Monday, April 14, 2014

A 4-Course Dinner at Le Jardin Cuisine de Gils of Trois Gourmands

I heard about the French dining concept from Vietnam the guys behind Huat Pot were bringing to Manila early on, but had read quite a few mixed reviews online from the folks that tried the place during it's dry run. Whatever people were saying online, the idea of a lush, bringing the indoors in, restaurant concept on the penthouse floe of W Fifth building in BGC left me feeling like a giddy little girl, and I was dying to go up and experience the place for myself.

Jericho and I decided to have dinner Le Jardin with our friend, Mike, one evening, and after sitting down to an beautifully executed meal, and long, interesting chats with the owners, the waitstaff, and the chef, discovered there were a few misconceptions about the place. First off, it isn't a fine dining restaurant, hence the unclothed tables and super casual set up (the servers have buttons with their names on them!). No formal dinner jacket required - heck, you can even come in shorts if you'd like, although they do draw the line at flip flops and banana hammocks. Second, they don't do degustations - you can go to their neighbor for that. What you get at Le Jardin is a full-course meal, served the right way, which can sometimes be mistaken for formal dinner service.

We thought parking would be a bitch, seeing that most parking lots around the area were full. But just let the guard know that you're headed to Le Jardin - they have quite a few reserved parking spots on the 6th floor of the W Fifth Building. From the parking lot you head to the ground floor and take another elevator up to the penthouse, where the restaurant is situated. I like how it's away from the crowds of Bonifacio High Street and Serendra and up in it's own little world.

The look of the restaurant is very white and casual, with vertical gardens climbing up the wall, accentuating the view of the rest of Taguig in its big glass windows, and little saplings poking out of some of the tables, giving the appearance of a garden, almost.

As I mentioned earlier, Le Jardin was a concept the owners of the place got from Chef Gils Brault of the famous Trois Gourmands when they visited his restaurant in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Here is a place devoid of pomp and ceremony, but with food that's been plated and presented as if you were in a fine dining restaurant, with almost everything painstakingly made in-house - from the stocks to the cheeses. If they can make it by themselves, they will! Talk about dedication - there is definitely no shortcuts here.

The bar is quite interesting, as they import most of their wines directly from France and are the only restaurant to have said wines anywhere in Metro Manila. I took a mental note to go back and taste as many as I possibly can soon. Dining with Jericho and Mike, we each got a 4-course Dinner (P3,200++), that gave us a choice of two starters, one main course, and dessert. You can also get a 3-course Dinner (P2,800++) or a 5-course Dinner (P3,600++), depending on your budget or how hungry you are - the only difference is how many starters you get. Be sure to leave room in your budget for the wine!

I've always been a white wine person, and got a bottle of 2011 Domaine de Lery Cheverny Blanc, a semi-sweet wine that paired well with most of the dishes we got. They don't do wine by the glass here - you have the option of getting a half bottle or a full bottle, which I think is even better as the wine doesn't just sit there after it's been opened.

While waiting for the wine, we were served with freshly baked brioche and itty bitty baguettes. The bread was fantastic! I think I got through three pieces of crumbly, buttery brioche and another three of those chewy mini baguettes that gave a loud crunch while breaking them open. They didn't really need the circle of butter, but hey, butter is the cornerstone of French cuisine, so what the hell!


Jericho ordered this chocolate-based cocktail for some weird reason, but didn't really take to it, so I had this as my apéritif while waiting for the food to arrive. This was strong with a mild taste of milk chocolate and a rim of chocnut!


To tease the palate, Chef Jonas Ng sent over an amuse-bouche of a perfectly done omelette with truffle oil, to wake the salivary glands and get us ready for dinner. This was very simple, very casual, yet very, very good.

Now, on the menu under starters, depending on how many courses your dinner is, you get to choose from a variety of cold and hot starters. Since we were all getting the 4-course dinner, we got one starter of each kind.

Cold Starter

Mike ordered the Tartare de veau, which was surprisingly light and not that gamey for a veal dish. The veal is cut up into tiny chunks, seasoned and marinated in citrus kind of sauce (or juice? It wasn't my dish, so I'm grasping at straws), with  a sweet roasted onion to cut through the acid.

I had the Thon a la chutney de mangue - a seared tuna roll on top of mango slices and an onion-mango chutney. It was so weird I just had to get it to see how it looked on the plate and to give it a taste. And what do you know - everything went together marvelously. The mango was a pale yellow color, which I thought to mean it was quite sour, but this was marinated in something or other to take away the tang and leave the sweetness behind, which nicely complimented the chutney and the tuna.

Jericho got an even weirder-sounding Coquille St. Jacques Vanille - which basically translates to raw scallops with vanilla. Yup, raw scallops... and vanilla. I had to try a little bit myself when this came out, but it was pretty straightforward. The scallops tasted very fresh with a hint of citrus, and the vanilla was brought about by the drizzle of sauce at the bottom of the plate.

Hot Starter

Jericho tried the Escargots de Bourgogne for his hot starter, the classic Burgandy sails in garlic, parsley , and lots and lots of butter, served in the traditional clay snail dish. If it were to be done the true French way, this would have some with the shell and served with special tongs and a fork to fish the snails out of, so I'm grateful Chef Jonas saved us the trouble and just left us with the good stuff.

