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”Brunch” Beyond Brunch

How this restaurant, best known for serving food meant for late mornings, is fast becoming a day-to-night crowd pleaser.

WORDS BY KENDRICK GO | IMAGES BY ADEN MICHAEL MANALO

T hat Wednesday at around 2 in the afternoon, a colleague and I decided to have “brunch.”

We went to an establishment in BF Homes, Parañaque for that and, apparently, we weren’t the only ones who had the idea to go there. When we arrived at the location, we eventually saw a group of people who looked to be in their mid-20s occupying one of the tables. Near them, a much older crowd—retirees in leisure from the looks of them—called dibs on chairs near their juniors: a group of people who seemed to be in the midst of a business meeting. It was a dense and varied crowd, a sight that urged me to check my phone for the time. Indeed, it was roughly 2 PM on a weekday—a slow hour for a lot of dining establishment in Metro Manila. Yet, there we were, surrounded by a lot of people. And this, according to its owner, has been the welcome norm.

“Most of the time, we are full of people,” said Joy Lim, the establishment’s owner. “The problem is sometimes peoples stay long so [the turnover is slow] but it really is designed that way.”

“It” is a place called Brunch, a casual dining establishment offering—as its name suggests—brunch-worthy dining options from late mornings to evenings. It also has a deli allowing customers to take home the establishment’s products and a wine bar with a selection that cannot be easily bought elsewhere in the country. Launched during the middle of this year, the place has been visibly well-received and it’s largely due to its menu: a collection of hearty, painstakingly made-from-scratch dishes retelling the extensive culinary pursuits of Joy and her family.

Before the launch of Brunch, circa-1997, Joy was involved in the bottling business supplying goods for various food ventures and dining establishments in the country. Her family also set up several restaurants including “My Angel’s Kitchen” in Greenhills which Joy sold after her son, Brunch’s current chef, Charles Lim, went to the United States for college. And now, Brunch is a culmination of all the years this family has spent conceptualizing dining experiences and memorable flavors. It is a summary, if you will, of all the food-related work they’ve been putting in since the late 90s.

“People who come here can experience our culinary journey over the years,” Joy said. “That’s why you notice a lot of name brands on the menu.” A testament to this is the “Trellis Truffle Pot Roast.” A favorite of Chef Charles, this 325 PHP dish features a garlicky, fork-tender serving of beef accentuated by the nutty flavor provided by the truffle.  Then there’s one of the restaurant’s bestsellers, “My Angel’s Kitchen Soft Shell Tempura Salad (also 325 PHP,) a mix of jicama, tomato, alfalfa, and mango sesame vinaigrette. Another favorite is the “Trellis Seafood Chowder;” a 175 PHP bowl that comes with a generous serving of firmly textured seafood, well-seasoned with a sweet aftertaste. These are just some of the many dishes that speak on behalf of Brunch’s rich heritage of flavors—the culprits behind its growing popularity in the south.

“We opened in June so we put in the bestsellers from the restaurants we used to handle,” said Chef Charles. But this isn’t the only reason why people have been coming in nor is it the only reason why a lot of them stay longer than expected.

As its name suggests, Brunch serves a mix of painstakingly made-from-scratch comfort food partly responsible for its rising popularity in the South.

B runch may be a new dining experience in Parañaque but the Lim family has long been working on the recipe behind it. An earlier iteration of the concept began seven years ago when Joy, a yoga enthusiast, started Yogi Brunch which is a line of gluten-free and vegan bottled products. This is why Brunch’s deli allows guests to take home a number of the restaurant’s dining options. Meanwhile, the idea for its menu to be composed mostly of brunch items is a homegrown concoction inspired by the family’s custom of having guests over.

“At my house, whenever I invite people it’s always brunch,” Joy said. “This place is just an extension of our home.” As a result, Brunch has become something of a profile on the family, one that describes not just what they serve on the table, but how they live. Visit the place and immediately one can see a prominent love for white and blue, an aesthetic choice favored by Chef Charles. The design of the place’s homey interiors, meanwhile, speaks of the family’s love for the “shabby chic,” the extensive wood collection of Joy’s husband, and the family’s other interests. “The stuff you see here are the things we acquired from our travels over the years,” she explained. “All of our glasses are from Bangkok, for example.” And then there’s the family’s desire to bring people together. They do that in their home through gatherings and now, with Brunch, they can pursue this even further. Thanks to the place’s size—no more than 50 square meters—the venue has a relaxed and intimate atmosphere that inspires conversations among its guests.

“As you can see everyone knows each other here so you get the feeling of home that I won’t get if I eat somewhere else,” Chef Charles said. “[We get surprised.] One person gets one table, another gets a table, they get to talk and, next thing we know, they are already in business together.”

All things considered, there is a lot of thought put into the place. There is also an obvious pursuit for high-quality; a virtue evidenced by the extra lengths the Lims and their staff tend to go through in order to produce their offerings.

For starters, order anything that uses marinara sauce and what you will taste is a labor of love. “For the sauce, we really use fresh tomatoes,” Joy said. “It takes our staff, like, around six hours to make since we make them in batches of 20 to 30 kilos.” Aside from this, the tomatoes are also organic, produced through the efforts of farmers Joy has been supporting over the years. The group’s idealism extends beyond this. It also aims to support independent producers by opening up its deli and wine bar as platforms for them to sell their products.

“We are building a community and we want to be the community deli,” Chef Charles said. “I tell the people ‘if you guys know anyone who has a product without an avenue to sell, they can bring them here.’ We can put them here; we can offer them the shelves and the freezers.”

As a result, Brunch is a source of unique consumables, a trait that adds to its appeal. And, it does have quite the appeal, it seems.

(Left to right) Chef Charles Lim and his mother Joy, the minds behind Brunch.

S ince opening, the small but enterprising Brunch has been getting a lot of positive feedback by way of patronage. It has only been a few months since the place has launched but already it has hosted a number of gatherings—from birthday parties to baptisms, to baby showers. On regular days, meanwhile, it continues to be a popular venue for various people. What this will lead to, only time will tell. Nevertheless, Joy and her family appear happy with where they currently stand.

“We were able to achieve our vision of being a neighborhood restaurant at an early stage,” she said. “As you can see it’s quite packed even on weekdays.”

And it stays packed throughout most of the day even though, as its name suggests, it mostly serves food commonly eaten late in the morning.

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