At This Culinary Event in Crimson Boracay, Art Is on a Plate—and All Around
Negative space in art is the empty space between and around the subjects, and in the past decades we’ve seen this in all aspects of design and even in gastronomy. There is drama in this visual emptiness, as there is in the pauses between the measured words of a last conversation, or the silence the written word in literature brings to your mind.
It’s no different at this long table in Crimson Boracay’s Mosaic restaurant.
On this black plate I am staring at, the negative space is disrupted only on one side by a stalk of greens, unnaturally curled in a fetal position, with an oval-shaped black fermented rice that’s begging to be popped in your mouth. Beside this plate is a bowl filled with river stones and a tangle of small leaves onto which a prawn is speared at the end.
Inihaw na sugpo sa miso
One can have a great meal without the careful staging of food, of course. But then, you’re only engaging your sense of taste and smell. And, in fact, this kind of minimalist plating goes against the Filipino’s love of piling food on a plate. It’s a cultural phenomenon, this aversion to emptiness or horror vacui.
But, tonight, all spatial curiosities are satisfied on the plate and palate, on canvas and the eyes—and the ears.
This is Art on a Plate, Crimson Resort and Spa Boracay’s recurring special dinner event at Mosaic, which breaks out of its Latin American Grill cuisine for a special night that combines the visual and culinary arts, music and dance in this fifth edition since its first staging in July 2021.
Mosaic chef Ynan del Rosario’s Art on a Plate dinner in March
For the upcoming Art on a Plate on July 8 and 9, Crimson did a special preview as it launched its Live Love Local campaign in Boracay one weekend in May.
Three things are happening at once during an Art on a Plate dinner. The first is the food, this time by Filipino restaurant Hapag MNL and Auro Chocolate; the second is the live painting by resident artist Eric Egualada; the third is the live music by singer Taw Muhammad. As if that wasn’t enough, the music was interpreted by ballet dancer Jann Pearl Cordero of the PCD School of Performing Arts.
Crimson Resort and Spa Boracay general manager Patrick Manthe, who is an artist himself, says, “What’s interesting during the event is that the audience for the first time sees an artwork from start to finish, which almost never happens.”
Mosaic chef Ynan del Rosario, Crimson GM Patrick Manthe, artist Eric Egualada and jazz singer Julius Sarria III
He adds that there is never a script or a program on how the different artists interact with each other during the night, but that everything is instinctive, which is what makes one night different from the others.
For instance, on the first night of two in the November edition—which featured music by pianist RJ Pineda and dinner by Crimson executive chef Nikolai Stoyanov—the audience was so enthralled by Pineda’s prodigious piano playing that they didn’t start eating until Manthe took the mic and reminded them that they could eat while enjoying the music.
“More often, the chefs and artists meet each other on the day itself, but with the November event, Eric and RJ had dinner the day before and bonded with each other, and that showed during their collaboration,” says Manthe, who has installed an art program at the resort and likes to describe himself an “art warrior.”
Lato crème brulée
Executive chef Stoyanov’s dessert that night was a nod to what the concept was all about: a miniature white-chocolate canvas on an easel and jams to paint with. Everything was edible except for the paintbrush.
For the March edition, Mosaic’s new chef Ynan del Rosario made his Art on a Plate debut. Interestingly, where most chefs prefer black plates for such events, Del Rosario’s visual presentation was very light with white plates and wood (the latter for his mouthwatering oysters). Perhaps it was to match the music by jazz singer and songwriter Julius Sarria III.
Del Rosario’s dishes were named after jazz legends, and stayed true to Mosaic’s grilled specialties of steak, duck and seafood. Sarria, who was born and raised in Iloilo and started as a church singer when he was young, provided nostalgic swing music that the audience loved.
The fifth edition featured Hapag’s five-course Filipino menu using Auro Chocolate. For me, the best were the refreshing sinuglaw in a macapuno shell—a ceviche of pork belly and tanigue with Auro cacao-coconut vinegar, and the crème brulée with lato or sea grapes with pomelo. Hapag’s modern take on classic Filipino dishes brought interesting influences with the use of chocolate. Their litson manok was derived from the Mexican mole sauce and encased in a tortilla shell, while their kare-kare of beef brisket and tendon used cashew nuts, white chocolate and cacao butter instead of peanut butter. These gave a smoother sauce in the mouth than the usual kare-kare.
Artist Eric Egualada and pianist RJ Pineda in the November edition of AOP
Singer Taw Muhammad, who was a contender in The Voice Philippines in 2013, sang current and retro pop songs that had guests singing along and dancing. With the Cranberries’ Linger, she hit high notes that seemed to be solely invented for Dolores O’Riordan’s range.
Jann Pearl Cordero’s ballet dancing was so beautiful to watch. Her expressive face made the performance all the more compelling that whenever she came out people would stop eating to watch.
Artist Eric Egualada was in his usual form, creating works in a rhythm that matched Muhammad’s music. For his first painting, he did a linear abstract in black and gray that captured the mood of Hapag’s plating. His second work was much more colorful with hues of orange (by then we were having the kare-kare), pink and blue. The last touch of paint on the canvas was by actress Aubrey Miles, who was a guest at Crimson along with her husband Troy Montero and their daughter.
Crimson Boracay GM Patrick Manthe, artist Eric Egualada, singer Taw Muhammad, ballet dancers Jann Pearl Cordero and Pauline Cordero, and the teams of Hapag MNL and representatives from Auro Chocolate at the May edition of Art on a Plate event
“This is one of my favorite Art on a Plate events,” says Manthe as he danced with Cordero at the end of the dinner. “The energy of the night and the synergy between the artists are something we haven’t seen before.”
Indeed it was a night that engaged all the senses, and more. Because by the end of the dinner, everybody was feeling the effects of the wonderful wines—and singing and dancing.