Truly a dinner of diplomatic proportions! Bale Dutung’s chef Claude Tayag and US celebrity chef Grant Gordon hosted Ambassador Philip Goldberg and some important guests in a dinner that paved the way for cultural diplomacy efforts meant to strengthen our ties with our greatest ally.
At first I wondered why they chose Bale Dutung, because it was quite far from Manila. When I arrived at Bale Dutung (which means “wooden house”) I immediately understood why the dinner was hosted here; it is such a wonderful home, with a garden that is truly remarkable. Bale Dutung is both a restaurant and the home of Chef Claude Tayag, who does not just cook but is also an artist who paints and sculpts. Everything in their home is lovely and the furnishings are all made of old wood. The bamboo chandeliers are quite the sight to see, and the neighborhood is safe and gated, a great security advantage for the guests and the residents.
“Get a spoon.”
I arrived three hours before dinner and I took this great opportunity to have a good conversation with Chef Grant Gordon. At 27 years old, he was the executive of a one of Houston, Texas’s top steak restaurants and has been described by Forbes Magazine as “Texas’ hottest young chef.” However, he is not one to toot his own horn. I approached him while he was making the mashed potatoes for the steak that was to be served that night. One of the nicest things he had said to me was “get a spoon” to which I hurriedly went out and retrieved what looked like a halo-halo teaspoon. He let me taste the still unfinished mashed potatoes and wow, it was truly the smoothest thing I have ever tasted. I never knew potatoes could be as smooth as that.
Most chefs wouldn’t want to be bothered while cooking, but Chef Gordon was very nice and engaging to foodie media. He was all praises for the staff of Bale Dutung and how they wonderful they were to work with. I have seen the staff work quietly and efficiently and, as we say in Ilonggo, maabtik (moves swiftly with a sense of purpose and urgency: attentive and alert). The good chef is similarly maabtik. While he converses beef and potatoes with me, he runs around the kitchen tirelessly, unassisted and without the diva attitude. I believe Chef Gordon is on his way to culinary stardom worldwide.
Dinner with the Ambassador and guests
By 5:45 pm, US Ambassador Philip Goldberg arrived. He was greeted by US Embassy Manila Press Attaché Kurt Hoyer, Claude Tayag and Angeles City Mayor Ed Pamintuan.
At exactly 6:00 pm, dinner was served. Along with great wines provided by Happy Living Fine Wines (couldn’t find their website but they did have a FB page), which happened to be one of the finest I’ve ever tasted, the dinner was superb and fit for royalty. See the photos below.
Ensaladang Paco with quail eggs
Fried Tilapia Fillet served with Burong Hipon
Tiger Prawns cooked with Taba ng Talangka
Chef Grant’s USDA Super Prime Striploin with Potato and Creamed Spinach
Bale Dutung has branched out (finally) to Nepo Mart. No need for reservations now. Chef Claude Tayag has made many of his signature dishes available to the public through his new restaurant Downtown 1956 Cafe by Bale Dutung at Nepo Mart near Holy Angel University. Do visit it if you are in the area.
Incidentally, the coffee was wonderful. Mrs Tayag is seen here explaining how they brew the coffee from the beans. I asked her “instant coffee?” She shrieked “Oh my God! Mortal sin!” You just don’t expect anything less from a Kapampangan host.