How a humble Pinoy congee can become magical.
“Instagrammable”. I’m beginning to hate that term. I hate how lazy P.R. people throw it around with wild abandon, using it as an easy, unimaginative, and derivative way of describing a restaurant dish --- one that may disappoint because the actual product doesn’t look remotely like the mouthwatering food porn on IG, or worse --- seem like a waste of money because the item looks very good, but doesn’t come close to tasting good.
Okay, I admit, I can be very harsh sometimes, especially when it comes to meeting expectations in the food industry. I’m very opinionated, but I do listen to contrary views… if they come from people I respect. One such person is Ian Carandang, CFO (Chief Flavor Officer) of Sebastian’s Ice Cream. He opined that perhaps I shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater, because thanks to “Instagrammable” food, he’s discovered some of the best tasting food in a very competitive and cluttered Metro Manila restaurant market. And I had to agree, because I realized that I discovered “Goto Believe” because of the yes… very photogenic shots of the restaurant’s signature “OMG” (Oh My Goto!) dish that Ian himself posted on Facebook.
OMG sounds simple enough: it starts with a giant bowl (think of Rai Rai Ken’s largest ramen serving, but even bigger) of extremely tasty beef tripe/beef
intestine/beef fat congee (actually good enough on its own with a squeeze of calamansi). But then, diners are given an option of “toppings” to choose from, no minimum nor maximum, to elevate their goto experience. There are at least 25 of them, starting with eight kinds of eggs: scrambled to sunny side to century to a six-minute soft-boiled egg that’s essentially the “Aji Tamago” found in legit Japanese restaurants. And then, there’s the plethora of proteins: grilled for that smoky flavor, or deep fried for that addictive crispiness. It’s your choice. There’s isaw ng manok, bituka ng baboy, tenga, atay, bagnet, calamari, and more, much more. But everyone’s favorite is the chicharon bulaklak, and inevitably, thanks to the irresistible pitch on the menu, most people point to the “Kim Kardashian” (dahil laos na si J-Lo chicken ass). Quote unquote.
There are no rules. Want to order a bowl of goto along with ten skewers of chicharon bulaklak? Sure. Have them served on the side or dunked into the bowl? Your call. How about goto with four, six, or eight different types of eggs? Why not? Or just go all out and order a bowl with all 25 toppings? How would you like that, ma’am/sir, with Goto Heaven (their signature “wet” goto) or Goto Dry (rice cooked in goto broth, Hainanese style, then fried as sinangag)? The possibilities are exponential.
Don’t forget dessert. Goto Believe has a killer cheesecake that’s truly one of a kind. It’s a Champorado Cheesecake made from premium tablea, topped with, in this restaurant with no rules, Candied Dilis!!!
The magicians who make this happen are a pair of cousins, Vincent Juanta and Sandra Santiago. Vince is not an industry newbie; he’s the founder of Kanto Freestyle, a Filipino Breakfast chain that now has seven branches. Sandra, the artistic visionary, is the partner with the imagination to turn the ordinary into extraordinary. But every magic trick has a third part: “The Prestige”. And in Goto Believe, the man responsible for that is Executive Chef Obet Navarro, with over 20 years’ experience. He’s been a Chef De Partie in the Mandarin Oriental and the Makati Shangri-La. He’s also the former Sous Chef of Aubergine in the BGC. So what’s a five-star industry stalwart doing in a humble goto eatery? The answer’s simple.
He’s making magic. Believe it.
Goto Believe is Open daily from 5:00pm to 10:00am. 630 San Rafael St., Barangay Plainview, Mandaluyong City. 09177015506
02 1 Goto Heaven with 10 Toppings 2 Sizzling Goto Sisig 3 Japanese Tofu with Grilled Pig’s Face 4 Interiors 5 Lecheng Avocado Shake 6 Champorado Cheesecake with Candied Dilis