New food concept Cheech & Chang hopes to bring North-based foodies together through their inventive bao dishes and other Asian delicacies
“We all love food,” began Iñigo Uy, one of the young owners behind new food concept Cheech & Chang, a Chinese restaurant-party place hybrid, which opens its doors at Manila’s popular Kapitolyo food district this September 22. His business partners include other millennials, who also happen to be his barkada. Miguel Munnariz, Vince Alvarado, Raf Ysip, David Yulo and Angelo Balili round up the group of aspiring food entrepreneurs, who are eager to introduce to the world their homemade baos (steamed buns, generally stuffed with a protein) and other Asian culinary offerings.
“These guys would normally be in charge of the food during barkada get togethers,” shares Iñigo about his group of partners. David Yulo, who is also a DJ, would provide the music during the house parties. This is the experience they want to bring to Cheech & Chang. They designed the 300-square-meter space to be easy and inviting for customers to feel like they were at a friend’s home. The eatery is mainly al fresco dining, with a large trellis to protect people from the elements of nature. There are large communal tables to encourage people to talk to each other. One side of the restaurant will have a Gin & Tonic bar, while a garden space will be for larger events and musical performances. “We want to boost the night life in Kapitolyo. There still isn’t a place where people can hang out, eat food, and listen to good music,” says David.
The road to Cheech & Chang has been a long one. Iñigo mentions that they’ve been working towards the project for a little over a year but didn’t want to rush it. The six of them worked hard at developing the concept until they were absolutely happy with it. “This isn’t even the first concept. We started with brick oven pizzas,” he shares during a private tasting of the menu. The boys eventually decided on a roast duck recipe because of its rising popularity in the Philippines.
A Duck to Write Home About
“Duck has always been present in Manila. But if you go to a Chinese restaurant, it costs so much and they don’t even serve you the whole thing. When people started noticing hawkers and Asian cuisine, people also began wondering why we didn’t have that kind of thing here,” says Raf Ysip, the restaurant’s head chef.
The boys pulled their ideas together and realized that baos weren’t commonly served in Manila. Luckily, their group of friends were individuals who specialized in this sort of cuisine. Miguel Munnariz began developing their bao bread from scratch. Vince Alvarado, who once worked at Crystal Jade, got to work on perfecting their recipe. He tweaked it from more commercial roast ducks, marinating it for five days and reducing the fat. The result: a duck to write home about—crispy on the outside and tender on the inside.
After trying the combo of their protein and freshly made bao bread together, they instantly knew they had something special. They began building a concept around it. It was called Cheech & Chang, a nod to the famous comic duo who they identified with. “It’s very us!” laughs David Yulo when asked about the quirky name.
Today, the restaurant carries a selection of four different types of baos—roast duck, Char Siu (Cantonese barbequed pork), Lechon Macau, and Hainanese Fried Chicken. The latter is their most inventive creation, capturing the flavor of the famous chicken dish seamlessly, but surprising the palate with a fresh take on its texture.
Hawker Dining Experience
The partners did not want to limit their customers to baos alone. They developed a number of Asian specialty dishes inspired by their travels abroad. The Bak Chor Mee (a spicy noodle soup dish with minced pork) was discovered by Iñigo when he lived in Singapore. It was his favorite dish there and he was eager to recreate it back home. With the help of Raf and the other partners, they came up with an identical dish bursting with oriental flavors. They added chicharon to the recipe, giving it a crunchy Filipino twist. Another noodle dish on the menu, is the Dan Dan Mien that serves a hot kick in the mouth .
Those not in the mood for bao can order their favorite meat with a plate of hot rice. Food is served hawker style with Cheech & Chang’s variety of homemade spicy sauces. The Hot Prawn Salad and Sambal Seafood Rice are also worth ordering when satisfying an intense Asian food craving.
Cheech & Chang will open on September 22, 2018. It is located at West Capitol Drive, Pasig City, Metro Manila. For more information, visit their Instagram account @cheechnchanghkr