Normally referring to a table located near the kitchen, the chef’s table usually is where experimental dishes debut for the pleasure of diners who want to be surprised — never mind if the result is a divine dream or something struggling out of its initial stages as a wisp of a whim.
But as chef’s tables go, this one at Madison’s is in a class of its own: a small function room that can comfortably seat 10 to 12, commanding its own view of the kitchen, and serving its own menu. Indeed, the cost per person to book this room may hit four figures — but for some it may be worth it — considering the opulent décor, the use of more expensive flatware and crystal (Schott-Zweisel glasses that are actually more expensive than the cost of a meal per guest), and customized menus. Chef Giovanni Sias enthuses: “We’ll interact with the customer (for special requests), do they want to be surprised? If they say yes, so we create the tasting menu, there will be some molecular cuisine involved, modern dishes of prime quality ingredients. And really, the idea is to serve the customer and be very involved, we explain each and every single dish. If you want to be private, have your space, no problem. If a customer requests something special, we can do that, using our recipes. The idea is to create that only for you.”
“We tried to develop something that’s more unique, more upscale. Yeah, I got really excited [about this concept],” explains Sias. “Our target is really to have some sort of menu set up, so if we have inquiries, we have something to show to people.” The staff will even take pains in finding out the individual tastes of guests to ensure that the Chef’s Table experience is flawless — and all the person booking the table has to worry about is just being a genial host.
“It’s pretty exciting,” says Chef Hylton Le Roux, who had worked at the Fat Duck the year they won their Michelin star. He’s excited about the possibilities of creating a menu based on molecular gastronomy, a passion of his. “It can be mind-blowing, but people here don’t get it yet. If you had to open a restaurant based on that, you’re gonna struggle. But we just have one table, and we can serve it if people want it. We’ve got all our chemicals, all our equipment’s in place.”
It’s apparent that the staff thinks Le Roux is the more playful of the two chefs — or an easier target — as Sias’s espresso is served straight up, while the South African’s latte is served artfully, using a smiley face to crack up the serious-looking chef.
Having their own in-house baker means that the bistro and its adjoining deli can supply a variety of flatbreads, croissants, bagels, foccacia, batards and pan de sal according to the day’s demands and tweaked to certain specifications — like going for a milk or egg wash on a loaf or eschewing it completely in favor of a
light dusting of flour for that country look. And with two chefs who have a wealth of experience between them, there’s a lot going for adventurous diners wanting a great experience at the table.
With five years’ worth of work in the country, what does Le Roux think of the potential of the chef’s table? “Filipinos are now exposed to a lot of better food. My [British] father-in-law, who’s been living here for 35 years, told me that years ago, you could only find foie gras in big hotels. Now, you can walk into a supermarket and find foie gras on the shelves, right? How much has that gone in leaps and bounds in 15, 20 years? People are more well educated about food, they travel, they experience good foie gras, they come back and they sort of expect the same thing here. And I think food in the Philippines [has become a richer and diverse scene]. When I came here some years ago, there was only one culinary school. When I got back two weeks later, there was two, then there was four, then six…and I think [the food scene] here in the Philippines is in very good shape.”
Part-lab, part-playground and showpiece, the Chef’s Table at Madison’s promises nothing less than a spectacular dining experience for the adventurous palate.