Although the sight of pitch black dinuguan stew; glistening lechon; and oily, bright-orange okoy will always make my Filipino mouth drool, I cannot say the same is true for uninitiated foreigners.
Pig's Blood Stew a.k.a. 'Dinuguan' a.k.a. Someone's Nightmare
Balut, also called: the 'Eggs with Legs'
Yes, Filipino cuisine might be one of the world's best, but admittedly it certainly isn't the most photogenic (I have yet to see an appetizing photo of a balut).
This is exactly why The Bistro Group recently opened Smokin' Hot BBQ, a homegrown Filipino restaurant that meticulously plates familiar Filipino dishes to appeal to the global market. “We took your favorite Filipino dishes and gave them an interesting tweak in terms of presentation. The taste, of course, remains traditionally Pinoy just the way you want it,” says Bistro Group of Restaurant’s corporate Chef Josh Boutwood.
The 140-seater restaurant located at Level 3, Greenbelt 3 is Bistro Group’s latest culinary aspiration; one that satisfies every diner’s craving for the comforting flavors of Filipino food and takes it up a notch by meticulously plating every dish that gives it a new culinary appeal. Listen as Operations Director Liz Imperial and AVP for Marketing Lisa Ronquillo talk about Bistro's latest venture.
Taking the place of Fish and Co. (also a Bistro Group brand) at the third level of Greenbelt 3, Smokin' Hot BBQ retains the ample seating (seats 140 people), casual set-up, and busy kitchens of its predecessor.
Smokin' Hot BBQ's best attempt at making 'kuhol' presentable
The menu here is 100% Pinoy-- most of which are staples in a Filipino family's dining table. Highlighted in the menu is their BarBQ & Roast fare that sums up our love for anything inihaw.
The Chicken Wing Skewers (P185) and Grilled Pig's Ear (P265) both make good starters. Pair these with local beer (P50) and the scene is set for a typical Pinoy-style inuman.
Smokin Barbq Chicken
Families on the other hand can share the best-selling Smokin 'Barbq' Chicken (Whole, P675; Half, P365). Its barbecue marinade is a secret mixture of sauces and spices (honey barbecue & Ilonggo marinade) that makes the meat noticeably sweeter.
No typical Filipino meal is complete without heart-stopping and calorie-laden, favorites. Sisig here can come in its regular sizzling form like the Chicken Sisig (P195) or Mexican-style as is the Pork Sisig with Tortilla Wraps (P225). Albeit the servings are quite teeny for its prize, Smokin Hot's sisig does justice to the famous Kapampangan dish.
Pork Sisig with Tortilla Wraps
Among the mains the perfectly golden Crispy Belly (P220) and the simmering Bulalo (P445) comes high atop the recommendations.
And of course, a meal is not Filipino without rice. In this category, Smokin' Hot serves serveral variants like Aligue Rice (P155), Black Rice (P165), and Dulong Rice (P195), in beautiful polished coconut shells.
Dulong Rice and Aligue Rice
Yes, they did well in making Filipino dishes more approachable in those nice plates and arrangements. But I've got to say that the desserts were the best tweaked. Turon, a roadside favorite merienda leveled up into Turon 2.0 (P175).
Instead of its prosaic fried and flaky self, Turon 2.0 is served as banana ice cream with banana compote resting atop caramelized cones.
On the other hand, Smokin' Hot put the traditional and lowly Biko (P195), a sweet rice cake, on a pedestal (quite literally). Chef Josh Boutwood complements this with what he calls 'edible soil'-- his take on latik.
But more than the fanciful plating and consistent quality of the said Filipino dishes, it is the unparalleled service-- the signature of any Bistro restaurant-- that sets Smokin' Hot BBQ above others. And this, more than anything else, is what's important when you want to introduce global Filipino cuisine in the global market.