First impressions, photos, prices: Rico's Lechon opens first branch outside Cebu
MANILA, Philippines – There are two things you should know after visiting the first branch of Rico's Lechon outside of Cebu province: First, the only lechon worth spending calories on is the kind that does not need – or deserve – any sarsa of sorts. Second, persistence (with a little help from external factors) pays.
The branch located at the Fort Entertainment Complex in Bonifacio Global City will be the first outside of the beloved restaurant-slash-litsonan's home province of Cebu. It will also be the first operated by Meat Concepts Corp.
For Meat Concepts Corp President George Pua, the path to opening the first Rico's Lechon in Manila was very long and very winding.
The "courtship," if you will, began 5 years ago. Enrico Dionson, founder and owner of Rico's Lechon, was adamant: he wasn't going to sell it, nor was he interested in offering it as a franchise.
Pua tried again 2 years later. To him, aquiring or franchising Rico's wasn't just about business.
"Lechon has always been part of my life. When I was a teenager in Baclaran, everytime I would open my window, I would see lechon. And every time I see lechon, I would buy 1/4 kilo," he told Rappler on the sidelines of a media event, one of 5 dry runs before they open to the public on August 3.
It was Rico Lechon's unique spicy variant that drew him to the brand. And so 2 years after he was first rejected by Rico himself, Pua tried again. "Others are offering lechon. There's one brand that I also love. But they're only offering the original. And there's nobody that can offer spicy lechon as good as Rico's," he added.
Recent years, of course, have not been the easiest for the original brand owners. Two of their branches in Cebu City were closed down by the local city government because they didn't have business permits.
And so in December 2017, Dionson called Pua and offered to sell Rico's Lechon. After negotiations – and a feng shui consultation – the deal was closed, making Rico's Lechon in Manila possible.
But let's cut to the chase: How was it?
While the pig looks, smells, and sounds (yes, sounds) like your average Cebu lechon, the meat is drier than desired. The regular lechon, while arguably a world better than lechon that requires sauce (sacrilege!), could have been more moist. The spicy lechon, for some reason, was much more succulent than its regular brother.
Note, however, that we dropped by the Fort Strip branch during one of the many dry runs – meaning they're still streamlining their workflows. Pua noted that they absorbed 10 employees – roasters and choppers – into the now Manila-based company, as well as flew in their chefs over to Cebu, where they shadowed Rico's Lechon's long-time chefs.
Rico's offers other dishes aside from lechon, of course.
The menu, so far, is a mix of Cebu favorites and newer dishes.
The pork and beef sinigang was a nice and cozy way to start the meal. The pork and beef were tender, while the vegetables were firm. The broth could have been a little more sour, however.
The fried rice trio (a mix of danggit, tuyo and tinapa with rice) was an okay accompaniment to the richness of the other dishes, but between you and me (and a visit to the doctor), we think it's a better idea to pair your Rico's dishes with good old plain rice. The bam-i was sweeter than we expected but in retrospect, was a good way to balance the saltiness of the lechon.
A pleasant surprise was the lechon sisig. It wasn't too much at all and had the right mix of crunchy and chewy.
Here's the full menu with corresponding prices:
Ampalaya Salad, P160
Beef Tripe Kare Kare, P300
Calamares Prito, P230
Camaron Rebusado, P280
Chicken Inasal, P220
Chopped Original Lechon, P900/kilo
Chopped Spicy Lechon, P900/kilo
Crispy Feetchon, P330
Calamansi Quencher, P110
Eggplant Salad with Salted Egg, P140
Fried Rice Trio, P90 (single serve)
Garlicky Squid Balls, P195
Gising Gising, P220
Grilled Pork Liempo, P220
Lechon Paksiw, P330
Lechon Sisig, P320
Pancit Canton, P260
Pork Pata Kare Kare, P380
Pusit na Pinaputok, P440
Seafood Kare Kare, P395
Sizzling Adobong Pusit, P320
Sizzling Tanigue, P380
Sizzling Tofu Steak, P240
Tortang Talong with Lechon, P160
For now, Pua says, customer takeouts are limited to 2 kilos per person. They also won't sell lechon by the pig just yet – until after they finish building a bigger commissary off-location.
The pigs are roasted at the Fort Strip flagship restaurant, where master roasters tend to each pig for over 4 hours. Meat Concepts Corp notes that the roasting technique in Manila is different from Cebu – at the Fort, it's done indoors (in Cebu, it's done outdoors).
Rico's Lechon is set to open locations in Tiendesita's in Pasig, Top of the Glo in Glorietta Makati, Ayala Malls Cloverleaf and UP Town Center in Quezon City. – Rappler.com
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