MANILA, Philippines - They say it was through serendipity that the formula of Coke was created. As the world’s most popular beverage, the soft drink still makes pundits assess until now how its taste came to be.
For the owners of The Real Thing Diner on Tomas Morato Avenue in Quezon City, however, they just want to take advantage of the taste of Coca-Cola and transform this into creative, yet palate-satisfying meals.
Just like the formula for Coke, The Real Thing came to be where it is now after months of brainstorming and discussions.
“Last year, my partners and I thought of putting up a restaurant. The idea was originally a stall for Japanese pancakes, then Japanese sushi, then it even evolved into Chinese,” said Noelle Cassandra, one of the directors of KVGKCC Inc., the owner of the diner.
Everything fell into place when KV Golamco got into the picture.
Launched in October 2010, it was Golamco’s vast Coke collection that became the centerpiece for the red-and-white-wavy motif of the diner.
One would think the diner at Il Terrazzo mall is owned by Coke itself. White polar bears, Coke bottles of different sizes from different decades, the Coke train, and other paraphernalia are displayed in rows. Coke’s signature bubbles are displayed in disarray all over the place to look like the fizzle coming out of the bottle when it is opened.
Cassandra readily clarifies that the concept was never Coke’s idea. “That is why we made use of ‘The Real Thing’ and not ‘Coke’ diner. Even our font used is different although close to the script used by Coke,” she said.
It also helped that Golamco used to work for Coke as its manager for non-carbonated beverages. In his 5 years there, he was able to collect paraphernalia that are now highly valuable in the collecting world as well as the needed network.
He said there was never any problem communicating the idea to the company itself. In the end, the diner became like any other Coke-licensed distributor. The company also gave them freebies for the diner to use such as coasters, napkin holders, et cetera.
Although it was not a partnership, so to speak, both derived advantages from each other. It was free advertising for the diner, and also for Coke, Cassandra said.
After only a few months in operation, the diner has already gained a loyal clientele as well as curious customers. Early this year, Golamco invited to the diner some collectors to swap different Coke stuff with other Coke fans.
Interestingly, Golamco does not drink Coke. It is Cassandra who does all the drinking. “I drink it like water,” she said.
Their love for food and creative use of the beverage led to the creation of their menu, which boasts of a wide range of tummy-filling and carbohydrate-loading meals that would attract families and barkadas.
Gone are the days when mothers and titas used Sprite to add spice to the barbecue sauce, or the Royal Tru Orange as an award to little children who just came from fever the previous night.
The Real Thing diner is living up to its name. “All of us worked to create the menu. We did not just have good cooks. All of us contributed to what would taste good with pork chop, for example,” Cassandra said.
In their menu, pork chop is laced with Coke, spare ribs with Sarsi, and chicken with Minute Maid.
Non-adventurous people do not have to cringe at the thought of Sarsi-laced spare ribs. The beverage blends well with the different spices, which make the meat all the more tender and juicy. The sweet stuff in the beverage does not overwhelm, but is in fact incorporated just right.
The menu will not be complete without the special sauce, the formula of which is top secret. Well, there is Coke there too.
For the sweet tooth, there is the dory fish laced with Green Apple Iced Tea (another Coke product). Cassandra said the liking for the meal is an acquired taste, with non-sweets lovers shying away from it.
Of course, the menu will not be complete without the drinks. Without being too anticlimactic about it, however, The Real Thing also created drinks that make use of the soda.
A must try is the Coke Snifter, which has Coke, Sarsi and vanilla ice cream. Unlike the soda float we see in fast-food chains, this beverage is made more fun with cinnamon powder. Cassandra had to instruct me to mix all the ingredients to get the full taste.
The Real Thing is one of the standouts among the many restaurants that line Tomas Morato. Beyond its creative aura, it can also lay claim to cheap prices for a flavorful menu as compared to American/French fusion bistros.
This diner is the real thing.