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Family food from a food family

MANILA, Philippines - The Quezon City area is filled with various dining establishments that it would be impossible to run out of choices for places to pig out in. 

Restaurants worthy of romantic dates proliferate Katipunan Extension. Tomas Morato is home to bars for the bachelors and partygoers. For those going solo, budget-friendly diners are lined up along Maginhawa Street.

But if you’re celebrating a brother’s birthday, a godson’s baptism or a daughter’s graduation, there are familiar names along West Avenue that know family dining — because they are run by a family.

For the family, by a family

DAD's ROASTS, THE 'CROWN jewels' of the continental cuisine

For over 30 years now, a two-story building near the corner of West and Quezon Avenues has been housing the Dad’s, Kamayan and Saisaki restaurants. After renovations were finished in mid-2012, the establishment has been able to accommodate another branch of Korean buffet wonder Sambo Kojin — only the 3rd in the entire country.

The makeover came as a way to ensure that families will continue to make a tradition of eating from their restaurants.

“We want the next generation of families who have celebrated with us to continue celebrating with us,” says Mara Villavicencio, managing director of Dad’s, Kamayan and Saisaki.

“You can’t stay the same. They’ll think you’re not taking care of your customers,” adds her brother Bokie, managing director of Sambo Kojin.

SAISAKI's TEMPURA SET

The two siblings, together with Mara’s twin sister Cara V. Espinosa (also a managing director of Dad’s, Kamayan and Saisaki), manage the day-to-day operations of the 4 restaurants.

At the helm of this food empire is their father, First Foods president Vicvic Villavicencio, who founded and perfected the eat-all-you-can style 3 decades ago.

Dad’s serves continental cuisine; Kamayan features Filipino food; Saisaki offers Japanese; Sambo Kojin features Korean, with the yakiniku smokeless grill as an exclusive feature.

(Food) safety first!

RAW FOOD CHILLERS

More than the physical capability of housing more than 500 customers, the Villavicencio family makes sure that the dining experience is worth it  — not only in price, but also in safety.

The store renovations included innovations to make sure that the food is served as fresh as possible.

Among these is the introduction of chillers found in Saisaki and Sambo Kojin. The chillers have thermostats that automatically adjust temperature to ensure that food sanitation is met for the sushi bars and the raw ingredients (for Sambo Kojin’s grill). 

“With the chillers, the temperature is set and it it kept consistent,” shares Bokie. “Who wants to eat hot sushi anyway?”

SUSHI BAR IN CHILLERS

Another safety measure of the restaurant quartet is the theater-type kitchen (yes, a la "Iron Chef"). Before, the chefs and cooks would be inside closed-door kitchens, taking some time for empty dishes to be replenished.

With the theater-type kitchen, the ones responsible in preparing the food are placed directly behind the buffet. This means that the cooks see first-hand when and how much dishes are needed, and make sure that the dishes are cooked and served fresh. 

The cooks are not only able to refill at once, but they are also able to estimate the initial amount of food to prepare as customers come inside the establishment in their plain sight.

After all, as Bokie says: “a tempura is only as good as how fresh it is cooked.” - Rappler.com