Still the Best: China Blue

August 14, 2022 | Sunday

China Blue has already sealed its reputation as one of the best Chinese restaurants in Manila. I finally got to visit again after 3 years and I was so happy to see that it was as if no pandemic ever happened. It’s still every bit as excellent as I remember it to be.

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My distinguished and saintly guests were keen to observe that the architecture of the hotel is such that as you emerge from the elevator to the floor of the restaurant, because of the glass walls, the first thing you see is the gorgeous view of Manila Bay. Rushing from Pasay traffic, I wasn’t able to pause and take this in but made a mental note to stop and stare when I dine there again. Usually for the Manila Bay sunset, I would go to the hotel’s C Lounge where you can have your cocktail of choice while taking it all in (after dinner, C Lounge is also great for listening to authentic jazz as – if you’re lucky to catch them – this is where the true jazz artists like Sandra Viray, Colby dela Calzada, Henry Katindig perform on some days).

The walk from the elevator to the restaurant is quite distant and I scolded myself for forgetting this as I rushed down the hall — scanning the art on display — in heels. If you will go with an elderly or anyone who needs assistance with mobility, make sure to bring a wheelchair or allot enough enough time for that walk. Think going from gates A to C at an airport. If you have no mobility issues, I would even recommend wearing skates!

But once you reach your destination, it’s another beautiful setting to enjoy. Try to snag a table by the window (if it’s a floor to ceiling glass wall, do you sit by the wall or by the window?!). If you need more privacy, they have a few rooms. Then immediately order an aperitif to calm you down after that long walk and to accompany you as you go through the splendid menu of Chef Jereme Leung.

Chef Leung, who was a judge on the Chinese edition of MasterChef for several years and appeared in the popular food documentary entitled A Bite of China, is a true master of his craft. He can immediately transport you to the elegant world of Chinese fine dining with one bite of his cooking. Think Babette’s Feast – the final dinner – but Chinese. 

While he is simultaneously running several restaurants around the world, he makes sure that all the restaurants he has committed to exude his brand of excellence.  So you might as well be dining at Yi at the iconic Raffles Hotel in Singapore, which he just opened last 2019. He was also the chef behind Jiang Nan at the Venetian in Macau and Puben in Shanghai.

He is committed to sharing “the rich heritage of regional Chinese cuisines that are rarely seen outside of China”. He has been honing his love for Chinese cuisine since the tender age of 13 when he started working the wok, roasts, dim sum, and knife prep stations at various Chinese restaurants until becoming the executive chef of the Mandarin Oriental Surabaya at the young age of 24 and then becoming executive Chinese chef of Four Seasons Singapore’s Jiang Nan Chun at 29. In 2003, he moved to Shanghai, where he became part-owner and chef of Whampoa Club at Three on The Bund and became known for his innovative interpretations of traditional Chinese dishes.

He continued to make a name for himself as he received the Five Star Diamond Award from the American Academy of Hospitality Science; the XO Hennessy Culinary Award; the inaugural Rising Chef of the Year Award at the World Gourmet Summit Awards of Excellence; the Global Chef Award from the culinary academy At-Sunrice; the International Famous Master Chef for Chinese Cuisines by the World Association of Chinese Cuisines; and Chef of the Year by Timeout Magazine. Today he has around 14 restaurants, his own line of sauces, wine and kitchen equipment, several cookbooks and was welcomed grandly back to Singapore as the chef of Yi at Raffles.

At China Blue, you will witness his creativity. The dimsums that arrive tickle both your eyes and your palate. There’s the famous steamed truffle mushroom bun whose bun is shaped like a mushroom (think Smurfs). Chicken dumpling is served underneath a layer of corn made to look like a very cute corn on the cob. Pork barbecue dumpling is deceivingly healthy in the shape of a carrot (think Bugs Bunny). And the smoked duck dumpling is made to look like a green pear.

Beyond the eyes, the chef plays with textures. Make sure to order the paper-thin crispy beef that isso fun to munch on and addictive with its hint of spiciness. We were told to pair this with cherry tomatoes to balance out the flavors.

Then there are the traditional dishes executed with a Leung twist. The sweet and sour pork has a tang from strawberries; beef tenderloin is inspired by Hunan cuisine; and the veggies are given character by the restaurant’s XO sauce.

Twice a year, Chef Jereme Leung himself comes to Manila. I am hoping that on his next visit, he will share with us more of his authentic regional Chinese cuisine finds. His creations are truly Chinese cooking at its best and it’s always an authentic, wonderful experience at China Blue. /MS