By CJ Juntereal
There’s a certain kind of light that envelopes you when you walk into Mireio on the ninth floor of the Raffles Makati at noontime on a sunny day. It’s sunlight—slanting down through the floor to ceiling windows, lifting you up and bringing a warm glow to the already bright interiors. It might even—if you have ever been to France—remind you of a summer day in Provence.
It could be because Mireio, the hotel’s elegant brasserie-style restaurant, serves Provencal-inspired cuisine cooked by young Chef de Cuisine Nicolas Cegretin, who grew up in Provence. The restaurant is named after Frederic Mistral’s epic, 200+ page poem “Mireio,” which tells the story of a young Provencal maiden and her tragic romance. Even in the English translation, Mistral’s love for Provence can be seen in his lyrical descriptions of life and seasons in the Provencal countryside.
FOOD FROM ROMANCE : French Riviera Happy Hours at Mireio Terrace offer a variety of drinks like Aperol Spritz, Frosé (frozen rosé cocktail), and Provençal Martini
Slow-cooked oxtail with black truffle sauce
Lavender creme brulee
INSTAGRAM-FRIENDLY A painting inside Mireio that depicts the tragic love story of a Provencal lad
The cuisine of Provence could be called “cuisine du soleil,” a cuisine of the sun—relying on olive oil, garlic, herbs, and seafood from the Mediterranean. It makes use of seasonal ingredients, and lots of vegetables, but isn’t necessarily always light, because of the hearty, stick-to-your-ribs dishes that emerge during autumn and winter. But while traditional Provencal cooking is homey and comforting, Chef Nicolas updates his creations to present them in a contemporary manner. The result is a menu that is to the point and enjoyable, with dishes I wouldn’t mind eating again and again.
Strangely, Mireio’s signature dish is not quite as traditionally French as many people imagine—tartare. Steak tartare in particular, the freshest and finest of raw beef, chopped by hand, seasoned with all or any of the following: shallots, capers, parsley, Tabasco sauce, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, and pickled gherkins. Sometimes it is topped with a raw egg, its silkiness highlighting the creamy texture of raw beef. The French eat it with salad and pommes frites (fried potatoes), and one of its earliest mentions is from 1921, when the legendary Escoffier listed it in his culinary guide as “Beefsteack à l’Americaine.”
At Mireio, the beef tartare is served with goat cheese and basil, a modern upgrade to the original. It retains its character though, with fresh, chilled meat shot through with bursts of spice and acidity. Perfect with giant wedges of salty fried potatoes, oily-crisp outside and creamy inside. There is also a smoked salmon tartare with Granny Smith apples and dijon mustard cream, and an intriguing veal with king prawns and crispy rice tartare. When I think about it, beef tartare is an ideal Philippine hot weather dish, and similar in concept to our kinilaw.
Among the classics in the fish section is Mussels in Mustard and Saffron Sauce. Served in a copper bowl, with crusty bread to dunk with abandon into the briny, musky sauce, each slurp of plump mussels in their shell will make you imagine sandy beaches and azure seas. Clams Meriniere with Ras-el-Hanout—a warm and piquant spice mix from North Africa—is more complex in flavor, but just as good for dunking. Chef Nicolas also has bouillabaisse on his menu; a beloved dish, part seafood soup and part stew, from Marseille.
The meat and poultry section has a hearty, heavy slow-cooked oxtail parmentier with black truffle jus. I think of it like the French version of Shepherd’s pie, with oxtail stew blanketed by buttery mashed potatoes tipped with crisp, brown peaks. magret de canard, duck breast seared just until still rare inside, and topped with a slice of foie gras was perfectly executed. It was an excellent version, classic, almost predictable, except that it had been paired with charred corn kernels and popcorn—for texture, I was told. Another dish is like the ultimate version of chicken pot pie, with puff pastry, chicken, and unctuous foie gras.
Chef Nicolas’ youth and creativity peek out in small touches, like the use of ginger and a few other Asian and tongue-in-cheek elements in his otherwise classic renditions of Provencal and Mediterranean cuisine. It is just enough to keep things interesting, but not too much to lose sight of the restaurant’s theme. His culinary skills also come into play with Mireio’s lunchtime menu specials of three-course and two-course meals at P1,100++ and P988++.
If dining at lunch gives you a feel of Provence’s sunlight-washed countryside in elegant surroundings, dining at night offers the opportunity for sunset cocktails at Mireio’s rooftop terrace. Mireio Terrace is currently running a happy hour promo until Nov. 30 that is dubbed “La Vie en Rose.” The cocktails are inspired by the French Riviera, and often match the sunset, which makes for some pretty eye-catching photos.
I’ve always been a fan of the Raffles Makati’s Long Bar happy hour promotion, and am happy to see that Mireio Terrace offers just as good a deal. For P895++ from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. daily, the La Vie en Rose promotion offers unlimited pours of crisp Rosé, Rosé Spritz, Frosé, Provencal Martini, Aperol Spritz, Pastis, beer, and red and white wine. These are paired with a few Provencal-inspired canapés. The drinks are cold, crisp, sweet, and easy to gulp down while watching the sun go down in a ball of orange, as the lights wink on in the surrounding buildings. Most of the time there is a gentle breeze blowing, and when I am with friends it’s very hard to remember to stop drinking and laughing, to go down to dinner.
With many of the city’s newer restaurants showing off crowds seated elbow to elbow, hip industrial or cute Instagram-friendly interiors, and casual over-the-top dishes, it’s nice to know that Mireio feels like a sanctuary. It is chic and graceful, but welcoming—sort of like that one elegant aunt that we all have; the one who is impeccably dressed but always indulgent, so we never felt intimidated when we were kids because we knew that she had candies hidden in her designer bag. I would take my aunt to lunch at Mireio, or maybe dinner so we can have sunset cocktails; and instead of the candies in her bag, I’m sure we would be happy with a chocolate mousse for dessert.
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