This was another OpenRice Eat's A Date: Hotel Edition event that I could not afford to miss because we are talking here of Makati Shangri-La, the award winning and exquisite luxury hotel strategically located in the Makati's commercial area. Good thing that when I signed-up for this lucrative and once in a while meeting and eating for this popular online dining guide, my request was not declined. I really appreciate the invitation when it entered my email. I was overwhelmed and with much joyful excitement most especially that I have an idea who among my fellow OpenRicers could I possibly meet at the prestigious Circles Event Cafe- my old foodie friends that I met in the previous mini-eyeball gatherings like Aileen, Sumi, Stacy and Lorelie. There were a dozen of bloggers invited and was so glad to be part of the group. Ms. Michayla Angela V. Siquijor hosted the dinner event for us known as ONE IN A THOUSAND NIGHTS, a feast of Persian delights by Chef Hamed Ghayedi.
Hence, this theme set-up inside the function room where we all settled down. It was so lively and colorful that one can dare admire. Persian art such as this is truly one of the richest art heritages in world history. When I see carpet as complex and elegant like the one on the floor, I recall Aladdin and Jasmine singing my fave childhood song A Whole New World. Care to join me on my Persian journey that night that was filled with nothing but genuine Persian delights categorized in Cold Mezzeh, Soup, Hot Mezzeh, Main Course and Desserts. That was a lot and though I was expecting it to be a dinner buffet the Persian way, the plated sit-down dinner is way better because I can personally adjust to the influx of dishes on our table as Chef Hamed explains it. Virtually join my Aladdin carpet as we taste and enjoy completely the following:
Arabic Pita Bread
A pocket bread or flat bread that is round in shape, commonly consumed and part of normal diet of the people living in Middle East and Mediterranean areas. Whenever I see one, it reminds me of my highschool classmate who was born in one of the Middle Eastern countries. At Circles these flat breads are placed in a basket lined with clean white cloth. Wondering how to eat these? Well there are many different ways to eat pita bread but we must start first with the ingredients- either dip or spread. Here are the samples landed on our table.
I was quite clueless on how to properly conduct the best way to eat pita. All I know based on my own experience is that you spread and mix everything up and gobble them as much as you want, making sure that you have a glass of water beside you to avoid choking. Some eat the above toppings or spreads with spoon while majority used their bare hands and seemed to have freedom in eating as little or as much as their appetite could handle. Hammous is the very familiar to me because my friends and I used to order this for our carbohydrate-rich pita bread in our favorite Mediterranean restaurant in Quezon City. Also called as Hummus, this spread is made with mashed chick peas blended well with olive oil, lemon juice, ground sesame seed paste and dash of salt and garlic. Another spread on our table was Moutable, a spicy eggplant dip. But I was wondering how come I did not save even just a photo of which. I am sure I never deleted it. Now I can't easily trust my memory :( Going back, another topping was Tabouleh, a vegetable salad that was obviously made with chopped parsley and tomato. They were very tiny so it could fit any pita bread no matter how small and lumpy it is because the tendency sometimes is to cut the flatbread in small pieces using bare hands then add a little portion of this and that, whatever pleases the eater. Still another one was Babaghanouj, a dish made with smoked eggplant with a twist of lemon. Everything was accepted well by my stomach even if they are not normally part of my daily meal plate. Persian starters is not limited to the usual dips and sauces which is satisfactory. So far I enjoyed the hot mezzeh but how about the cold mezzeh? Let's check the following food photos below.
It is a bread salad. I never get tired of eating salads/greens because I love veggies with crunchy texture particularly the iceberg lettuce and romaine lettuce. The only difference that this Persian salad from other is that it uses toasted or fried pieces of pita bread instead of the usual croutons. And they are normally in chunks. Just like croutons these toasted pita slices serve as a topping and when mixed well with the greens it adds texture to the salad plate. Vinaigrette used for this recipe was my type and such a tasty and classy way to start the must-experience Persian feast.
Persian cuisine's own version of cheese stick. I find it too wrapped with shanghai wrapper but cheese stocks were thickly cut so the it has balanced taste. Not too salty nor too crusty. Crispy yet soft in the inside in every bite.
Meat sambousik and Spinach fattayer
Both looked like a Filipino deep fried pastry empanada. Meat sambousik (left) is a plate of fried stuffed pastries filled with ground meat, onions and feta cheese. On the other hand, Spinach fattayer (right) is a spinach turnover with buttery thin and translucent covering. Both tasted like a pie stuffed with remarkable ingredients without a need for any dipping sauce.
Getting to know Perisan cuisine a little further. Started with this plate.
