College thesis gives birth to all-Pinoy restaurant

Posted at 05/07/2011 10:01 AM | Updated as of 05/07/2011 10:50 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Just a stone's throw away from Camp Crame in Quezon City lies a secret place where Pinoys craving for some real good food from Quezon province can be found.

It's a secret place because, if you don't look for it purposely, you'll miss the hole-in-the-wall restaurant on a street lined up with sari-sari stores and other small businesses.

The place is called Hapag sa Lucban, and it claims to serve authentic dishes the province of Quezon is known for--from pancit Lucban (a.k.a. pancit habhab) to Lucban longganisa.

At the helm of the restaurant is 23-year-old Jayrald Jao who hails from--not Lucban, but from another city 45 minutes away--Lucena, Quezon.

Jayrald Jao put up Hapag sa Lucban as a thesis requirement.

His mother told him that Lucban is more popular among people from Manila than Lucena is, due to the Pahiyas festival in that town. And so Lucban, and not Lucena, has been made part of the restaurant name.

As a requirement for his entrepreneurship degree at the University of Asia and the Pacific, Jao had to put up his own business, and since he grew up in the food biz (his mother Jonas owns a restaurant called Mesa in Lucena), putting up a restaurant seemed the most logical thing to do.

In June 2007, Jao opened the first Hapag sa Lucban at the mezzanine of a building in Salcedo Village in Makati City to serve all-day meals to office workers from morning 'til night.

Three years later, he opened the Quezon City branch.

"The concept is a homey restaurant, serving more of lutong buhay dishes. It's semi-fast food," he said.

Authentic dishes

Jao said majority of their cooks are from Lucban and Lucena.

Given that Filipino food is generally oily and fattening, Hapag sa Lucban offers a healthy twist to their dishes.

 

Sisig

 

Vegetable oil is used to lessen the cholesterol content of the dishes, and the longganisang Lucban has less pork fat and no MSG.

 

Lucban longganisa

 

These do not affect the taste of the dishes though, as the longganisa is full of the garlicky flavor as it should be, and the other dishes taste as authentic as they can be.

They also do not scrimp on ingredients. The pancit Lucban uses miki noodles and is topped with lechon kawali, crispy pork chicharon and vegetables. Jao said it's best eaten with a little vinegar mixed with pepper and garlic.

 

Pancit Lucban

 

The other popular dishes on the menu, although they are not originally from Quezon, are worth a try: the ginisang ampalaya, chicken inasal, ginataang sitaw at kalabasa, crispy pata, and ginataang tilapia.

 

Chicken inasal

 

Budget meals featuring all-day breakfast fare are perfect for those on the go, and the set meals good for 6 people are just right for a family or a group of friends.

 

Pork binagoongan

 

With its comfort food and homey ambience, Hapag sa Lucban has won over its share of Pinoy foodies on the lookout for authentic reasonably priced Filipino food. To think that it all just started with a college thesis.

Hapag sa Lucban is at Unit UG5 Cityland 10 H.V. Dela Costa St. Salcedo Village, Makati City [tel. no. (02) 813-43-92] and at 4 2nd Avenue, Brgy. Bagong Lipunan, Crame, Cubao, Quezon City [tel. no. (02) 721-65-89]. Visit its website for more details.