Dusit D2: The second coming of chef Cyrille Soenen
Exactly eight years ago, I led the marketing campaign that launched Brasserie Ciçou. It was chef Cyrille’s first foray in introducing a less formal, much friendlier, but no less authentic French dining experience.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m one of those who was always intimidated by the menu items I couldn’t pronounce, and often, prices I couldn’t afford. But Ciçou changed all that for me, and for many other nascent foodies almost a decade ago.
It was one of the most gorgeous restaurants of its time, filled with colorful bric-a-brac, heavy but comfortable solid wood chairs and tables, magical lighting, and even a hypnotic mural of St. Francis of Assisi. And the food, oh the food. Nothing fancy, just classic French brasserie and bistro fare, but magnificently and perfectly executed.
It was where the public at large fell in love with the Kouign Amann, that gorgeous pastry from Brittany that’s been called by the New York Times as “the fattiest dessert in all of Europe”. Yes, that is a grand compliment coming from the venerable Times! And believe me, Cyrille’s version, all crispness and butter and sugar and crunchiness and an excess of love, was divine. A heavenly creation. It was hailed as The Best Dessert in all of Metro Manila by the most respected food critics. And the rest of us agreed.
Ciçou also became very famous for their small plates; black slate tiles, actually, upon which the rustic Pork Rilettes and Pork Head Pâtés were served. I spent many an evening in the restaurant’s bar, sharing glass after glass and bottle and bottle of red red wine and strong strong Calvados with Cyrille and his wife, Anna.
However, after a few years, chef Cyrille was wooed to head the culinary team of one of the Philippines’ top resorts, and Ciçou had to close its doors. And I, along with so many others, were at a loss. We were lost for a few years. Our regular destination for our sweet KAs and our savory Pork was gone…
Until chef Cyrille, now the director of Culinary Arts at the Dusit Hospitality Management College at Dusit D2 at The Fort, opened Sparkz and Tapz, the first two outlets of D2, which also houses many things: a world-class culinary school, a brand-new tower of serviced apartments, and the most anticipated new hotel in the BGC.
Sparkz is a café that serves artisanal breads and pastries, charcuterie and Filipino-French desserts; it also is a delicatessen that showcases gourmet products, both local and imported. But best of all? It’s where Chef Cyrille’s Kouign Amann, now in six flavors, including Don Papa Rum, are again available every single day. Tapz is D2’s bar that offers a vast selection of the most premium wine and whiskies, plus cocktails and bespoke beverage coffee creations.
For bar chow: enchanting tapas and sustainable, snout-to-tail items, such as the comeback of Ciçou’s Pork Rilletes, along with the head cheese and escargots that the brasserie was also beloved for. Think of it this way: Sparkz and Tapz are the two halves of Ciçou, now together again in Dusit D2.
And even better? The two outlets have become the outlets (pun intended) of creativity of Chef Cyrille’s seconds: Executive Sous Chef Alwin Mantuano, Sous Chef Enzo Campos, and Bakery Sous Chef Nadine Madrigal.
Nadine bakes amazing Sourdough; she’s been taking care of her starter, “Sammy”, since 2013. Alvin and Enzo have come up with what is absolutely one of the Best New Sandwiches of 2020: the “Proudly Pinoy.” They’ve infused a melt-in-your-mouth Pancetta with the flavors of our Adobo, topped it with marinated Kesong Puti —grilled of course—slathered it with Adobo mayonnaise, and all of that, in a soft pandesal bun. It is glorious.
And that’s the merest tip of the iceberg for Dusit D2. In the coming year, there will be a surprising number of new dining destinations within that will roll out to the public. You may not yet be familiar with them right now, but I promise you, by the end of 2020? They will be at the top of your list. And that is as it should be. After all, it has Cyrille Soenen, one of the country’s best chefs at the helm. Santé!