Innovating and elevating the modern Filipino table with LaMeza

Megaworld Hotels and Resorts explores local flavors, regional cuisine in latest menu for its properties

Kingsford Hotel Manila, located at the heart of the Entertainment City of Parañaque

“We want to create and celebrate Filipino food that we love, and do our best because it’s from our home,” shares Cleofe Albiso, managing director of Megaworld Hotels and Resorts (MHR), the Philippines’ largest homegrown hotel chain with 4,000 room keys and 11 properties across the country.

With the love for local food and an overflow of creative talents, MHR brought people together for an evening of festive culinary delights. Dubbed as "LaMeza," the recently developed menu, cooked by 12 of the local hotel chain's chefs, presents a quirky and innovative take on what considered the "Modern Filipino Table." As a proud homegrown brand, “we want to offer our very own,” adds Albiso.

Last month, MHR welcomed all its guests to its newest property, the Kingsford Hotel Manila, located at the heart of the Entertainment City of Parañaque. As soon as each one entered the foyer, their senses were immediately greeted by the soothing rhythm of a live string quartet that complimented the space alongside a foreshadowing of cocktails served by its gracious hosts. Just like home, a familiar taste of bite-size creations filled the venue such as kare-kare, chicken inasal, lechon ice cream, sisig, kinilaw, lechon, empanada, humba, and dinakdakan.

From left: Belmont Hotel Boracay GM Elmar Lina, Savoy Hotel Mactan GM Josef Chiongbian, Cluster GM of NCR+ Properties Jun Justo, Hotel Lucky Chinatown GM Jeremy Go, Socrates Alvaro, Belmont Hotel Manila GM Elmar Lina, Megaworld Corporation COO Lourdes Gutierrez-Alfonso, DOT Undersecretary Woodrow Maquiling, MHR Managing Director Cleofe Albiso, Twin Lakes Hotel GM Oliver Esguerra, DOT-NCR Regional Director Sharlene Zabala-Batin, Supervising Tourism Operations Officer Ivan Agote, Savoy Hotel Manila GM Ferdinand Navarro, Belmont Hotel Boracay Resort Manager Maia Israel, Kingsford Hotel Manila GM Joe Fijardo, and Richmonde Hotel Iloilo GM Nat Lim

With everyone ready for the main event, guests were all ushered to their tables and were warmly welcomed by MHR’s Albiso. As she directed everyone’s attention to the screen, she then excites everyone with the gustatory surprises that awaited each guest. Michelle Aventajado, the event’s master of ceremonies and a foodie herself, then took after as she glides everyone through the evening’s program. The night becomes more pleasing with the live vocal solo of Opalhene Rose Barba with live accompaniment easing in before the first course.

Starting off the array of flavors was Baguio. For the first bite, guests enjoyed a freshly baked soft raisin roll topped with crispy quinoa and the dark sweetness of molasses. It also included cream cheese and softened butter flavored with locally picked strawberries all the way from Baguio City. We then move on to Aklan, guests follow through with a unique pasta dish cooked with the freshest crab catch from the province and the famous chorizo of Boracay’s “Choriburger” fame. The pasta’s flavorful sauce is made from seafood consomme and saffron cream and making it more appetizing is the spinach tuile from a local harvest.

Deeper into the heart of the evening, Aventajado invited guests to a live sneak peek of the kitchens through the screens that adorned the walls of Kingsford Hotel Manila's ballroom. While all chefs dedicated their undivided attention to every dish and plating before putting them out under the limelight, so to speak, for guests to enjoy.

With the excitement built up for the next course, the chefs brought everyone to Bicol! The laing espesyal, a classic Bicolano food enhanced with scallop and prawn paste for a flavorful and rich taste. It is then followed by La Union. This province up north is known for its pugita, which was given a Spanish twist by poaching the pulpo until it is fork-tender, then searing it grilled on a metal plate. To enhance the flavors, the dish is served with creamy celeriac butter, classic aioli, and smoked tomatoes. The night brought us back to the south for a savory vacation to Cebu. Your visit to the Queen City of the South will never be complete without trying a fresh catch of scallops from Bantayan Island, the crunchiness of Carcar’s chicharon, and the famous chorizo de Cebu. These are some of the most sought-after foods that local and foreign visitors must try.

