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A Chinese restaurant without bright lights, red tablecloths

Photos by JYD

  • Leo Lei with Ian Cheng and Karyl Coseto, who with Bing Daza (not shown) worked to ensure a ‘smashing success’ for the 2016 Anvil Business Summit. 

    Leo Lei with Ian Cheng and Karyl Coseto, who with Bing Daza (not shown) worked to ensure a ‘smashing success’ for the 2016 Anvil Business Summit.

  • No red or gold on this plate

    No red or gold on this plate

  • In the pot, Jasmine Pearl tea

    In the pot, Jasmine Pearl tea

  • China Blue’s signature mushroom buns. Taste the shredded mushroom inside.

    China Blue’s signature mushroom buns. Taste the shredded mushroom inside.

  • Gold Egg custard bun

    Gold Egg custard bun

  • Wild fungus with black truffle paste

    Wild fungus with black truffle paste

  • Fried shrimp with wasabi mayo and mango salsa

    Fried shrimp with wasabi mayo and mango salsa

  • Smoking hot, fried spinach beancurd

    Smoking hot, fried spinach beancurd

  • Appetizingly pretty, marinated cherry tomato in sour plum

    Appetizingly pretty, marinated cherry tomato in sour plum

  • CORNY! Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar eats boiled corn by slicing the kernels off the cob. With him at getting-to-know-you dinner with journalists at XO46 in Estancia Capitol Commons are Domini Torrevillas and Deedee Siytangco

    CORNY! Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar eats boiled corn by slicing the kernels off the cob. With him at getting-to-know-you dinner with journalists at XO46 in Estancia Capitol Commons are Domini Torrevillas and Deedee Siytangco

As a food destination, Manila does not blow its own horn and beat its drum for Chinese cuisine, but as food trippers, food lovers, gourmets, and gourmands will tell you, a good Chinese restaurant is always an appetizing choice for when they’re hungry, celebrating an event, or simply in the mood for something other than adobo or steak or ramen.

The newest, latest Chinese restaurant to open in Metro Manila is China Blue at the brand-new Conrad Hotel near the Mall of Asia. Like the rest of the building, interiored in minimalist style to maximize its bayside location that commands a sweeping view of Manila Bay and its changing colors—blue, green, gray, or a mix— China Blue prefers to stay away from the very bright lights, red or gold tablecloths, and ornate accent pieces that are, so to speak, a “trademark” of traditional restaurant-design concepts.

While the menu may not be a revolutionary innovation, the difference is that, at least for a table of five or six, the dishes are served in what I like to describe as ladylike portions, as opposed to the hefty-sized servings that would characterize a panciteria. When Leo Lei, a Nissan and Suzuki dealer, hosted a lunch for three girls who had helped him steer the 2016 Anvil Business Summit to a successful conclusion at the Marriott Hotel in Resorts World, the girls’ choice was unanimous—China Blue to satisfy their curiosity and noontime appetite.

In a serendipitous moment, host and guests turned up in clothes that were the exact same shade of sky blue. Maybe that’s what happens when people working for weeks and months on a project find themselves on the same page, same wave length, same color wheel, after listening to VIP speakers Dado Banatad from Silicon Valley, Anders Barlund of McKinsey and Co., Jojo Concepcion of Concepcion Carrier, Edgar Saavedra of Megawide Corp., and Jon Ramon Aboitiz of Aboitiz Equity Ventures.

For their thanksgiving lunch at China Blue and to meet Mr. Lei’s guests’ preference for seafood and veggies, restaurant manager Mary Jane Domingo suggested marinated cherry tomato in sour plum, wild fungus with black truffle paste, mushroom buns, fried spinach beancurd, crispy fried shrimp with wasabi mayo and mango salsa, efu noodles, and for dessert, Gold Egg custard bun. Also recommended by Ms. Domingo, “next time you visit”:  Eight-Hours Golden Broth with seafood, spicy Szechuan eggplant with minced-chicken sauce, shiitake mushroom rice, crispy fried shiitake mushroom with sweet vinaigrette sauce.