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Discovery Primea's Flame is Where You Go to Get Your Expectations Confounded

The menu moves back East, and presents as many surprises as ever.
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Discovery Primea's Flame restaurant remains one of those understated but ever-reliable go-tos in the vast Makati dining landscape. First of all, there's the gorgeous view of downtown Ayala Avenue to be taken in from Flame's unique 16th-floor vantage point (which is perhaps rivaled only by the view from Edge, the bar just down the hallway from Flame).

Then there's the food, which is, like its environs, quiet, comfortable, and cosmopolitan, with a menu of mostly European classics with a nod to Asian dishes and ingredients here and there. But that little nod to the East is now a full turn to that direction, as executive chef Luis Chikiamco confidently moves towards making dishes with more pronounced Asian flavors. It's also a move to more comfortable territory—while his new dishes are decidedly modern and young, they drawing on childhood memories to evoke a sense of wonder and comfort.

These new additions encourage exploration of the diverse Asian culinary landscape: Appetizer standouts include Japanese curry beef puffs served with a spiced togarashi mayonnaise and an Asian beef carpaccio served with fresh arugula, wasabi nuts and a punchy sriracha-soy vinaigrette. The delicate foie gras chawan mushi is held over from the old menu as one of the dishes that gave Chikiamco the idea to explore the rest of the possibilites back East. There's also the tuna yukhoe tacos, which is made with fresh tuna in a gochujang dressing, topped with a slaw in soy-honey vinaigrette, and served in crunchy shells reminiscent of a certain childhood-favorite chain—you’ll have to try it yourself and identify which one.

As one would expect from Flame, the new entrées are solid: flawlessly executed, good value for money, and with the kind of comforting reliability that one would expect from one's home kitchen. It's a rare and welcome quality to find in a hotel restaurant.

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Tuna Yukhoe Tacos

The tuna yukhoe tacos take their cue from a Korean raw-beef dish. This version is made with fresh tuna in a gochujang dressing. IMAGE: courtesy of Discovery Primea

And again, as always, it's the little touches that distinguish an already-excellent meal and make it actually craveable: the pan-seared black bass is expertly done (they do their fish very well at this restaurant; their salmon is unparalleled), but it's the side of spinach, water chestnuts and coconut masala that gives it character. They also do a lobster spaghetti that is thick and sticky with spice—easy to imagine it as something your stoner college roommate might've invented, except now he's grown up, made some money, and seen the world.

In the meat section, one might go for the duo of duck, which is roasted duck over a crepe stuffed with duck confit, charred leeks and hoisin foam. If you're craving for comforting flavors, you can't go wrong with the Iberian Secreto Pinoy BBQ with a spiced vinegar dip, or the certified prime Angus ribeye, served with five kinds of sauce: yakiniku tare, Korean ssam, porcini béarnaise, roasted onion and dashi sauce. 

Duo of Duck

The duo of duck is roasted duck over a crepe stuffed with duck confit, charred leeks and hoisin foam. IMAGE: courtesy of Discovery Primea

The choices presented at Flame is sometimes cause for option paralysis, not so much for the length of its menu but because Chikiamco likes to confound the diner by suddenly breaking away from the usual. It's European cuisine replete with modern Asian flavors—or modern Asian cuisine with an eye towards European classics. It's hotel dining without the stodginess; it's a menu that is playful and sophisticated. It's comfortable and it's elevated at the same time. It short-circuits expectations—and that's not a bad problem to have.

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Nayna Katigbak
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