MANILA -- The Greenhills branch of Gloria Maris Shark's Fin Restaurant has always been known for its elegance and fine dining Chinese food.
This expansive building on the periphery of the Greenhills Shopping Center is a landmark seeing countless baptisms, birthdays, wedding receptions, and Sunday family gatherings celebrated within its walls.
This year, this venerable institution of Chinese food sees itself reinvigorated as the Lao family, owners of Choi Garden, takes over the management of the restaurant.
"It was an opportunity for us as the owners of the Greenhills branch were set to retire,” explained Janica Lao, the young chief operating officer of the Choi Garden group, who considers Gloria Maris' asado and the salt and pepper crab as her personal favorites.
But Lao was quick to note that the two restaurants cater to different customers.
“We didn't really see Gloria Mars as a competitor because we know that they cater to a different market. Since the acquisition, we’ve noticed that there a lot of Filipinos who come here to eat which was something completely different from the market of Choi’s. In Choi’s Garden, it's the Chinese and Chinese-Filipinos are living in the area,” she said.
With this in mind, Yao stressed that Gloria Maris and Choi Garden will have their own distinct personalities and that their menus will remain independent. For instance, one won’t find Choi Garden’s famous Sweet and Sour Pork here.
Gloria Maris is synonymous to quality seafood dishes like the Taro Baskets with Prawn Scallop, Salt and Pepper Shrimp generously topped with fried garlic, and the Steamed Alpahap with Taoso, a Chinese version of fermented bean paste.
The Peking Duck, naturally, is always a hit at celebrations.
The Lechon Macao’s skin is extra crispy with succulent meat.
A Chinese celebration isn’t complete without symbolic dishes representing wealth and long life.
Since taking over at the start of the year, Yao and her team have been hard at work improving the flavors and adding new entrees to the Gloria Maris menu. Of note are the meat entrees like the Black Pepper Beef, and the Lamb Chops served with a side of mint jelly.
On the healthier side, the menu also has entrees like this Spinach Tofu with abalone sauce.
Even Frank Lao, the patriarch of the family, has already stamped his mark on the menu. Frank’s Rice is a fried rice dish with sauce, which can pass off as a meal in itself as it is fully loaded with bits of meat and quail eggs which the wait staff mixes in front of diners as it is served.
For dessert, Gloria Maris’ Almond Shake with fresh mango bits is a cool refreshing take on the traditional almond jelly.
The takeover is really about the Lao family bringing their operational expertise to improve Gloria Maris.
When two big names specializing in Chinese food come together, it is indeed cause for celebration.
Gloria Maris Shark's Fin Restaurant is located on Missouri Street, Greenhills Shopping Center and is open from 7 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.