Guests were taken to Mindanao and land their tastebuds in Davao to enjoy a dish they playfully called calderobo with cacao cheese. It is in Davao where you will find the delicious combination of two of the most iconic Filipino dishes—caldereta and adobo. It’s a beef stew like no other where the sous vide beef cheeks are stuffed with Wagyu beef fat to create the most tender beef there is, then braised in calderobo sauce. Elevating the richness of the flavors are homemade carabao’s milk cheese infused with cacao compote and heirloom vegetables. After Davao, guests were flown to Nueva Ecija. As the “rice granary” of the Philippines, it’s a must for this Nueva Ecija special to be a rice dish perfectly complemented by a delectable viand. Tiger prawns were cooked in a vacuum container, then served with pumpkin-infused risotto, nutty, and earthy edamame pods, topped with parmegiano reggiano.

Before heading for a sweet finish, everyone took a break to look back on the saccharine journey of the chefs as they listened and shared their thoughts with seasoned industry practitioners during a Culinary Conference conducted by MHR and F&B Council. The training event that took place days prior was participated by Chef Philip Golding from the Center for Culinary Arts, Chef Reggie Aspirasa (culinary instructor and columnist of the Philippine Daily Inquirer), Chef Buddy Trinidad (president and co-founder of Pastry Alliance of the Philippines), Ederlinda Decano (group director of Finance of MHR), and Chef Josh Boutwood (executive chef of the Bistro Group).

For the sweet ending, guests enjoyed a delightful bite of Bulacan with a serving of pastillas macaron, macapuno truffle, espasol praline, and peanut brittle chicharon. This set of four exquisite bites inspired by the delicacies of Bulacan is a delicious fusion of classic local ingredients presented in European-style. As this culinary journey came to a close, it was perhaps apropos to end the nine-course dinner with a dessert plate inspired by flavors of Iloilo. But how do you put Iloilo on a dessert plate? MHR's chefs went for presentation that had more the art than the culinary, so to speak. Like painting except with flavors, in the middle of the plate is a thin strip of finest cheese made from their carabao dairy farms. On its left and on its right, depending on how you view the plate are two other strips: a sweet jam made from Iloilo’s very own batuan fruit, and a compote made from Guimaras’ famous mangoes. You go from savory to sweet, as you experience the so-called "Food Haven" of the Philippines in what is arguably the most deconstructed dish that evening.

From left: Chef Francis Tugnao (Belmont Hotel Manila), Chef Alejandro Bartolome (Belmont Hotel and Savoy Boracay), Chef Victor Barangan (Eastwood Richmonde Hotel), Chef Angelo Chubby Timban (Kingsford Hotel Manila), Chef Ariel Castaneda (Richmonde Hotel Iloilo), DOT Supervising Tourism Operations Officer Ivan Agote, MHR Manager Director Cleofe Albiso, Megaworld Corporation COO Lourdes Gutierrez-Alfonso, DOT-NCR Regional Director Sharlene Zabala-Batin, Ernie Teston, Chef Tristan Carlo Galang (Richmonde Hotel Ortigas), Chef Kris Espinosa (Savoy Hotel Manila), Chef June Fernandez (Savoy Hotel Mactan Newtown), and Chef Noli King-King (Twin Lakes Hotel)

At the conclusion of the evening, due credit and recognition was then extended to all the inspirational executives chefs who, through their talent, passion, and creativity, made the night truly interesting namely: Chef Francis Tugnao of Belmont Hotel Manila, Chef Alejandro Bartolome of Belmont Hotel and Savoy Boracay, Chef Victor Barangan of Eastwood Richmonde Hotel, Chef Chrisopher Yu of Hotel Lucky Chinatown, Chef Angelo Chubby Timban of Kingsford Hotel Manila, Chef Ariel Castaneda Richmonde Hotel Iloilo, Chef Tristan Carlo Galang of Richmonde Hotel Ortigas, Chef Kris Espinosa of Savoy Hotel Manila, Chef June Fernandez of Savoy Hotel Mactan Newtown, and Chef Noli King-King of Twin Lakes Hotel.

Thanks to the country’s archipelagic design, Albiso notes that, “Filipino cuisine is diverse and flavorful,” and comes with a unique story represented by its very own signature dishes from the numerous regions that guests both local and foreign have all come to love. On that night, MHR gathered all its executive head chefs from all its properties as it debuted the future of its culinary offerings available in all its locations through this elevated nine-course dinner designed to draw diners closer to the flavorful roots of “our heart, your home.”