This venue has closed.
If first impressions count for anything, I should never have made a return trip to 7,107 Flavours. Named after the number of islands in the Philippines, it didn’t seem to hold promise. For one thing, the place looked like an office canteen, complete with a row of buffet tureens by the bar. Worse, in the middle of the meal, management conducted a full-on sound check (‘Testing, testing, one, two, three’), interspersed with spirited bursts of ‘Star Spangled Banner’ by someone who appeared to be either a waitress or the manager.
But I was sufficiently intrigued by the haphazard manner the place was set up, the mostly Filipino clientele who seemed so at home, and the unexpectedly good roast suckling pig draped with a deliciously earthy liver sauce, that I decided to return a few weeks later.
The lighting was now softer, the previously messy bar tidier, and the staff had exchanged their tie-dyed barongs (so ’80s) in favour of more conservative shades of white and cream. Gone, too, were the tureens, replaced by a comprehensive à la carte menu that reflected the Philippines’ complicated culinary DNA of indigenous, Mexican, Spanish, American and Chinese flavours. Unfortunately, the bandstand was still prominent.
By even the most exacting standards, it’s clear that the kitchen has done its homework, helmed by chefs and waitstaff familiar with the traditional dishes – a state of affairs that, in this town, doesn’t always hold true. So there are no odd fusion versions of anything, no updated mechado (beef braised with shallots), no fancy laing (taro leaves stirred through with spicy coconut cream) – just the Filipino staples cooked with fidelity for an enthusiastic clientele of expats.
The fish sinigang, for example, was an intense tamarind-infused consommé of leeks, string beans, tomatoes, chunks of white flesh and fish sauce, whose flavours deepened over the course of the meal. The inasal na manok was grilled to a mahogany char, its flesh sweetened by a marinade of garlic, lemongrass, calamansi, coconut vinegar and ginger, and its skin basted with annatto oil (a peppery, sweet infusion of annatto, a Filipino spice), bay leaves and garlic.
An outstanding offering was the ensaladang talong: wondrously smoky strips of grilled eggplant, drenched with a mix of sharp coconut vinegar and raw, crushed garlic. It was quite a deadly combination when paired with either the garlic rice or salted fish rice (both of them tasting exactly as you would expect).
Particularly moreish, perhaps because its saltiness was such a harmonious counterpoint to the rice, was the adobong baboy. Widely regarded as the national dish of the Philippines, the dark-hued pork stew was warmed through with vinegar (which provides the first soft hit of mellow tartness), peppercorns, garlic and soy sauce. By this stage of the meal, it was clear why 7,107 Flavours was pulling a full house on a Monday night.
Which is not to say everything worked. Less successful was the pinakbet – a rather dull and dry vegetable stew cooked with bagoong, the Filipino version of belachan, and topped with equally dry roast-pork tiles. The dessert selection, too, felt a little limited. The sweetcorn-studded maja blanca resembled a Peranakan kueh, but was overwhelmed by a milky taste that barely hinted of the promised coconut; and the halo-halo reminded me too much of an ordinary ice-kachang. Another odd note: given that so much of great Filipino cuisine is centered on the sea, it’s strange that the menu had just three seafood-based dishes. That said, by the end of my meals, I was left with an itch to board the next flight to Manila for a food trip. So much for first impressions. Daven Wu