An ever diverse cuisine, Chinese food has always been deeply entwined with the Filipino palate. Trading goods and food way before the Spaniards landed on our shores, local tastebuds have long been accustomed with Chinese flavors and spices. So it comes to no surprise that Chinese dishes are so popular to the modern Filipino foodie.
From lumpia and pancit to pork buns and xiao long baos, chopsticks have been a natural part of Filipino dining as much as the spoon and fork. Man Ho in Marriott Manila Hotel brings this cultural exchange to life with their new dishes. Some containing locally-sourced ingredients that add a local touch to their Chinese dishes. While some using ingredients from other countries, combining it with their classical Chinese tastes for a new modern flavor.
Man Ho holds true to its Chinese roots with its grey brick decor and high ceiling with wooden accoutrements. Many unique pieces are displayed on its walls. From decorative plates, gold-plated statues, and ornately painted vases. The interiors create a calming scene of a time past, as well as a sense of regality reminiscent of the oriental royal courts. This ambiance sets you up for the elegant dishes that come in their new offerings created by executive chef, Meik Brammer, and newest executive chef, Chan Chi Fai.
A Filipino Touch
We first get a taste of Man Ho’s new dishes with some appetizers. Specifically, their Wok Fried French Beans with Salted Egg Yolk. This crunchy snack is one of their Filipino-inspired dishes with the French beans sourced from Baguio. Rich and salty, this addictive snack might pass off as healthy, being mainly just a vegetable. But that deep-fried coating and salted egg sauce might just offset those healthy points.
The next locally-influenced appetizer is their Slow-Braised Australian Beef Shank in Palawan Honey. The tender Australian meat barely holds together as you transfer it to your plate. It’s soft and moist with a hint of sweetness from the Palawan honey, a good incorporation of the local ingredient. While the meat is cooked right, it’s the sauce that really highlights the dish. Best to order some rice on the side.
Sticking to Tradition
You can never really say no to a dumpling, especially a fried one. So you can imagine my excitement when served their Wok-Fried Pork Parcels with Szechuan Chilis, a creation of Chef Chan Chi Fai. Little crispy bites of juicy pork with a Szechuan chili sauce that gives a warm richness to the dumpling. The spiciness is just right and it coats your mouth with every bite.
After enjoying the crunch of the beans and parcels, we were served a warm break with a soothing soup of Double-Boiled Abalone with Red Dates and Coconut Broth. Served in a coconut shell, which I think adds to the flavor, the broth is a unique sweet savory that I find hard to describe in words. If you can imagine a savory coconut soup, that would be the best approximate I can give. The sweetness of the coconut meets the saltiness of the sea creating a multi-layered flavor profile. Served with some chicken and abalone that serve as the meat of the soup, plus some red dates for crunch.
The Roasted Roster
After being titillated by their starters, Man Ho’s highlight from their new dishes is the Peking Duck. “Peking duck?” You may ask yourself. A common enough dish in many Chinese restaurants. Man Ho adds an extra dimension of flavor by flambéing their duck with Dalmore’s classic 12-year aged whiskey. This adds a smokey aroma and nuanced flavor to the duck.
One way you can enjoy their Peking duck is as a roll-like dish with Chinese Pancake. Crepe-like in thickness, the pancake acts a wrap that’s filled with duck, cucumber, spring onion, and served with Hoisin sauce. Reminiscent of a fresh spring roll, the duck’s flavor shines with the crunch of the veggies. Adding the rich Hoisin sauce compliments the duck for a multi-savory bite.
Another way to enjoy their Peking duck is as Minced Duck with Cabbage. The flavor of the Peking duck is heightened through being fried up with celery, chestnut, and bamboo shoots. These act as sponges that sop up the jus of the duck adding to the salty savoriness. Eaten in a cabbage leaf, the vegetable container acts as a refreshing crunch to balance the richness of the fried mince.
Another new addition to their roasting menu is the Shredded Chicken with Jellyfish. Its appearance may have you think its a spicy dish, I surely did. But its actually more like a salad in taste and texture. It’s light and fresh, with the chicken being the main savory element of the dish. A mix of textures from the crunchy veggies to the chewy jellyfish – if you’ve never had jellyfish before, this is a good start.
Beef & Other Meats
Taking a note from Marriott’s Cru Steakhouse, Man Ho delivers a steak dish of their own. Bringing their own Chinese touch to the dish, their Pan-Fried US Beef Tenderloin in Black Pepper Sauce is a sharp twist to the usual steak. Pink medium tenderloin served with a pungent garlic black pepper sauce. The strong flavors of the sauce blend well with the subtle juices of the steak and sautéed shallots add a sweet undertone to the robust taste.
Next we have the Stir-Fried Shrimps and Porcini Mushrooms and Broccoli, their non-beef alternative to the classic Beef and Broccoli. The sweet plump shrimps are fresh substitutes for beef while the porcini mushrooms add their own umami savoriness that make up for the lack of red meat.
For the last entrée, we were served the Pan-Fried Australian Barramundi on Black Bean Sauce. Again, with most of the dishes served, the sauce is the main flavor component of the dish. The thick black bean sauce highlights the fish’s taste. The Barramundi, similar to Grouper (Lapu-Lapu), has a mellow tang from its flaky flesh that carries the sauce well. The bell peppers and onion round out the dish with their crunch.
Simple and Sweet
After all the strong and sharp flavored dishes, it’s nice to end on a simple sweet note. And simple and sweet is exactly what their new dessert is. Sticky Glutinous Rice with Coconut may seem too simple at first sight. With its delicate plating and desiccated coconut coating, the sweet kicks in when you take a bite and you get a rich surprise. A bright yellow salted egg custard filling balances the gentle sweetness of the mochi coating. The custard’s richness is a fitting bright end to Man Ho’s new dish roster.
Man Ho’s new dishes offer new ways of enjoying Chinese flavors. As well as incorporating many foreign ingredients and elements into these classic flavors that all together make for an interesting gastronomic experience. The palpable ingenuity of Meik Brammer and Chan Chi Fai is seen and tasted in all these new dishes which makes it an exciting time to be dining at Man Ho.
Man Ho is located at GF, Marriott West Wing, 2 Resorts Drive, Pasay, 1309 Metro Manila. For reservations, contact +63 2 988-9999 or through their website.
Photos by Kieran Punay