When husband-and-wife Cyril and Pierre Addison opened the Indian restaurant Ricksha Streetside Tandoor in Kapitolyo, Pasig back in 2019, they intended it to be one of those small holes-in-the-wall. “We just wanted to have something fun,” recalls Cyril, who moved to the Philippines with Pierre in 2011.
Cyril, who is of Indian descent, and Pierre, a Filipina-Chinese, met in the United States while both were studying to become sommeliers. They worked in the hospitality industry in the US for a good decade and a half before deciding to settle in the Philippines and raise a family.
In Manila, Cyril served as the director of operations for the Raintree Group (which runs restaurants like Jones All Day, Chotto Matte and Tagaytay’s Farmer’s Table) and eventually built a food and beverage consultancy firm called Adviche together with Pierre and Chefs Chele Gonzalez and Carlos Villaflor.
The idea to put up an Indian restaurant came about when Cyril and Pierre visited India together in 2016. The Filipina-Chinese thoroughly enjoyed all the Indian food they tried during that trip. “I’ve tasted nothing like this in Manila or even in the States,” Cyril recalls his wife saying.
When they came back to Manila, Cyril’s mother, Rebecca, lived with them and so he thought of learning to prepare the Indian dishes his wife had become fond of. “Everything that my mom was cooking [Pierre] was falling in love with,” Cyril recalls. So he decided to put together some of his mother’s recipes—“it’s all in her head”—and open a streetside eatery located a stone’s throw away from their house in Kapitolyo. This became Ricksha Streetside Tandoor.
Everything on Ricksha’s menu is rooted in family traditions and essentially food that Cyril enjoyed while growing up. Suffice it to say they’re very personal to him. “I don't want to call our food authentic,” he says. “It's more of recipes that my mom used to make.” Like the curry noodles he would have for after-school merienda. This secret curry sauce by his Amma makes Ricksha’s Chinese Style Curry Noodles special.
Dum Biryani, one of Ricksha’s signature dishes, is also a recipe of Cyril’s mother. “It’s the one that I dreamed of often when I was away from home. We cook it here in Ricksha ‘Dum’ style, in a claypot and covered with Naan bread and in the Tandoor,” Cyril says.
Meanwhile, the Marina Beach Sundal Salad—chickpeas tossed with mustard oil, seeds, green mango and coconut—is inspired by something he used to have whenever he would visit his grandmother. “She would take me to Marina beach in Chennai, where there were a lot of vendors making sundal,” he shares. Sundal, according to this blog, is “a mildly spiced stir-fried preparation of legumes, lentils or grains and coconut.”
Cyril was also fond of having local streetside snacks and this became the inspiration for the Streetside Chaat section of the menu—the popular Pani Puri and Bhel Puri.
Chicken 65—a dish made of tender bites of chicken breast tossed in special spices, fried and garnished with garlic and seared sili—was quite memorable to him as it was what he had the very first time he drank beer.
Dosas are a staple fare when Cyril was growing up and it was the first Indian dish that Pierre tried when she met his parents. “Two types of rice and lentils are soaked overnight and then blended into a thick batter and then fermented, which gives it a very unique flavor,” he shares. “We make ours fresh and serve it with traditional sambar and coconut chutney.”
Then there’s Rogan Gosht, which is the favorite recipe of Cyril’s father. “Bone-in goat leg is slowly simmered with spices and fried onions. Tender fall off the bone!” Cyril offers.
The new Ricksha
With the warm reception from local diners, the Addisons knew an expansion plan was in order. Cyril and Pierre, both wine enthusiasts, wanted to move to a bigger space so they could add a bar and offer a full-dining experience to their customers. Thankfully, after the pandemic, they found a nice spot along Missouri Street in San Juan almost across the big Gloria Maris. Greenhills was a suitable neighborhood to open a full-blown restaurant since many of their clients live around the area.
What the Addisons wanted to do is elevate the Ricksha dining experience but still “keep the casual vibe,” says Pierre, while making it “more chic and interesting.”
The couple says that while Ricksha is an Indian restaurant, they didn’t want the Indian theme to look overpowering. They only wanted the space to have subtle Indian touches in terms of colors and patterns and overall decor. The art by the entrance is rangoli-inspired. According to Cyril, rangoli is something Indian people place outside their homes to attract prosperity and good luck, and also to welcome to visitors. The vibrant artworks by local artist Marvin Bacinillo depict Indian personalities—a chai vendor, a bread maker, a young prince, a lady in an Indian sari.
The bigger and better Ricksha can now sit a total of 70 people. A section can be closed as venue for a private party. Easily noticeable upon entrance is a forest-green corner—the Love, Pierre wine bar, which is Pierre’s passion project. It is the resto’s chill spot and it boasts a curated list of wine offerings and delicious cocktails.
As for the food, Ricksha will continue to serve the same home-cooked Dhaba-style Indian cuisine that their diners fell in love with in Kapitolyo, but with a more enhanced plating. Now that they have a bigger kitchen, they are also able to make subtle tweaks and changes in their food preparation. “Let's say for the buttered chicken, instead of just putting regular chicken into the sauce, we now grill it in the tandoor before we put in with the sauce, giving a little bit of that smoky flavor,” offers Pierre.
The couple says they noticed an evolution of tastes from their clientele throughout the pandemic, and the new Ricksha is their answer to that. “The responses and inquiries we got during that time were a testament not only to our success as a restaurant but also a reflection of how the diners themselves have changed,” says Cyril. “We're moving into this new era with confidence because of that.”
Ricksha is located at 6 Missouri Avenue, Greenhills, San Juan City.