A twist to Ca­pam­pan­gan clas­sics by Abe

Let’s Eat - - WHAT'S INSIDE - ABBY REBONG Pho­tos by MIKE REBUYAS Food styling JOBO NACPIL

“A GOURMET TOUR OF THE COUN­TRY­SIDE WITH A LIN­GER­ING STAY IN PAM­PANGA.” READS THE COVER OF ABE’S MENU, EN­TIC­ING GUESTS TO SAM­PLE THE MELANGE OF HEIR­LOOM AND UNIQUE CON­CEPT RECIPES THAT PA­TRONS HAVE GROWN TO LOVE FROM THE FILIPINO RESTAU­RANT.”

Started in 2006, Abe’s first branch opened at Seren­dra, al­beit with some ini­tial mis­giv­ings, the ven­ture turned out to be a big suc­cess for the LJC Group. The com­pany be­hind well-known restau­rants such as Lorenzo’s Way, Café Ha­vana, Bistro Reme­dios, Fely J’s Kitchen, and of course, Café Adri­atico, which kick­started ev­ery­thing ac­cord­ing to LJC Group pres­i­dent and CEO Lorna C. Am­bas.

“My dad, Larry J. Cruz (LJC), started out in the restau­rant busi­ness purely by ac­ci­dent. He was from an en­tirely dif­fer­ent field. He used to col­lect an­tiques but didn’t have space for all the pieces al­ready so he de­cided to put up an an­tique store. He found a space in Malate and named it Koleksyon. It was in busi­ness for more than a year when some­one told him this is a good spot for a café/restau­rant and if LJC would like to part­ner with him. Just be­fore the restau­rant opened, his part­ner backed out so he had to take over all of a sud­den and named the restau­rant, Café Adri­atico,” re­calls Am­bas.

LJC thought of honor­ing his fa­ther’s By me­mory, the late artist-writer, gourmet and bon vi­vant E. Aguilar “Abe” Cruz, with Abe, a themed restau­rant that’s “all Filipino” and car­ries strong Ca­pam­pan­gan roots.

Bal­anc­ing the key el­e­ments for a suc­cess­ful restau­rant ven­ture—am­biance, great ser­vice and af­ford­able and de­li­cious food—Abe was a hit among guests, prompt­ing the LJC Group to quickly open branches in Tri­Noma, SM Mega­mall, Ala­bang, So­laire Re­sort and Casino, and the famed Abe’s Farm in Pam­panga.

“Abe is all Filipino. I think what is dis­tinct about it is that it fo­cuses on what’s Ca­pam­pan­gan. It is also about Abe’s fa­vorites and those of his artist friends such as the Bir­inghe (Ca­pam­pan­gan ar­roz va­len­ciana, a fa­vorite of Agustin Goy), Lamb Adobo (a fa­vorite of Ben Cab), Klas­sik Kare Kare (tra­di­tional style with ox­tail, tripe, and veg­eta­bles in a rich peanut-base sauce, which was a fa­vorite of a group of jour­nal­ists, bankers, artists and pub­lic re­la­tions prac­ti­tion­ers who dined ev­ery Thurs­day at Bistro Bur­gos, a for­mer LJC restau­rant),” de­scribes Am­bas.

When asked about her fa­vorites in Abe, Am­bas men­tions The Day Af­ter (pork le­chon pak­siw stewed in its own spicy sauce and co­conut milk and chilies) and Gis­ing Gis­ing (sliced kangkong stalks sauteed in red hot chili pep­pers and co­conut milk).

Am­bas at­tributes the rich fla­vor of Ca­pam­pan­gan dishes to the abun­dance of fresh in­gre­di­ents in Cen­tral Lu­zon and the prov­ince’s rich trade roots dur­ing the Span­ish

time.

Take for ex­am­ple Abe’s Chicken Supreme, which Am­bas re­veals is her mom’s unique recipe. “The stuff­ing is not an or­di­nary stuff­ing, it uses malagkit, chest­nuts and chorizo; the same way that the Choco Eh! Fon­due with Su­man is an heir­loom recipe from my great, great grand­mother. It’s some­thing that we would al­ways have for Christ­mas.”

An­other unique dish at Abe is Sini­gang sa Ube, which was de­vel­oped by LJC Cor­po­rate Chef Ge­orge Lizares. “Filipinos usu­ally as­so­ciate ube as a dessert, so we thought of us­ing it in a viand. Peo­ple were a bit sur­prised but they en­joyed it when they tried it,” he shares.

Aside from de­vel­op­ing a taste that is con­sis­tent with LJC’s vi­sion for Abe, sus­tain­ing it is also key to the restau­rant’s suc­cess.

For this Am­bas is thank­ful to have a food­ser­vice part­ner like San Miguel Pure Foods - Great Food So­lu­tions (GFS). “They’ve been our sup­plier from the start. We use their prod­ucts and rec­og­nize them as a re­li­able part­ner.”

She stresses, “We need to source our in­gre­di­ents from rep­utable and re­li­able sup­pli­ers. GFS can supply us in bulk the qual­ity that we want, the cut that we want; mak­ing the jobs of our chefs eas­ier all year round, es­pe­cially dur­ing the hol­i­day sea­son. We need a sup­plier that’s very con­sis­tent and won’t let us down.”

With more than 30 years in the busi­ness, LJC brands, Abe in­cluded, are show­ing no signs of slow­ing down, as the group con­tin­ues to de­light pa­trons with plate af­ter plate of its homegrown spe­cials.

Chicharong Bu­lak­lak

Abe’s Chicken Supreme

Sini­gang Sa Ube: a twist to the clas­sic Filipino dish by us­ing ube in­stead of gabi for a thicker broth.

Abe at The Shoppes at So­laire Re­sort and Casino

LJC Group pres­i­dent and CEO Lorna C. Am­bas

Knock­out Knuck­les: a twist to the Crispy Pata, by adding a lot of gar­lic and chili.

Mango Crepe

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