Just in time for Hilton’s 100th anniversary, Hilton Manila brought in two master chefs of Chinese cuisine to prove just how well Shanghainese and Cantonese cuisine go together when done under the right guidance. The chefs behind Hilton Manila’s “Four Hands Culinary Series–Flavors of China” were executive chef Lam Hock Hin of Hilton Kuala Lumpur’s Chynna and sous chef Kevin Xu of Hilton Manila’s Hu Yuan – Brasserie Chinoise restaurant.

In an eight-course menu that showcased the two chefs’ signature dishes, lucky guests indulged in a gastronomic journey through China. Combining Lam’s mastery of Cantonese cuisine and Xu’s trademark Shanghainese style, the chefs’ exclusive collaboration resulted in a multi-faceted experience of China.

Beyond the meals that spoiled the palate, it also provided a few meaningful insights on how to set up an eight-course meal without losing momentum.

Mix Salad with Kaori Bako, Golden Scallops and Anchovies
Double-boiled Black and White Garlic Soup with Sea Cucumber and Spare Ribs

Lesson 1: Start strong and end it hot

Right off the bat, Lam’s signature gluten-free appetizer mix salad with kaori bako, golden scallops, and anchovies made a strong case for Cantonese cuisine from the get-go. Coconut milk served as the primary salad dressing, priming the senses for the other meals to come. Lam showed that starting strong works even in planning a course menu, but it was Xu who made sure to end it with a bang. The spicy punch of his fried rice with XO sauce ended the experience on a high note, followed by coconut cream jelly with taro balls and peach gum to balance out rice’s spice.

Hu Yuan Fragrant Tea-Smoked Duck
Butter Milk Prawn with Egg Flakes and Scented Curry Leaves
Deep Fried Grouper Sweet and Sour Style with Pine Nuts

Lesson 2: Make your own rules

A typical eight-course meal follows a certain universally accepted pattern: hors d’oeuvres, soup, appetizer, salad, main course, palate cleanser, dessert, and mignardise. But every chef knows that the best creations come only if you break the rules—and make your own. Lam and Xu’s eight-course meal, in true Asian fashion, was full of savory, heavy dishes with lighter delicacies in between.

Smoky Grilled Sliced Pork with Leeks
Fried Rice with XO Sauce
Coconut Cream Jelly with Taro Balls and Peach Gum

Lesson 3: Let the guests be the authority

Perhaps the most meaningful lesson of the eight-course meal was Lam’s insightful approach to determining what makes a signature dish. According to Lam, he advises to “let your customer choose your signature dish.” This typically goes against the grain of most restaurants that determine their signature dish based on the preference of the chef. But that is not the case for the multi-awarded Lam.

“I have no signature dish until you let me know what is the best,” says Lam. “What I say goes doesn’t mean you like it.” It took him years of observation and feedback, but he ultimately settled on his mix salad with kaori bako, golden scallops and anchovies and double-boiled black and white garlic soup with sea cucumber and spare ribs as his ultimate signature dishes.

As for Xu, the Hu Yuan fragrant tea-smoked duck, deep-fried grouper sweet and sour style with pine nuts, and fried rice with XO sauce that were the crowd favorites.

Chef Lam Hock Hin and chef Kevin Xu

Hilton Manila’s exclusive eight-course dinner menu is available until Jun. 8 at P2,888 per person.

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