The idea of opening one’s house to strangers for private dining may seem odd and a bit foolish to some, but not for Minnie Puno. Minnie is known in the foodie circle for her Minnie Mousse (chocolate mousse with a twist of liquor), ang saWRAP asian wraps sold in Legaspi Market, and CROQS, filled Potato Croquetas. So when she decided that she wanted to share her passion for cooking with foodies in her own home, I decided to make that the inaugural event for Secret Resto.

Secret Resto is an experimental project where we invite OAP friends and readers to join us in experiencing a different kind of resto for the first time. It is innovative in terms of its promise to offer the latest restaurant experience with a different concept every time — Different Menu, Different Place, Different Chefs. We aim to achieve a foodie experience that we will all cherish and, sometimes, immortalize in the blog. We also hope to achieve lasting foodie friendships and create meaningful networks through this experience.

Private Dining is a rising trend these days, especially for mini-celebrations and get-togethers, typically for around 10-20 people. Foodies seek out these private dining places because the quality of food is better than what you would get in an ordinary restaurant since:

  1. Private Dining places usually have zero rental costs and most of the expenses of the chef are focused on getting the finest ingredients for the food.
  2. The food is cooked with fresh ingredients bought typically within the day, and cooked on-the-spot as you progress through the meal. Reservations are confirmed days in advance with the confirmed number of guests.
  3. The food is cooked with love and dedication, especially because the dining event happens in the host’s own home.

Some of my favorites for Private Dining in the Metro would be:

The Artist Chef 
Chef Popit’s
Bruce Lim’s Chef’s Table 
SOCO Private Dining
Lolo Dad’s in Malate
La Cocina de Tita Moning
Qasa 61 in Marikina
Isabelo Garden Restaurant in Marikina
My Mother’s Garden in Malate
Lemuria in Horseshoe

Chef Laudico’s in Urdaneta (discontinued)
I have to mention Chef Laudico even if he discontinued it because he was the pioneer in the private dining landscape. Also, I’ve had memorable dates with my wife there. I heard the only reason it was discontinued was because the Urdaneta association did not like a commercialized operation within the village. (Can anyone confirm this?)

The success of a private dining event depends on three things:
(1) The awesome company during the private dinner;
(2) The customized menu and quality of food; and
(3) Attentive service and interaction with the Host

We had great company that night at The Home Chef. The food was good, the waiter was very attentive, and Minnie shared with us her stories throughout the night. You can see the attention to detail with the fresh flowers, lemon centerpiece and the hand-crafted menu. The P1,500/head fee was sulit. 🙂

However, on hindsight, the menu we had was a bit weak because it did not showcase her strengths or uniqueness. Here are some suggestions:

  1. The appetizers should include one of her best asian wraps or her best potato croquetas since those are her well-known specialties. Maybe a a special version or flavor just for the private dining event (like Lechon Croquetas or a special Shawarma Wrap, for example) could be offered.
  2. The main dishes should revolve around the best dishes served during special occasions for their family, like the menu served during birthdays, Christmas or special anniversaries. This way, people can experience what is it like to be part of a celebration in Minnie’s home.
  3. Lastly, always end with the dessert that will blow the diners’ minds away — the Minnie Mousse. Experiment with new flavors — the more exotic, the better.

Appetizer: Crostini with Roasted Vegetables & Sardines in Olive Oil

This is a good starter (although a bit basic). The vegetables used in this Crostini were utilized in the rest of the menu, like the tomato was used in the soup, carrots in the pasta, and the zucchini in the chicken dish.

Soup: Roasted Tomato Basil Soup

It was a good and healthy soup to start the dinner, but it was a bit salty. 🙁 

We shared some laughs with Nancy, and I was intrigued with her trivia that Mario Tayag is 10x better than Claude Tayag. I wonder… If Claude has Bale Dutung, would Mario Tayag have a similar Private Dining place where we can experience his cooking?

Salad: Arugula Roasted Pepper Salad with Seared Rib-eye Steak

The arugula was fresh and the 3 slices of steak were cooked to perfection. The only thing is there’s no story to this salad, and you can get a similar kind of salad elsewhere.

Our Happy Couple Neighbors, Nestor and Maricel, joined us for the event. We always have a fun time with them because Nestor is funny and likes to crack jokes.

Pasta: Pasta with Anchovies & Seafood

It was good — the pasta was cooked al dente with fresh seafood, but it was nothing special.

Fides with her friend, Jay. She always joins us whenever she can on our culinary tours or foodie escapes. 🙂

Meat: Pollo al’ Aretina (Chicken with Mushrooms & Zucchini in White Wine)

I enjoyed this healthy serving of chicken. It was the last main dish in the menu. Sadly, most of the people in our group were already full at this point, and some (like my wife) don’t like eating the white meat of the chicken.

We did not have rice in the menu, but you can specify if you want it to be included in your private dining menu.

Dessert: Bailey’s Chocolate Mousse
BeveragePine-Orange Spritzer with Apples and Mint, Coke or Sprite with a slice of Lemon, Coffee or Tea

Our friend Dedet couldn’t stop raving about Minnie’s new mousse flavor — The Bailey’s Chocolate Mousse! I love Bailey’s too, and I liked how it was smoothly integrated in the mousse.

In private dining, you would want people to rave about every dish that is served fresh from the kitchen. Give foodies a reason to rave about the food by making it interestingly yummy and by sharing the story behind it.

I liked the overall ambiance of Minnie’s home, which was accented with paintings from well-known artists like Amorsolo, Salita, Badon, and Malang. But her most priced painting of all is her own painting of Intramuros, proudly displayed in the dining room.

Thanks to Minnie for cooking and sharing with us an intimate dinner! We will be back for your special Christmas traditional menu! 🙂

The Home Chef Private Dining
by Minnie Puno
Location: somewhere in the Ayala Alabang area
Telephone: +63917-8382559, +632 842-2559
Email[email protected]

Live an Awesome Life,

Call or Text Me: +63917 5683-627 (LOVE-OAP)
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P.S. Minnie will be out of the country for a while. Email her if you want to make reservations or if you have questions about the private dining.