Mike got the Crevettes sautées aux épices, which is sautéed prawns in spices. I didn't get to taste this appetizer, but the presentation looked pretty badass, don't you think?

I, on the other hand, thoroughly enjoyed my Pouponette chou confit de canard. Now, this may not look like much, but this shiz is amazeballs! The unremarkable looking cabbage with what looks like garlic bits on top is actually stuffed with duck confit - meat from the duck leg that been shredded and rolled into a ball! Plus, the foamy white stuff surrounding it? Foie gras sauce. I wanted more. I didn't share. I didn't feel bad at all.


For our palate cleanser, Chef Jonas sent us something that was typical of what Chef Gils would serve that sounded crazy when spoken aloud, but tasted awesome when you actually try the stuff. This was a lemon sorbet with tomatoes on top and, get this, basil oil. It shouldn't work, it really shouldn't! My mind was fighting the idea until I gave it a try - and that was it. I even wanted more.

Plat Principal

With our appetizers being just phenomenal, I was excited to see what Chef Jonas could do with the main course. Mike had the Pave de thon et foie gras poêle, sauce aux truffle. I had an eyebrow raised when they served him a huge steak of grilled tuna with a big fat piece of foie on top, so he let me have a little bit to taste. The foie gras was really good and very buttery and rich, actually complimenting the simple tuna quite well, with the accompanying truffle sauce helping to heighten the flavors.

I should not that they sear the tuna all the way through, unless being told otherwise, because of complaints from some guests. So if you want your tuna to have a pink center, let your server know in advance so he or she can let the kitchen know.

I had the Filet d'agneau croustillant, three pieces of crusted lamb tenderloin - that was still very pink in the middle - that came with a side salad, a sweet potato mash, a zucchini gratin and the rendered lamb sauce that made everything taste lovely and not at all gamey. Yes, I didn't want to share this with anyone either.

Jericho made a beeline for the steak and had the Filet de bœuf et foie gras poêle, which would have been pretty badass if he hasn't ordered the US beef tenderloin done medium well. He might as well should've ordered a burger instead of a good cut of beef. It totally ruined it for me - good thing there was a lot of the rich and earthy Morel sauce.


We were served a dainty cheese platter each before dessert, and I found out that the guys at Le Jardin make their own cheeses! Jonas came out to explain the whole tedious process, with each type of cheese taking around 45 days to make. They played around with the flavors and aging, so even though they're all cow's cheese, each still has a distinct flavor.

There was a truffle-flavored cheese, a cream with chives (I think), one with saffron, one plain cow's cheese, another flavored with ash (one of my favorites), and one with rosemary. Of course this called for more bread, so we used this as an excuse for more brioche and mini-baguettes.


We were super stuffed by the time dessert came along, but we've been hearing such wonderful things about the talented Chef Pâtissier Hassett Go, we sucked it up and dove right in. Mike got the infamous Peche melba - made with peaches, ice cream, a berry coulis, and a sprinkling of almond slivers - which is his all time favorite at La Jardin. What can I say - it's a very messy dessert to take a picture of, but it's still pretty bangin'.

Jericho got the Dessert de Gils, which looked a lot like a French Eton Mess - you have crushed meringue, a berry coulis, a sour raspberry sorbet (I think), strawberries, and some kind of nougat. This was berry, berry heavenly, I'd go back just for this!

Being the resident chocoholic, I had the Fondant chocolat. Imagine the most delicate, most moist chocolate cake you have ever had, paired with vanilla bean ice cream with little vanilla beans popping in your mouth, and a little berry and mango coulis on the side in case you get bored. What a great way to end the meal.


Still feeling really chatty and just raving about everything we put in our mouth that evening, we winded down our night with a nice, hot Cappuccino (P150). Now look at the crema on that baby. This was just what the doctor ordered after a night of god food and good company.

But wait, there's more! What's a cappuccino at a French restaurant without freshly-made macarons? We tried the chocolate, strawberry, and vanilla macarons, and I have to say, Chef Hassett just knocked it out of the park with these little guys, with the delicate crisp shell giving way to a chewy center. They're still on a dry run, but I'm hoping he extends his macaron line soon, he can seriously give Ladurée a run for their money - and this way your macaron fix is visa-free!

On our way out, Jericho took at pit stop at the Smoking Lounge for a drag. This is also my favorite spot in Le Jardin, not that I smoke, but because of the pictures on the wall of politicians, artists, and musicians taking a puff. I love that picture of Angelina Jolie just poised to take a puff, her big, luscious lips holding around the butt of her fag.

Overall, this is probably a place I'd keep coming back to again, and again, and again, if my budget would allow me to. I feel like I've stumbled onto something really special here, and it'll be too soon once people discover this gem in the middle of the city.

When mucking around Bonifacio Global City, reserve a table at Le Jardin and take your date somewhere special where you can relax to soothing jazz crooners while looking out over the city, discovering your new favorite dish and coming up with your favorite dinner combinations at this casual yet chic French restaurant. I promise you, you won't regret it!

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Le Jardin Cuisine de Gils of Trois Gourmands
+63 917 817 6584
W Fifth Building,
5th Ave. corner 32nd St.,
Fort Bonifacio Global City, Taguig