In A recent visit to Manila, celebrity chef and TV food show host Anthony Bourdain had glowing things to say about sisig, that it “is perfectly positioned to win the hearts and minds of the world as a whole.”
“Well, Bourdain may be right in a way, but I believe that these iconic dishes are the ones that will put the Philippines in the global food map: Crispy Pata, Kare-Kare, Caldereta, Sinigang, Mechado, Adobo, Fresh Lumpia, and Garlic Rice,” says Chito Bautista, a banker and foodie, turned restaurateur. He owns Kuya’s At QC.
Bautista is no stranger to cooking and restaurant entrepreneurship, having hailed from a family of gourmet cooks and foodies. He attributes his love of food to his mother, who treats each dish she cooks as a work of art, and his unusual discerning taste to his Bautista DNA. His mom, Madge Angeles Bautista studied all dishes of the world and had three kitchens at home. Her son learned valuable tips and tricks from her. His foodie instinct motivated him to experiment on traditional recipes to make them even better but without losing their traditional features.
“I offer only items that I truly enjoy, but I am always open to suggestions from our customers,” enthuses Bautista. One customer suggested eating dinuguan with our home-made special bibingka. Foreigners rave about our food. One customer told me that I would be crazy not to expand outside of the Philippines.”
At Kuya’s At QC, you get three establishments under one roof, along with Jed & Julian’s and Bote Bar. “Diners can choose from Filipino, Italian, Spanish, American, British, and Mediterranean offerings in its extensive menu. So you can have your lunch, afternoon snack, dinner, and even after-dinner drinks and pulutan from 11 a. m. to past midnight without having to brave traffic to go elsewhere to satisfy your cravings,” Bautista.
Many of the international recipes were derived from Bautista’s own dining experiences abroad, especially through small talk with chefs of specialty restaurants. He adds, “The Filipino diner does not follow any set convention or pairing of food items the way Western diners do, and can spontaneously order pizza as appetizers, sinigang and paella as main courses, and canonigo or bibingka as desserts, completing a full meal combination. Even millennials love good old Filipino cuisine aside from burgers and pizza, while older people like burgers and pizza, too.”
To name even one “best entrée” among the restaurant’s menu offerings would really be quite an ordeal, as almost all of them are worthy to mention. Each one is faithfully cooked according to tradition, yet is enhanced with Bautista’s own special touch. Their flagship entrée: the Crispy Pata al Ajillo TKO (Total Knuckle Obsession) is a heaping serving of pork leg lavishly garnished with sliced chili and sautéed garlic. Through a secret technique, the pata is deep fried to a perfect golden brown, with crackling-crisp skin yet tender chewy meat. There are absolutely no tough spots to damage grandma’s dentures. Truly a knockout.
Where else can you choose from at least seven different kinds of sinigang: baboy, tadyang, malaga, talakitok, hipon, bangus, or the house specialty, anghang? This sinigang is made even more special with the combined goodness of mango, kamias, and guava. The already popular sisig also comes in several forms: traditional (with pork “mascara”), sisig Kano (with liempo), and sisig Española (actual ground chorizo), which makes a great breakfast item coupled with garlic rice.
The all-time favorite kare-kare is made with honest to goodness oxtail and, unlike most other restaurants’ versions, with two kinds of tripe. The same thing goes for callos (under Jed & Julian’s menu). That way, you can savor different textures as well as full-bodied flavor from these dishes.
Most restaurants serve dinuguan with only pork shoulder meat (laman), but Kuya’s dinuguan includes entrails as well as beef and pork, smothered with vinegar.
They also have several kinds of rice like kuripot rice, sisig chorizo rice, bagoong dilis rice, and yangchow.
“All of our desserts are homemade. The bibingka and puto bumbong are my own concoctions,” raves Bautista. The bibingka is extra-rich in texture and super moist, because the kesong puti and salty duck eggs have already been blended into the batter before cooking. The puto bumbong is made with natural ingredients (purple rice) and topped with shavings of panutsa (crystallized muscovado sugar) instead of just the regular brown sugar, and has an al dente feel to it. Jed & Julian’s has its own stock of diner’s favorites, from specialty burgers and pizzas to Spanish and Mediterranean fare. Bautista himself painstakingly researched, developed, and tested these dishes to make sure they appeal to both local and foreign tastes before he included them in his menu. “We also have three types of paella: Basque (with chorizo, pork, and white beans), Valenciana (seafood and meats), and Negra (with squid black ink), not to forget our Cochinillo with toasted garlic and chili, Lechon de Leche with Kuripot rice, and Roast Turkey complete with cranberry, gravy, and mashed potatoes,” says Bautista.
Bote Bar, the third of the Kuya’s “trinity,” serves alcoholic beverages and cocktails as well as coffee varieties and its unique Margarita TKO, with the refreshing taste of basil and a slight chili bite. Being a music enthusiast (musical talent runs in the Bautista family), Chito offers musical entertainment for patrons: open mike on Friday evenings with Wendy Mia and a live band on Saturday evenings, Groove Power. There’s also a private function room where you can have karaoke sessions while enjoying your meal.
Kuya’s caters to all types of parties with a 100-person seating capacity in its premises. Or if you prefer another venue, Kuya’s can cater for your special occasion either, with or without a band.
Kuya’s At QC is located at 147 Mother Ignacia Avenue, South Triangle, Tomas Morato, Quezon City; telephone number (02) 709-7880.
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