MANILA -- These days everything is online. Restaurateur Marvin Agustin knows this very well, having created the Secret Kitchen — a virtual food hall that delivers up dishes from Agustin’s well-known restaurant brands like Sumo Sam and Taikoo, and new delivery concepts like Cochi (short for cochinillo), Kapamilya (cooking kits), and Chef Chris.
While you can’t go wrong with favorites like cochinillo, Hong Kong roasts, and Japanese staples from Sumo Sam, this author felt partial to the Chef Chris menu. Chef Chris is, of course, chef Chris Oronce, the executive chef of Wolfgang Steakhouse in the Philippines, which is also part of Agustin’s restaurant group.
Chef Chris’ menu is like a tapestry of flavors borne from Oronce’s experiences. Not bound by cuisine style, each dish is personal with corresponding stories and people attached to them.
“Khalil's Mediterranean Spiced Chicken was created in Ottawa, Ontario at the Moon Dogs Bar along Rue de Laurier in the autumn of 2003. Khalil was the owner of the Moon Dogs where I used to hang out most of time after work…. It was also then when I saw them grilling this herbed and spiced chicken which smelled and tasted really great. I would order the dish like twice in a week. I decided to make my own and named the dish after my friend Khalil. Hats off to you Khalil, my friend,” narrated Oronce.
One of his best dishes that this author has tasted, Khalil’s Mediterranean Spiced Chicken delivers both in fragrance and flavor. Imagine it like an amped bone-in chicken shawarma that’s grilled, juicy and flecked with herbs and spices, it’s served with yellow bobotie claypot rice, homemade pickles and a lip-smackingly good yogurt sauce. A must-try.
Meanwhile, it was forced improvisation coupled with experience that created Paco’s Applewood Smoked Bacon.
“In 2015, due to the scarcity of quality bacon like the famous Boar's Head brand, I improvised and made my own bacon similar to Boar's Head to serve in a renowned steakhouse where I am the executive chef and named it after my son Paco who loved it so much. [It’s] Paco's Applewood Smoked Bacon,” explained Oronce.
Served with garlic pandan claypot rice, fried eggs, fresh cucumbers and tomatoes, the bacon is thick cut – nicely grilled and has that distinct umami-sweet back note of smoke from the applewood chips.
There’s a tangy salsa-like sauce that comes with the bacon that I couldn’t get enough of whether it was slathered onto the bacon or just with rice. (Oronce definitely has a knack for sauces.)
How do you elevate a tapsilog? Make it with Angus beef!
“My Junior-San's Angus Beef Tapa, named after my very sweet ‘peke’ (Pekingese)… This recipe was created in 2004 in Shibuya for Taka-san, my Japanese chef friend. I told him that I was going to make a Filipino version of their gyudon. I made the flavor bolder and grilled the beef instead of simmering it and called it my very own tapsilog,” said Oronce.
Thinly sliced Angus beef marinated in classic soy and garlic with nicely caramelized portions thanks to grilling is paired with pandan claypot rice, fried eggs, and a sweet-spicy vinegar. What’s not to love?
Other dishes include Benito’s Pollo Asada (with Spanish claypot rice) and Woong Shik's Bulgogi, among others.
Available in generous solo and sharing portions, these dishes are only available via the by Secret Kitchen's Facebook or Instagram pages, as well as through delivery apps (Foodpanda, Pickaroo, and lyka.global).