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Tanduay Rum Launch Party, Lunch Lady

Tonight I was invited to a one of a kind launch party at Lunch Lady, a Michelin Bib Gourmand restaurant, recommended for good quality and good value cooking. However instead of their typical Vietnamese fare, they closed their doors to the public to host a private evening featuring a buffet of Filipino dishes, done with a modern take.

As guests were welcomed into their smaller space made standing room only, they either grabbed a lean on one of the freestanding tables stationed in the centre of the room, or secured a tool at the bar. I was early and lucked out on the latter, positioning myself to where all the action was.

Here, I got to learn more about Tanduay Rum through cocktails and conversations with their Glowbal brand team. Tanduay rum is the oldest rum hailing from Northern Philippines, and is owned by the same owner of Philippines Airlines.

On tonight’s drink menu guests were able to enjoy Tanduay 5 different ways, and invited to order as much as we liked and what we liked at the bar. I appreciated being able to watch each cocktail being shaken and stirred to fruition.

I started with the Jungle Fever, having ordered this one off the regular Lunch Lady cocktail list in the past. I was drawn in by the mention of pandan as a listed ingredient then, and now. Tanduay Asian Gold, Campari, Lime, Pineapple, House made Pandan Syrup, and Boracay Coconut Foam. This was an easy drinking tropical number.

Their Daquiri is a mix of Tanduay Asian Silver, Lime, and House made Calamansi Syrup. Another refreshing sipper that paired well with the food to come, given the freshness of the citrus fruit used.

The Sarsi Old Fashioned is a fun one. A play on a rum and coke with Tanduay Double Rum, House made Sarsi Syrup, and Bitters. For those not familiar, sarsi is Filipino root beer; and asking around the room, the syrup used in this tasted just like it. I made out the familiar sweetness of root beer, but coupled with a hint of liquorice.

I liked the Manila Pandan Painkilla with Tanduay Double Rum, Boracay Coconut, Pineapple and Orange Juice, Coconut Cream, and Pandan Tincture. A creamy, dessert-like cocktail with honey caramel tones, and sweet banana vibes.

And the Missionary Downfall was similar to a mojito with Tanduay Asian Silver Rum, Pina and Lime Juice, Peach Eau de Vie, Honey Syrup, and plenty of Mint. The sweetness of the honey comes through to balance out the overall mint and citrus flavours.

And as we drank and chatted, canapé sized servings of dishes were brought out to the back buffet table. Presented by the kitchen, left under heat lamps for guests to help themselves. And yes to my delight and joy, the assembly included a rice cooker full of steamed and seasoned rice to accompany all the meat dishes, for the full experiences. Honestly, everything was so amazing that I pleaded with the staff to add all of the following to their current and regular menu. Or barring that, consider opening a Lunch Lady – Filipino version.

This family style menu included Tongue & Cheek “kare kare” croquette. Braised Snake River Farms wagyu beef cheek and tongue, shredded taro root, fermented shrimp satay, and sunflower sprouts. Each ball was thick and dense, you tasted the quality of the meat used, and could tell this was a very refined take. Although there was plenty of sauce on the side to self serve, I wish there was more peanut butter and cream in it. I wanted something more similar to what I know my favourite Filipino dish to be, and that also includes more fermented shrimp paste, as is customary.

The Hamachi Kinilaw was so light and delicious, it should have been the one I started with. Japanese yellowtail, a coconut calamansi vinaigrette, pickled green papaya and radish, crispy shallots, and Vietnamese herbs. I have never had Kinilaw aka the Filipino equivalent to ceviche before. This was more like what I know Japanese cuisine to be, rather than rich and sumptuous as I only know Filipino cuisine to be.

The Wagyu Adobo was Miyazaki A5 wagyu zabuton, adobo reduction, pickled shallots, roasted scallion and serrano aioli. So meaty, salty, and tangy. The rice here was needed for the best result. I wouldn’t say it is adobo per se, but I can see its influences in this.

My favourite dish was this Sablefish Sinigang. Pan roasted sablefish, brown buttered daikon, konjac noodles, charred okra, heirloom tomatoes, and spicy tamarind demi glace. This was such a soul satisfying soup. Sour and tangy with plenty of supple pieces of fish, plus some pineapple chunks intermingled for a twist.

The Iberico Tapsilog was charbroiled iberico and roasted cochinillo,”Mang Tomas”, garlic three ways, and pan seared foie gras. The intention was to have this with their pho broth steamed jasmine rice, mentioned above.

They strayed from the classic with this elevated version of Tapsilog which is typically beef, garlic rice, and a fried egg. On the first round, I missed the rice so didn’t get the full effect. This was also pork instead of beef (tapa), and there was no egg to be found. But they did present a great tasting dish with the familar flavour of Mang Tomas, the popular bottled condiment that is typically paired with crispy pork, such as this. It was just a shame that the pork was overcooked and the foie gras did nothing to add to the plate. It too was hard, whereas its expected, decadent paste-like creaminess couldn’t have helped to tenderize the hearty chunks of chopped pork.

The most memorable dish of the night was the Halo Halo Banana Split. A visual treat and one for the mouth. Sweet plantains, ube cheesecake. pandan mochi cake, macerated mangoes, and coconut pandan gelato. Topped with Tanduay rum caramel, strawberry red bean coulis, and honey sesame tuile. All the mix and match elements you love from halo halo, without having to dig or pick up your pace to avoid melting ice. Definitely a great take on all the familiar textures and flavours of halo halo, with everything being prepared in house. The pandan ice cream was brilliant, the banana fried crispy, and the starchy ube cake and flan just melted. Truly a well executed dessert that I finished.

In short, a delicious evening of great island flavours and a great introduction to the perfect rum to pair it with. I just wish everything we ate and drank was available to re-live and re-experience on a future date.

Lunch Lady
1046 Commercial Dr, Vancouver, BC V5L 3W9, Canada
+1 604-559-5938

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