to every process and she makes sure guests' visit is worth-while, you know, like anticipating a comforting serving of stew being cooked, only you don't need to wait that long for your food.
The list of their food isn't too many so it is easy to choose, though it can meet your every cravings for certain kinds of food. They have sandwiches, all-day b-fast, salad, soup, seafood dishes, pastas, dessert, and of course stews, with sublime.
Every food should display techniques mustered by every good cook like how this salad had been
Like in the Apple and Walnut Salad served to us. Aside from the fresh salad greens, the crunch on the apple and candied walnuts, the blue cheese played so well with the vinaigrette that coats each elements on this plate. The comforting fork-bites is a medley of sharp saltiness from the blue cheese, subtle sweetness and a bit of tart from dressing.
The soup of the day was mushroom soup.
The ever comforting mushroom soup takes on a new light. Don't expect a mushy condensed mushroom soup we typically get out of a can. Stew's mushroom soup was done from scratch but with a good creaminess without pureeing an overdone mushroom.
Penne Quattro Formaggio can come as simply as this, but wait till it gets to your mouth. The penne pasta is al dente enough for me and with the sauce done as how Italian chefs would treat a four-cheese sauce with. See how clean the plate is, no extra sauce running over but every cavities of the noodles were well-coated. I also love the balance of the cheeses, without being overwhelmed by a certain kind of cheese.
However, might I say that Italian speaking diners might argue over the term formaggio as opposed to formaggi. It means cheese but the plural of formaggio is formaggi and formaggio can be a collective noun, so may be a bit confusing.
Anyway, we're not in Italy, and we're definitely not here to be grammar-nazis are we? I'm more concerned rather of how the taste of Kaldereta Ramen would be.
A hefty serving is a bowl of ramen bathed in Pinoy's favorite heritage dish, Kaldereta. Every family has it's own recipe of this tomato-based dish, but Chef Michelle had taken it up a notch, like most of her dishes, she added modern takes on them, this time she tried marrying Japanese cuisine with Filipino's and it worked.
Aside from the ramen, the tender beef cubes and the veggies that float around, the soup that's full of umami definitely made this a feeling meal. I guess replacing our beloved rice to go with Kalderata with ramen can be equally satisfying. The broth is perfectly thickened with some ingredients still chunky and seasoned just fine.
Bhogs and I shared with all of the dishes and boy, we almost ended up with a food coma, cause we couldn't get enough of everything, and we did save a few space more for one more truly appetizing rice plate.
Not unless you're allergic, I'm sure you wouldn't say no to prawns, what more if it's smothered with Salted Egg Sauce...I know! I feel you! I'm a sucker for anything salted egg too, hence, I share you Prawns with Salted Egg Sauce.
For your indulgence, she uses real salted eggs, no substitutes and that gave a very creamy and still grainy texture you get from real fermented egg but not being too salty, which I love. Apart from the well-cooed prawns the sauce also gives out a garlicky taste to it.
Of course, we need some palate cleansing after such a meal.
And sometimes you don't need fancy desserts to complete your meal, most of the time, simple food that makes you remember the good times in your life or makes you remember a special person can do just that.
I felt right at home with a plate of grilled saba bananas served with chocnut dip. Like what I suggested her, I would love to take home a jar of this and send it off to my sister in Milan, she'd definitely love it.
Stew is still stewing up some more dishes to add in the menu (pun intended). May I suggest other countries' version of stew like bouillabaisse, Italian and Mexican beef stews and more, to carry the whole theme to the menu. The whole theme is still in the works so don't be harsh with them as they are also busy keeping up with the catering job. But a visit here would really be worth a culinary experience.
My husband promised me to bring me back here with the kids next time, so it only meant he loved the food too!
Stew Fine Comfort Food
Address: 166 P. Zamora St., San Juan, Manila
Facebook: Stew by Chef Michelle Adrillana