Mushroom Festival at Lemuria Restaurant

(i am posting this here because its run is waaaayyy overdue. why the editor gave me the go signal to write it, but didn’t run it, i have no idea. he has not returned any of my messages. but i believe the chef and his team deserve much credit for putting together a coherently-themed menu, using an ingredient to its maximum potential, albeit the fact that it perishes quickly. kudos Chef Kevin Endaya of Lemuria :))

Lemuria Restaurant offers two “freshly-picked” treats this September: a mushroom festival, and the novel creations of its new chef

Photos by Joel Tacata

Most of us are only familiar with mushrooms that come out of the can (springy, fleshy, and still curiously tasty even after being released from their watery confines), or at best, those dried and packed loosely, found among equally-aromatic joys in Oriental markets.

Not meaning to knock the easier to find variation, but lucky are those whose palates come in contact with mushrooms at their finest, fresh-from-the-earth best: a tad heady, complex, and redolent of the woods and soil from whence they came. 

It is this complexity and delicacy which Head Chef Kevin Chavez Endaya of Lemuria Restaurant is inviting diners to experience this month in ‘Freshly Picked,’ a mushroom festival that will run while stocks last. “It’s mushroom season in Europe, and there’s nothing in the market like this right now,” the young chef explains. “Fresh mushrooms are rare, but not really expensive. People should try it.”

Skillfully-executed courses

Case in point: Endaya’s Mushroom Consomme with Shrimp Ravioli. Using portabello mushroom as base, chanterelles and porcini were sautéed to give the consommé a smoky flavor. It’s a brave but impressive take on a consommé, since clear soups—and especially those served at the start of every meal—are traditionally refreshing, made with the purpose to brace the diner for the rest of the courses. However, Endaya’s first course still manages to awake the tastebuds. His consommé gives the palate a clean finish, the light shrimp ravioli giving it an encouraging nudge.

More of Endaya’s budding skill in the kitchen is evident in the second course, Sauteed Mushrooms and Scallop in Choux Served with Beurre Blanc. Consisting of scallop, slices of mushroom, a freshly-baked French pastry and a beautiful sauce, the dish covers several textures and flavors: the slight crunch of the buttery bread; the firmness of the scallop; and the tangy, creamy beurre blanc (butter with white wine and vinegar). With all the poise of a lady not wanting to attract attention to herself but failing, the mushrooms and their timorous, potent flavor still shine through. 

After the wonderful surprise of the mushroom and scallop dish, the third course, Beef Royale, pulled me back down to earth—literally. Endaya married all the earthy qualities of the mushroom and those ingredients traditionally associated with it: garlic (used in the accompanying potato gratin), beef, and a red wine and balsamic vinegar reduction. The result? A solid dish that I consider “too nice”—but which had me scraping up each last drop of red wine reduction all the same.

Endaya used mushrooms in his dessert as well, a chanterelle-infused chocolate mousse. Deceptively rich, it is elegant to both the mouth and the eye, carrying with it elements of citrus and decorated with flower petals. “Both chocolate and mushroom are wild, earth flavors, so I guessed they could be good together,” he says. He was right.

Time for mushrooms

At only 28 years old, the unassuming Endaya has been cooking professionally since 2005. He remembers wanting to be a chef ever since he was young, however—“while my cousins were watching ‘Bioman’, I was watching ‘Cooking with the Dazas.’”

He considers cooking in Lemuria—the only authentic fine-dining restaurant in Quezon City—a dream come true. “I have the freedom to experiment; as long as it tastes good, and the owner, Mrs. Schroeder, likes it, it’s a go.”

Marina Bru Schroeder, incidentally, who is also Wine Director of Lemuria, paired the dishes with a velvety Calicanto 2009, a Chilean cabernet sauvignon-carménére blend. A quiet, stately wine, it brought out the best qualities of every course. She and her husband personally flew in the mushrooms from Germany for this festival.“One thing I like about working with mushrooms is that they have very versatile flavors,” says Endaya. “They can be mild, or intense.”

He gives this tip when working with fresh mushrooms: “Always sauté on high heat and in a very hot pan so as not to dehydrate them and lose their flavor. The challenge really is keeping them fresh.”

Lemuria is located at 5 Julieta Circle, Horseshoe Village, Barangay Horseshoe, Quezon City. For reservations and inquiries, please call +632 7245211, 722 2185, 724 6306. Lunch by reservation only. Dinner, from Tuesday to Sunday, 6 pm-11pm. You can also check out their website at www.lemuria.com.ph.

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