Wednesday, August 7, 2013

NACI Comfort Food: A Tribute to Chef Ed Quimson

I was honored to receive an invite from one of the owners of NACI Comfort Food to join them as they blessed their new store at BGC as well as paid homage to the late great Chef Ed Quimson. Popular for his "mestizo" way of cooking and marrying European cuisine with the local favorites (i.e. bleu cheese wontons), I was very excited to check out the last restaurant he consulted for.

It was a very festive event at Naci, with balloons adorning the restaurant's façade. I met with two of Naci's beautiful owners, Nadine Nocom and Natasha Villaroman, by the entrance and they ushered Jericho and I in to find a spot to sit. Naci Comfort Food is located at Parkade Two, near Adidas and right beside Mad Garlic.

The place was quickly filling up with people when we sat down, so it was a good thing we miraculously arrived on time. Seated next to our food blogger friends, we chatted about how good the food was here and exchanged memories of when we tried Chef Ed Quimson's creations - everything from our favorite dishes at Tootsie's in Tagaytay to the sweet bagoong topping at Sebastian's Ice Cream's Green mango Sorbet.

While waiting for the restaurant blessing to begin, we were served Beef Taco Springrolls (P280) - crispy springrolls stuffed with a beef taco filling and tomato salsa, drizzled with sour cream. I loved this take on the beef taco - stuffing it into lumpia wrappers is something I can describe as very Quimsonian.

I downed a few of these Sangrias - I don't even know if it was spiked with alcohol - it was so fruity and refreshing, it was addicting.

Another dish we were served while we waited was the Baked Potato Skins (P280) - the deep fried half shell potato skins are stuffed with beef ragout, Mozzarella and tomato salsa, and served with sour cream. A naughtier take on the beef taco, you get more of a carb-load with these babies, but it is a lot more filling than the latter, I have to admit.

I went gaga over Naci's Glazed Chicken Wings (P350). How many times have I professed my love for buffalo wings on this blog? The crispy fried chicken wings were covered in Naci's Secret Glaze and were finger licking good! I had to muster all the self-discipline I had to not just dive in there with my hands.

After the restaurant blessing, the four lovely ladies of NACI Comfort Food - Lovely Rivero, Natasha Villaroman, Nadine Nocom and Tita Em - stood up to toast to Chef Ed. Naci was the last restaurant he consulted for before he suddenly passed away this March from heart complications. He was only 48. There was a touching presentation with people sharing how they knew chef Ed, and videos of him laughing, smiling, and dancing. I could feel his presence at NACI then, chuckling and smiling as we watched him share his passion for food with the rest of the world.

A few of the dishes he helped create at NACI Comfort food was the Yakimeshi Beef Rice Bowl (P340) - a classic Japanese Sukiyaki beef topped over Japanese fried rice.

The Singaporean Seafood Rice Bowl (P380) is Naci's own version of Singaporean Chili seafood over stirred egg rice and another creation of Chef Ed.

Betty Gonzalez Quimson, mother of the late Chef Ed, shared her memories of his cooking exploits and how he almost burnt down their kitchen in the States from cooking an omelette. Twice. Nothing stopped Chef Ed from pursuing his passion for cooking, not even the lack of a culinary degree. His lola, Consuelo Tuason de Casas, had sent him money to enroll in a culinary school. But, instead, he chose to learn his craft hands-on, by working in the kitchens of Europe. His life story just goes to show that at the end of the day, what really matters as a chef is your palette, everything else is secondary - and chef Ed had a golden palette.

After the presentation, we all tucked into the dinner buffet that served more of NACI's famous dishes. There was Peruvian Chicken Rice (P420), slow-cooked baked rice with chunks of chicken, sauteed capsicums and topped with aioli, and Shrimp and Jambalaya Rice (P480), slow-cooked baked rice with curry, coconut cream and shrimp topped with fried eggplant, tomatoes and raisins - both served in big llanereas; Nadine's Adobo Cannelloni (P360) - the classic flaked adobo rolled in pasta and topped with Bechamel laced with adobo sauce and covered with stringy Mozzarella; Fish Fillet ala Naci (P360) - pan-seared marinated fish fillet topped with fried bananas; French Baked Pork Shank (P480) - a French cut pork shank braised in onion soup and topped with melted cheese; and Creamy Lengua (P320), braised fork tender with mushrooms, olives and heavy cream.

There were a lot of choices for dessert. I went straight for the Chocolate Ganache (P90), made out of premium dark Belgian chocolate ganache on top of a dark chocolate cupcake. This was way too sweet, even for me. I think I was overwhelmed with all the good food that I didn't leave enough room in my tummy for all that chocolate! It was luxuriously decadent for such a wee thing, the thick, ganache topping covering the dark chocolate cupcake.

I tried the Pistachio Sansrival which had layers of crispy meringue and rich pistachio buttercream is loaded with roasted pistachio nuts. I'm really not a fan of anything buttercream, it leaves this slick waxy taste on the tongue that just wigs me out.

Another runaway hit for me in the dessert department was the straightforward Panna Cotta (P170). The rich Italian cooked cream was paired with glistening globes of ripe mangoes a nd made for such a nice, light ending to the meal.

It was quite the turnout, with people from the media, celebrities, athletes, and politicians witnessing the blessing of NACI Comfort Food as well as paying homage to the late great chef.

The next time you find yourself mucking around the kitchen, add a bit of love and libog to your cooking for a more "orgasmic" result, ika nga ni Chef Ed. It was such an honor to spend the night honoring Chef Ed's legacy and enjoying the dishes that he loving put together for us to enjoy. We left on a high note, with tita Betty dancing, showing everyone why Chef Ed was also such a fluid dancer - and that you dance with your knees and your hips, not your feet.

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Images taken by Jericho San Miguel of The Pixel Project Manila

NACI Comfort Food
+63 2 847 6224; +63 917 523 4315
Unit 3, Two Parkade, 7th Avenue,
Bonifacio Global City, Taguig
Open Daily: 11am - 11pm