Cicou @ Celeste
Update July 11, 2012: This restaurant is now closed and moved to BRASSERIE CI COU.
Cyrille Soenen, nicknamed Cicou (pronounced as "see-sue"), decided to open his own French Bistro restaurant after his Executive Chef stint at the Crowne Plaza. He is known for creating the interactive buffet of Seven Corners and his foie gras creations. Most of the food writers and popular chefs in Manila would say that he is the best French chef in town.
The restaurant is located at the ground floor of Hotel Celeste, which is the reincarnation of MARS Disco. I was wondering where the dance floor was, and I'm not sure if it was located where Cicou restaurant now stands.
I like the consistent use of connected circles as the main icon of the interior design. I initially thought it was a fine dining concept, but I'm glad that it's a bistro after all. A bistro is a neighborhood cafe where people hang out and feel quite at home. This would mean we can bring Aidan and Joshua with us, and we can dress casually too.
The ambiance is not stiff and the waiters give such a warm welcome. They are attentive (although I wish they could give a better explanation of the menu aside from their canned answers). The restaurant is a bit dark at night and its layout is a bit crowded. We were very careful with the glass tabletops, which didn't seem to have any other stable support. This setup is not ideal for kids -- specially a 3-year-old. :)
Restaurant Cicou Menu:
Dinner, Cold Appetizers, Hot Appetizers, Soup, Main Course | Desserts
Beverages | Wine, Champagne, White, Semi Dry, Sweet | Rose, and Red Wine
Most of the main entrees start at P600+ per dish. If you can't distinguish the difference between the Pamora Free Range Chicken and our locally available chicken, then I don't think it would be worth it for you. Cicou is famous for its foie gras, a duck liver sauteed with confit pomelos, with a price tag of P900+. Our favorite is Cicou's unique version of sea urchin soup.
The meal starts with unlimited servings of fresh hot bread. There are four kinds to choose from -- Olive, Walnut, mini Baguette and Wheat bread. Instead of the usual rice, we paired the Olive bread and Walnut with our entrees. Both of the breads that we love are the soft ones with an accent taste of actual olive or walnut.
Amuse-bouche is a French term, which literally means "Mouth Amuser". It is a bite-sized serving created by the chef to prepare your taste buds for the meal ahead. The pate has a smooth consistency and is rich in taste. We appreciated it better by spreading it over a whole piece of bread.
This is probably the best seafood soup I ever tasted. It's served warm with a lot of bubbles on the surface. The soup base itself tastes like prawns, and there are bits of sea urchin around the flan in the middle. Each drop of the soup is rich but smooth in a way that we didn't get tired of its taste. In fact, I was tempted to use the bread to clean up the soup plate. :)
We skipped the offer of foie gras since we had already outgrown our fascination with it. We were hoping to try the sardines in the appetizer list, but a voice in my head persuaded me not to by saying, "Sardinas lang yan na mahal (P300)."
We decided to try the Lapu-Lapu (which seems to sound better as Garoupa). If we had known that this dish uses the same prawn bisque soup as the sea urchin soup, we would have just ordered this instead. I liked biting into the fat white beans, which had just the right crunch. (Al-dente cooking comes to mind, but I'm not sure if you can apply that term to beans.) The fish was cooked flawlessly with the right softness, juiciness and taste. The coating of herbs was not necessary, but it did add a different texture to the dish.
I noticed that each piece of the white meat of the Pamora Free-Range Chicken was very tasty. The accent of the truffle sauce was pleasantly surprising. The mushrooms were plump with juices and seemed to be solid. It was a pleasure eating a whole mushroom head because each bite released the sauce in my mouth.
Overall, regardless of the hype that came with the opening of the supposedly "best French Bistro in town", I would just say I would go to Je Suis Gourmand next time. :) I do recommend that you try it for yourself, though, and let me know what you think about Cicou's.
Cyrille Soenen "Cicou" Restaurant
Hotel Celeste (former location of MARS Disco)
02 San Lorenzo Drive corner A. Arnaiz Avenue
San Lorenzo Village, Makati City, Philippines 1223
Telephone: +63 889 6728 or +63 889 6733
NOTE: There is NO parking in the area of Hotel Celeste, so I decided to park a couple of buildings away along Pasay Road at this BPI branch. The guard was very accommodating. Valet Parking at Hotel Celeste would cost you P100.
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