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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

An Old French Treasure

Globalization has spurned quite an avalanche of varied dining experiences for the Filipino and even expats here in Metro Manila. Everyone who probably earns a decent sort of income knew how to hold his chopsticks (but would still opt for the Pinoy way of using spoon and fork), what wines (or even brews) to pair with what food, and know the difference between a crepe, a blini, an eggroll and a blintz. Filipinos have already been exposed to Korean, Japanese, American, Persian, Vietnamese, Singaporean, Italian, Thai, Indian, British, Irish cuisine and a whole lot more maybe even before any of our Asian neighbors were exposed to. Not so many though, have I encountered about people talking much about French cuisine. Usually, this is equated with fine dining establishments or outlets in hotels. In recent years, though, there have been two or three cropping up that are, shall we say, accessible.

Nevertheless, my family and I have discovered one that has actually been existing in Manila for 28 years. I first heard of L'eau Vive from Robert Hutchinson's book "When In Rome".

This is a restaurant serving French home cooking and run by the Missionary Workers of the Immaculate of "Donum-Dei". They are not religious, but nevertheless, have devoted their whole life in the service of God.

In his book, Hutchinson reveals that L'eau Vive in Rome is found somewhere in Via Monterano, a block from the Pantheon. One will usually miss it because its existence is merely announced by a nondescript door with a lamp. They only serve what has been prepared for the day. Nonetheless, cardinals, bishops and priests haunt the place because of the discretion that is inherent with the restaurant. Few laymen know it, but the place is usually packed. L'eau Vive has 4 other branches all over the world, one in each major continent. So for Asia, L'eau Vive can be found at 1499 Paz M. Guazon Avenue, (formerly Otis Street) Paco, Manila.

Unlike in Rome, the one in Manila has a menu albeit limited. But everyone who dines gets to taste their creamy chicken liver pate - very good on its own or with the baguette slices they serve it with. For our part, we had the onion soup and salade nicoise to start the meal. Then we had the grilled lamb chops and filet mignons as main courses. Our companions had the sole a la menuiere which looked quite scrumptious. We took note that we'll have that next time we're there. The quality of the food served was competent and we were quite content with our servings. I, for one though, wasn't so keen on their version of a profiterole, which we had for dessert. I know a better version. In fact, for those who may be intimidated by the idea of eating French, L'eau Vive will demystify French cooking.

While we had a good lunch, expect service to be long - 3 courses for 2 hours. Expect too, to shell out an average of P700/person, but if you're balking at this price range, consider the fact that the restaurant is being operated as one of the means of their apostolate and in order to finance their various social and religious works. In other words, you know that your money is going to a worthy cause and you get to eat while you're at it.

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