Also known as Aash. A type of soup that is mealy and thick. I'm sure this is high in fiber content. Hearty, healthy and filling. Barley is used for making malt from which beer is prepared, but this does not mean that barley soup tastes like beer because in reality it is a bit bland in taste yet mildly nutty.
Strawberry and Mango Shakes
We were given the chance to order any beverage from the menu in which I chose my favorite fruit slush - strawberry. I realized that it was not as sweet as I'd expected but lighty milky and of course fruity. A best option to gobble apart from water in case I happen not to like the taste of foreign dishes of Iranian/Persian.
Circles Event Cafe belly dancers during the 10- minute recess time. They really entertained us that evening that everybody in the room would agree it was indeed a feast to remember. Overflowing with good food that I am learning to appreciate deeply coupled with these beautiful dancers, I can't help but to easily learn the diet and ways of Persia. They all look like Jasmine, Aladdin's sweetheart, who exuded with confidence as they execute Middle Eastern dance or Arabic dance (other terms for belly dancing). We were awed by the sway of their bodies and flexible interpretation. They may be wearing scanty and skimpy clothing but the embroidered embellishments look so fantastic on them. I can share you their two dance videos soon.
Iranian Mixed Grill
This plate is so big and hefty with lamb kubideh, lamb chops, chicken larri, prawns, and fish. Everything was grilled even the tomato halves. I enjoyed tasting small portions of each grilled meat but I hate the bitter taste coming from the carbon deposits. Lamb was juicy but chicken was a bit dry. I settled eating a few more shelled shrimps.
Zreshk polow with chicken
I loved the mix. Basmati rice with chicken, barberries and pistachios. A tempting rice creation known as 'Jeweled Rice' or celebration rice. It really looks interesting and festive because of the inclusion of barberries which is known to be an essential part of Iranian cookery. A little bit nutty and sour at the same time.
Just when the Zreshk polow with chicken ran out in an instant, this fragrant rice became a fine substitute. Looked like a margarine laden long grain cooked rice but tasted so simple and nothing much special. Great thing about this is that this rice is long-grain type which is perfect for fried rice but I rarely appreciate this kind as it appeals so dry for me, forming a big lump in my throat everytime I swallow. Some people appreciate this especially if they want to infuse this based on their personal taste.
When was the last time I ate a duck dish? I cannot tell exactly. This duck stew looked like 'dinuguan' at first glance. Sweet and sour at the same time and goes well with the persian rice. Intrigued? I know you are. It has a sublime taste that you cannot easily resist. I like this better than the grilled meats.
Nope they are not Napoleons but they are super sweet pastry with cashew filling A Greek-inspired dessert with sweet rich taste and sticky to the bite. Downside was I really did not like the smell. It was quite off for me because of the flowery taste that my stomach cannot tolerate. I tried finishing a piece but I never took a bite again. If given the chance to serve these baklava as they are minus the flowery effect in my mouth, I would love to finish at least three pieces. I have a sweet tooth so I surmise I can finish the goodness of these paper thin dough layers in just a nick of time.
Pastry with cheese filling soaked in sweet syrup. Still another one with flowery taste in my mouth. I cannot comprehend the taste but I appreciate the grated cheese surrounding the pastry and also the fresh strawberry halves. This dessert is not my type to tell you honestly. However, it really looks appetizing.
Dates Fruit Platter
I spent my dessert time eating dates. At least I've learned to appreciate this edible sweet fruit when I was younger. Soft and sweet like honey but not too sweet. Sugar level is fine and I like it more when I had an idea that this fruit is a concentrated source of vitamins and minerals. No wonder they are expensive in supermarkets.
Mahlabiya, Yoghurt Water and Key Lime Juice (L-R)
Mahlabiya is a milk custard that is sweet, creamy and milky. Yoghurt water lacks the taste of real yogurt perhaps because it is on its diluted state that never pleased me. I still want the somewhat pure yogurt form I ideally order from Persian restaurants here in Manila. Something delectable and sour. Key Lime Juice, however, with its citrusy flavor helped a lot in cleansing my palate and totally refreshing. A great way to end the astonishing Persian feast.
Chefs behind the One in a Thousand Nights together with the talented and lovely ladies on their belly dancing costumes that wowed our night altogether. Impeccable service and luxurious cafe only at Makati Shangri-La. Looking forward to another event as fab as this one. Truly one in a thousand nights to recollect and I would love to revisit in the future. Catch this Persian Delights Feast every Monday evening. Check this out and be filled with wonder.
Lobby Level Makati Shangri-la
Ayala Avenue corner Makati Avenue
Makati Cit 1200