In food courts, give your Pinoy customers sisig, adobo, and kare-kare; offer the tallest heap of rice possible, include a "free" albeit watered down iced tea or gulaman, make sure your price doesn't exceed a hundred, and you've got a business that is likely to stay (at least for a couple of months, pray luck goes with you). It's a bonus if you can give them a heart-stopping rendition of Adobo, but, really, a serving of free extra rice will suffice.
Kalbi, a newly-founded business venture inside Food Juction at the 2nd level of Eastwood Citywalk, braves the convention and does otherwise by introducing to the Filipino food court patrons Korean-Mexican fusion cuisine.
"Most people don't get it at first. They get hesitant. But, really, Korean-Mexican just means we use Mexican style of preparations for the Korean ingredients," Chef Anderson Sambar (Andy for short) said as he explained Kalbi's food program. In their menu is a short list of offerings categorized as tacos, snacks, burritos, and burrito bowls. Prices range from P65 to P140--about the same price as it would cost you to buy yourself a run-of-the-mill adobo meal with a bland iced tea.
"Our best-seller is the Kalbi Burrito," Chef Jerome Lim, Andy's cousin, business partner, and co-chef, recommends.
For P140, those who order a Kalbi Burrito will be served with a relatively large burrito, cut into two, that might as well be two separate servings-- good to fill two average eaters' tummies.
The size is one thing to be happy about (especially if you're used to how meager food servings are in the Philippines), but the quality and the taste make it all the more admirable. Stuffed inside a rolled pita are thin slices of soy-browned beef, onions, mildly spicy kimchi rice, bean sprouts, cabbage, and semi-melted cheddar. Each bite is a good, juicy, and full-flavored mouthful. It's essentially cheesy; who would disapprove of such a thing? Make sure not to pass up on the homemade Salsa Rossa dip that comes along with it. The sauce livens up the flavor of the already dynamic dish even more.
Kalbi's Kimchi Quesadilla (P65), just like the burrito, is accordingly cheesy.
Instead of ground meat and shredded beans, there are kimchi (a less spicy and not too pungent kimchi, if you must know) and bacon bits in Kalbi's version of the well-loved Mexican appetizer. However hard it is to imagine this famed Korean delicacy mixed together with something like cheese, trust that the combo goes surprisingly well. The dish would be a lot better if they can make the tortilla wrapper crispier-- enough to hold up on its own, and the sesame seeds a little more burnt for that distinct Asian aroma, but hey, at P65, I must say, not bad at all, Kalbi.
And because it's a requisite if you're offering Mexican fare, Kalbi also has a selection of soft tacos as snack options. You may opt between their Miso Glazed Chicken Tacos (P80) and Hour Braised Pork Tacos (P65)-- both of which are the fast-movers in this section of the menu.
Miso Glazed Chicken Tacos
Personally, I found myself favoring the wonderfully dressed Braised Pork tacos over the milder-flavored Miso-Glazed Chicken, but that's just because I love my food salty and sweet at the same time. Laid flat and open on the plate, the tacos would require your careful rolling and wrapping skills to enjoy the dish neatly.
Cap-off your Korean- Mexican meal with a Melona Korean Ice Cream priced at P40 This melon-flavored creamy Popsicle will make the child inside of you giggly and happy upon every lick.
Melona Korean Ice Cream
And if you find the above-mentioned dishes, at such affordable prices, still expensive for your budget, there's always the P55 peso worth of meals available for your consideration.
Unlike other wannabe trend-setters, Kalbi's gimmick of fusing cuisines pleases. Here's to hoping that the bold and brave Kalbi branches out and becomes successful-- enough to inspire those would-be food court tenants to think of newer concepts because Filipinos aren't as undiscriminating as they think. Really, what food court needs another adobo and sisig place, right?