MANILA – In just a little over one year after it opened its first branch in the Philippines at the SM Mall of Asia, the Singaporean restaurant chain Boon Tong Kee now has three outlets in the country, with another one set to open soon.
Boon Tong Kee, which also has a branch at Rockwell’s Power Plant Mall in Makati, recently opened its third restaurant in the Philippines along Tomas Morato in Quezon City beside Burgoo. A fourth branch will open at the new UP Town Center along Katipunan later this year.
Starting as a small chicken rice stall in Singapore’s Chinatown in 1979, Boon Tong Kee has grown into an international franchise (apart from the Philippines, it has branches in Indonesia and Thailand), in addition to its seven branches in its home country Singapore, including its first full-service restaurant at Balestier Road which opened in 1983.
As such, Filipino foodies were excited when Boon Tong Kee opened at the SM Mall of Asia in July last year thanks to the efforts of local entrepreneurs Michael and Joy Rodriguez. The MOA outlet was the first international franchise for the Boon Tong Kee Singapore group.
Boon Tong Kee is among a growing number of restaurants in Manila offering Singapore cuisine, a list that also includes another Singapore restaurant, Wee Nam Kee, and The Chicken Rice Shop from Malaysia.
Like these other restaurants, the initial interest in Boon Tong Kee among Filipino foodies was mainly due to the Hainanese chicken rice, which is listed on the menu as “Signature Boiled Chicken” and comes in three portions – quarter, half and whole – with the chicken rice shaped like a pyramid.
But there is more to this restaurant than chicken rice. In fact, the food writers and bloggers who attended a recent tasting at the Quezon City branch agreed that the Crispy Roasted Chicken easily trumped the house specialty in terms of flavor and, of course, that lovely crispy chicken skin.
Another best-selling dish is the Crispy Cereal Prawn, which is as tasty as it looks, especially with those oat strings covering the prawns. Actor Chuckie Dreyfus in his blog even pronounced this dish as “in my opinion, the best Cereal Prawns I’ve ever tasted.”
“If you’ve tasted Cereal Prawns in other restaurants before, best to hold back on your verdict until you’ve tasted BOON TONG KEE’s take on this popular dish,” he wrote.
The restaurant has another prawn dish, reportedly very new on the menu, that is smothered with cheese and can only be described as yummy, a down-to-earth pleaser that brings out the child in you.
Personally, I also liked the starters, such as the Crispy Beancurd, which are like soft tofu pillows with a light coating; the comforting soup Poached Chinese Spinach with Assorted Eggs; and the addicting Braised Pork Belly served with buns.
But the two standout dishes that had everyone in agreement were the two ribs specialties. The Coffee Pork Ribs tasted exactly as I thought with that slightly bitter taste mixed with a hint of sweetness. Even better was the Fried Spareribs with Zhen Jiang Sauce served with fried buns, which is more straightforward in its barbecue goodness that prompted us to order rice, not knowing that a rich Sambal Fried Rice was still forthcoming.
Just a note about the sambal: There were two sambal dishes served that night – the rice and the Fried Sambal Kang Kong with Squid – and both didn’t have that spice level that I was expecting, with the heat tempered to please more diners.
Boon Tong Kee has certainly evolved from its chicken rice beginnings and definitely a place to check out if you’re hankering for a taste of Singapore.
BOON TONG KEE
Tomas Morato Avenue, Quezon City
(Across Il Terrazo, near ABS-CBN)