Celebrated mom's birthday at Yi Cuisine last night and the birthday girl couldn't have been happier. I showed up a bit late, but mom and dad were too busy nibbling on their complimentary amuse of streamlined lumpia (eggrolls) to notice. They really enjoyed the flavor of the chicken/jicama filling...I can't comment since I'm a fish-eating vegetarian. Mom said they were similar in taste to her own.
For appetizers, we ordered the signature spicy tuna with roasted jalapeno on pan seared sushi rice as well as the crunchy corn and scallion fritters and the rock shrimp tempura. The pan seared sushi rice was most definitely a treat and the spicy tuna had just the right amount of spice. The portion was a bit on the large side for my taste though. The fritters were perfectly crisp and bursting with flavor from the sweetness of the corn and a subdued sharpness from the scallions. The paired tamarind dipping sauce made this irresistible. The rock shrimp tempura rivals the Nobu version of this dish...so sweet and tender on the inside.
Before our mains were served, the waitress brought us a complimentary intermezzo of asparagus wrapped in grilled flat iron steak with toasted sesame seeds. My parents gobbled these up. We ordered the "kare kare" braised oxtails in peanut sauce, roasted pepper-sundried shrimp tapenade, the adobo braised kurobuta pork belly with steamed mustard greens and the tandoori inspired chilean sea bass and curried cauliflower puree. Being a filipino family, steamed white rice was a must.
Everything was served family-style. Mom said the oxtail meat was delightfully tender and the flavor was great albeit somewhat westernized, lacking the unique flavor of its traditional accompaniment, bagoong (fermented shrimp paste). The pork adobo pleased the palates of both my parents...my dad even finished off all of the mustard greens, not his usual deal. We all agreed the seabass was incredible. The fish was so buttery in texture that it just dissolved in my mouth and made me go mmmmmmm with every bite. I have to say the only other seabass dish that comes to mind that parallels this is the miso marinated seabass from Max Restaurant, but I like the complexity of flavors in Chef Aglibot's version better. The cauliflower purée was beautifully spiced and had a nice consistency, not at all watery.
As we were finishing up our dinner, the chef came out to greet us. When I made the birthday reservation, I put in a request for my mom to meet the chef. Chef Rodelio Aglibot was so gracious and kind with all of us, especially my mom. He had just arrived at the restaurant after taping a spot for the Ellen DeGeneres show.
For dessert, we ordered the malasados and what the chef so cleverly calls, "the Answer." Explaining the warm malasados as doughnuts wouldn't do them justice. There was something very unique about their texture and consistency. "The Answer" was the chef's take on a traditional chocolate rice porridge we call champerado. Except, instead of just chocolate, the chef uses Nutella and serves it warm with crispy fried banana slices. I thought my version using Valrhona cocoa powder was good....this was even better. It would have been nice garnished with pinipig (toasted pounded sweet rice). The chef treated us to another signature dessert, avocado mousse with lychee sorbet and (I'm guessing) raspberry coulis. The avocado mousse was surprisingly light, but full of flavor and creaminess. The lychee sorbet complimented the avocado mousse really well.
The one thing I'd change about the evening would be the circa 2000 euro-house soundtrack playing in the background. The food, plus three very generous martinis and tax came to $180 (tip not included). I was surprised there weren't more people here on a thursday night, but I have to say it was nice not to be crowded up next to other diners. I say, check it out and ask the chef the story behind "the Answer."