No fancy chefs here. Only creative street chefs (and some out-of-school youths) with natural talent in cooking. It doesn’t mean that the food isn’t fine-dine quality but the Filipino and street food served here at Street Chef Resto Bar in Mandaluyong is a product of a creative concoction. Co-owner Ajun Vellenzuella, who is an advocate of helping out out-of-school youths, encourages his cooks to find their unique flavor. The result is something surprisingly enjoyable.
Two-in-one coffee mix. Two-in-one toothpaste and mouthwash. Two-in-one shampoo and conditioner. Two-in-one mobile phone and organizer. We live in a curious age when consumer products are marketed to be better because they’re essentially two products in one. But how about desserts? Sure, we’ve got cake a la mode but that’s about it. That is, until we heard of Custaroons.
Just what on earth is a custaroon? Well, it’s a mix of custard (or leche flan in more familiar terms) and macaroons (dessicated coconut and milk confection). Custaroon is a term coined by its creator, Gigi Gaerlan, a self-confessed sweet tooth and leche flan fanatic. Hailing from a family of restaurateurs, getting into a hobby of baking sweet treats came naturally to Gigi. In a very competitive marketplace, she felt the need for a unique product she can call her original. So she mixed her liking for custard with her mom’s recipe for macaroons. At first, she just baked batches for giving away to relatives and friends. But soon, orders started trickling in. That was way back in 2000. At present, Gigi’s Custaroons are still home-baked in her kitchen in Sta Mesa. Happyfoodies samples custaroons and shares the experience.
With the globalization of the Filipino palate, is it still viable to set up a Pinoy restaurant nowadays? Ponder this: on one hand, you have to market to a younger generation of diners reared on a steady diet of pizzas, burgers and pastas. On the other hand, you have to appeal to an older generation who may have grown tired of the old favorites and are gravitating to international fare. Following the suggestion of a friend, we ventured to Mandaluyong to look for 1521 in the hope of finding a more definitive answer to our question. We’re happy to say that we walked in hungry for food and answers and walked out with a positive outlook and contented tummies.
1521 has an interesting story to go along with the great food. The name stands for the year in Philippine history when the Spaniards landed in the Philippines, marking the start of the Spanish colonial period. The restaurant’s mission is very noble: to rediscover Filipino cuisine. Simply put, 1521 is all about Filipino food with interesting twists and turns; fusion cuisine that pays homage to our roots but given fresh tweaks to provide both the young and older diners something interesting to discover. We’ve seen our fair share of Filipino fusion cuisine that strays far off the mark and happily, this isn’t the case with 1521. As its owner, advertising maven, Tanke Tankeko points out, it is food that’s faithful to the fare she (and us from the older generation) grew up on.