Saturday, November 15, 2008

An Ego-pleasing chicken

"An Ego-pleasing chicken"
Sun.Star Davao, Nov. 15, 2008

One of the most memorable scenes from the animated film “Ratatouille” was when the hard-to-please food critic Anton Ego experienced a dramatic flashback of his childhood upon tasting Remy’s unpretentious but delectable ratatouille dish.

I guess, almost all of us could relate to Anton’s personal gustatory tale. We have our own good old treasured dishes made by our beloved family members that remind us of home.

For Pepper and Peppers co-owners Michael and Bunny Sy, their restaurant’s bestselling Iberian Chicken was a favorite dish prepared by Bunny’s mom Rose Lim during family meals. Mommy Rose eventually passed on the well-guarded recipe to Bunny.

The Iberian Chicken is one whole chicken marinated in herbs and spices with plenty of garlic, olive oil and potatoes; and oven-baked to perfection for two hours.

Last week, my family and I ordered two whole Iberian Chicken at Pepper and Peppers for dinner. I took home the left-over chicken and cooked the excess chicken flakes with buttered corn and carrots and it still retained its yummy flavor. And, since we still had untouched breast parts, I used the bones to make chicken stock for my macaroni and vegetable soup. The chicken soup was so unbelievably tasty and soothing.

Definitely, the intimidating Anton Ego would be pleased with Pepper and Peppers’ Iberian chicken!

Mom’s home-cooked goodness

“We would wake up late from a Saturday night out and smell the aroma of the Iberian Chicken wafting through our bedroom while it was being baked in the oven. Since some Sundays would also be a sort of "potluck" activity with our barkada, it pretty soon became much loved by friends who would come over for lunch or dinner”, recalls Michael who is the managing partner for Pepper and Peppers.

“During the planning stage for the restaurant, we came to realize that we love the Iberian Chicken that Bunny's mom makes so we decided to make it as the house specialty”, says Michael.

Michael met his Pepper and Peppers partners, Karloz Alba and John Obsines, in 2003 when he joined the Davao Jaycees, Inc. Karloz, a budding entrepreneur, is a bachelor who hails from the Carriedo clan of Davao while John is a Senior Marketing Executive for a leading global pharmaceutical company.

“We opened a restaurant because this is something we love to do and it is something we are good the fact that our friends and partners like to eat a lot!”, chuckles Michael.

Pepper and Peppers

While Michael, Karloz and John were thinking about their restaurant’s name, they gathered all the possible names from those of their children to the Sys’ pet dog, Pepper.

Initially, the trio wanted to only use Peppers but during the course of their research, they found out that there is a wide variety of peppers in the world.

“It turns out that ‘pepper’ refers to the peppercorn or more commonly known as black pepper while ‘peppers’, on the other hand, refers to the different varieties like chili and bell peppers”, explains Michael, who together with his family, has operated other Davao-based restaurants such as Dimsum Diner, Madayaw Ihaw-Ihaw, Pops Resto-Bar and Pinoy Republik.

Thus, Pepper and Peppers opened its doors to the public last December 8, 2007 and will be celebrating its first year anniversary next month.

Beyond spicy

“Pepper and Peppers is different in the sense that it also has a theme. We have signature dishes that are spicy which gives credence to our name, although it doesn't mean everything we serve is spicy”, clarifies Michael.

He shares that their food at Pepper and Peppers is basically a fusion of Asian and Spanish cuisine with a sprinkling of American and Filipino dishes.

“We basically do a bit of research on food that we ourselves would like or be interested in and we try to create our own version of it. Sometimes, we even have dishes that are inspired by recipes that we see on the Travel & Living channel. Naturally, we have to take into account the availability of the ingredients as well as the costing since pricing is also a big factor in dining out”, Michael adds.

Must-try dishes include Dory Fish in Cucumber and Lime Sauce (imported Dory fish seasoned with salt and pepper , grilled then topped with cucumber and tomatoes in lime sauce); Salted Egg and Tomatoes Pasta (pasta with a unique combination of salted egg and tomatoes tossed in olive oil, cashew nuts and parmesan cheese); Spicy Portuguese Pasta (pasta mixed with spicy herring, onions tomatoes and garlic); El Grande (combination of grilled quarter chicken, Hungarian sausage, slices of beef, shrimps and scrambled eggs over steaming rice with homemade gravy); and Sizzling Blackened Chicken (chicken strips coated with honey and smothered with honey and crushed pepper corn).

Touch of home

Pepper and Peppers’ air-conditioned dining area is approximately 30 square meters and sits 25 people. The al fresco seating can accommodate another 15 people.

The well-appointed interior was designed by Architect Leo Coching, who is the cousin of John.

“During the design process, we asked Architect Leo to give us a design that would give a "homey" feel. Hence, the decor used at Peppers could also be easily used at home”, illustrates Michael.

Michael, Karloz and John also put in a corner table with a couch mainly as a design feature but it turned out to be the most popular table in the restaurant. In addition, Karloz loaned his antique Moroccan chandelier which gives the place a touch of European flair.

As for the lighting, the partners emphasized that they would not have any white light in the dining area to do away with the usual glare. Instead, the restaurant relied on a combination of cool and warm white lights.

Party pack

Recently, the restaurant launched the Peppers Party Pack, an ideal food combo for family or friends. It consists of an order each of one whole Iberian Chicken, mixed seafood, charbroiled spareribs; five orders of rice; five bottomless iced tea; and two orders of fudge ala mode (to share).

The entire Party Pack is good for five persons and is reasonably priced at P999 only.
“Just remember to order two hours in advance since the Party Pack has an Iberian Chicken with it. However, if you do not pre-order, you can easily replace the Iberian Chicken with the Chicken in a Basket”, says Michael.

And, here’s more delicious news! For their upcoming anniversary this December 8, Pepper and Peppers will be giving away free Portuguese Pasta Samplers to all dine-in customers.

“We encourage our fellow Dabawenyos to go out, explore and support the local restaurants that offer different kinds of cuisine. Dining together is a good way to bond with the family. In this fast-paced world, it is necessary for us to take a break and enjoy the company of our loved ones”, enthuses Michael.

Peppers and Peppers is located at The Site compound (corner of E. Jacinto Extension and V. Mapa Street). Contact numbers: 221-1396 and (0922)448-3626.

Special thanks to my brother Jasper Huang for the photos.

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