Manila's unique restos: Crazy over krill

Posted at 06/02/09 3:12 PM

While some restauranteurs opt for variety, one restaurant zeroes in on a particular product - the "bagoong" or a salty seafood paste.

"When we were conceptualizing the restaurant, part of our research showed that, in every province you go to, each has its own version of 'bagoong.' There are so many kinds in terms of ingredients. And among the varieties, we chose to serve 'alamang', made from small shrimp [or krill]," said Rosky Sevilla, president and chief executive officer of the Bagoong Club Restaurant, on ABS-CBN's Shoptalk.

Sevilla said that "bagoong" is a versatile ingredient, which can be cooked easier than fish-based "bagoong" varieties. "The secret is knowing what kind of 'bagoong' to use and how much to mix so that it does not overpower the dish," Sevilla said.

Located at a residential area in Barangay Sacred Heart Quezon City, the restaurant sports Filipino themed furniture and dishes.

They serve 6 different kinds of "bagoong alamang," including Bagoong Europa, which is mixed with pesto sauce; Bagoong Umaga, which is spicy and can certainly wake anyone up; Bagoong Asya, which is infused with pandan and other aromatics; Bagoong Buhay, which is mixed with coconut milk or "gata"; Bagoong Lipunan, which is the traditional krill paste; and the hearty Bagoong Club Special, which is topped with a mound of crab fat or "aligue."

These sauces can be mixed and matched to dishes or are served along with free radish sticks for appetizers. They are also mixed in with their signature dishes, served in hefty portions and priced from P250 to P400 each, like "Bulalo sa Munggo" a beef stew with mungo beans; and "Inihaw na Pusit na Binusog sa Bopis," a grilled squid dish marinated in sauteed onions, tomatoes, garlic, and pork lungs.

Bagoong is known for its strong smell, but the restaurant manages to keep things stink-free by using less salt in their paste and keeping their "alamang" fresh every day.

The restaurant also has unique Filipino dishes like the heavenly Pastillas de leche cheesecake, the "kalamansi" or lime torte, and their queso de bola cheesecake - all courtesy of Sevilla's sister, a pastry chef. The Pastillas de leche cheesecake has proved to be a favorite, since it usually gets sold out a few hours after the restaurant opens. "We've learned from it, so we're stocking up on the cheesecake," Sevilla said.

Sevilla shared that he was happy that he switched from the corporate world to a humble but successful restaurant business since it brings out more of his creativity. He also wanted to make the restaurant distinctly Filipino, with bagoong's historical significance as "survival food" for the Katipuneros, who made it a habit to carry small shrimp paste containers along with their knives and tools.

"It's survival food because bagoong doesn't spoil, and it can be mixed with a little rice, and you already have a meal," he said.

Sevilla is now setting his sights on bottling up their signature "alamang" and selling it to diners or even bringing the restaurant abroad, hoping that "bagoong" can truly survive any market.

For inquiries, call the Bagoong Club Restaurant at (02) 929-5450.