Oct 31, 2009

Mamou - A Home Kitchen

I used to have this dream of opening my own restaurant with one long community table for twenty guests. The menu will consist of my personal favorite home cooked meals served family style. Three or four courses a day. Maybe Filipino dishes one day, Italian the next. Good value wines to match the menu. My favorite music in the background. Simply said, it's a dinner party every night.

But the realities of running a restaurant - the long days, the small margins - quickly brought me back to earth. I'll settle for home dinner parties without the commitment of the daily grind of owning your own business.

However, Malou Fores, the chef-proprietor of Mamou restaurant in Serendra, had other thoughts and took on the dream and converted her passion for entertaining family and friends at home into a working business plan for Mamou. She personally trained her chefs in her home for six months in order for the culinarians to take in the full essence of her cooking philosophy. The dining room reminds me of The Little Italy Caffe, this quaint Italian restaurant my wife and I discovered, in all places, marche Montorgueil in Paris. The diners were packed shoulder to shoulder, but you know what, there was a sense of community and belonging. We ended up just talking to the other guests and even received a round of drinks from this French couple we sat next to. It was comforting.

Friends Leo and Michelline Suarez, along with their beautiful daughter (and my goddaughter), Sam, squeezed a lunch at Mamou on my last day in Manila. To Michelline's credit for highly recommending the place, our lunch was a pleasant surprise for a last minute date. I went straight for the specialty of the house, the USDA prime lamb chops, even though it was lunchtime. Not knowing when I'll be back in Manila, I wasn't going to hold back. Leo cheered me on. The chops were charred on the outside and perfectly pink in the middle, just the way I love it. It was succulent with just the right amount of salt and pepper. The creamed spinach and baked mashed potato side dishes are as good as you will find it at Smith and Wollensky.

I had the pleasure of meeting Malou, who I would later learn is married to a grade school classmate, Oye Fores. I admire her hands-on approach to running her restaurant. A once unique arrangement in labor-cheap Manila, Malou's determination to stay close to the heat in the kitchen, is reason enough to return to this truly "Home Kitchen."

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