This past Monday, U-Feast hosted its first “underground supper club” with Fidel Gastro‘s Matt Basile. I personally drove past the secret location a few times but the moment I walked through the door, I just “followed my nose” as Toucan Sam would say.
Our group of 25 diners were the first to experience Matt’s new kitchen studio at Weston Road and St. Clair as he cooked up a 7-course meal inspired by his culinary travels in Manila. While Matt prefaced our dinner with the disclaimer “I’m obviously not from the Philippines,” the open kitchen really provided a full sensory experience. From the aromas that one of our Filipino diners said “reminds me of Sunday dinners at my mom’s house” to the sound of sizzling sea bream being seared on a cast iron skillet to the steam coming out of a pot of mussels, the flavor profiles were all there.
With either a Mill Street beer in hand or a glass of Adamo Estate wine, it didn’t take long for our diners to become acquainted with each other. The beverage pairings were spot on. The beer and riesling were great with the curried mussels and the pinot noir was bang on with the eggplant. It was fruit forward but had enough acidity in it to cut through.
Head-on prawns were a definite win on our side of the table and definitely not an everyday occurrence. Like the tip-on wings that Basile dished out, things are just better served in its entirety. Prawns taste better pre-guillotine and fish as well, bones and all. We were definitely wowed by the filleting skills demonstrated by a few skilled hands.
The kalamansi-coconut curry mussels were a hit as well. Small things definitely come in small packages as I still can’t get over how much juice came out of that tiny kalamansi, a citrus fruit that is about the size of a ping pong ball. In lieu of rice, Basile gave the starch the North American treatment with hominy grits which were unique. They were larger than your average corn grits but definitely had more chew in them and sopped up the juices from the mussels to a tee.
We don’t know about everyone else, but the all protein-no filler meal thus far had us wishing we had worn our stretchy pants. But it was hard to stop licking our fingers over the delicious food that was being passed around the table.
One of my personal favorite dishes of the night were the “blackened noodles,” which I wrongfully assumed would’ve been squid ink pasta of sorts. This pasta, is traditionally cooked with more lard than you can imagine. Basile’s version swapped lard for duck fat; and why not? Duck fat makes e’erthang taste better. While the Chinese may have invented noodles, you can trust an Italian to make it delicioso!
To accompany the noodles was a side of eggplant. It was creamy and chalked full of flavor. And hey – at least nobody can blame us for not eating our vegetables!
The U-Feast team had a blast breaking bread with other food-loving enthusiasts. Most of all because there was zero judgment when all the camera phones came out! Restaurant recommendations and new go-to places were exchanged while assembling yummy lechon lettuce wraps. We’re all going to have to hit the gym a little more often.