By Michael Karlo Lim
NEW restaurants have the challenge of making their mark among the other established and new names. It would be a struggle for many, for any, to stay open past the first two years in this ever more fickle market. To stay relevant beyond five would be no mean feat.
The historically unlucky number 13 bodes well for the homegrown Ilaputi in that they celebrate their 13th year, this year. With this luck came a lot of commitment to making each meal truly an experience. Behind the glamour of the food, the minimalist aesthetics and the hip music is a story of blood, sweat and tears holding aloft a dream of elevating the standards of the local food industry.
Ilaputi’s story goes back to owner and Executive Chef Jan Rodriguez’s childhood moniker, obviously owing to his complexion, “Puti.” Fast forward years later and it finds its way into equally humble beginnings as a karenderya operated — in all definitions of hands-on involvement — by himself and his wife Karen with only a skeletal service crew. Given a smattering of eateries right across University of San Carlos – Talamban Campus, what was a student market from the get go had several answers to the perpetual question: “Where shall we eat?” Didto sa Avalon, sa Kantina, kang Butchoy, ila Badong… Ila Puti.
Ilaputi’s following increased with the expansion of its more specialized menu and also as a space to both proverbially and literally chill in. The salaried crowd soon caught up with the college set and it didn’t take long after for its transformation to the institution that it is today. 2005 saw IT Park as the new home of the rebranded Ilaputi, the two-word former now fused into one and the old definitives meeting additional innovations.
Retaining all the old favorites, Ilaputi serves their signature Asian Soul Food as, in yet another distinction, the first and only full-service restaurant operating 24/7. In celebration of their anniversary, select local personalities and media members were invited to an intimate lunch for a review of what built the past 13 years and a preview of years to come.
Gambas, simply done in garlic and olive oil, opened the special 13-courser followed by their new dish, Gong Bao Chicken, where the smoky, savory-sweet flavor gets a kick from Schezuan Peppercorns.Inspired by sinuglaw. Overnight-marinated Garlic Pork Belly served with Coconut Vinegar Dip and Garlic Shrimp Fried Rice make up their Grilled Liempo. Grilled Chinese Chicken Jambalaya features Grilled Hoisin-glazed Chicken Breast Fillet with Five-spice Barbecue Sauce, Hungarian and Chinese Sausages in Peking-fried Rice. Saigon Adobo gets its Vietnam feel from the lemongrass-infused Tenderloin Adobo with the Nuoc Nam and Garlic-Shrimp Fried Rice. A Malaysian mock-Satay — Penang Plato, served with Coconut-Shrimp Fried Rice, cucumbers and peanut sauce, represented the Puti’s Platos line.
Jan’s Signature Sisig does sisig right with an authentic Kapampangan recipe using grilled pig’s mask, pig brain, loads of chopped garlic and onions with chili and a dusting of umami dried-fish powder. The Vietcondobo Sandwich “Viets” out soft adobo pork with an intense cilantro and basil pesto, pickled carrots and cucumbers on a wheat baguette.
Desserts are also notably absent on the regular menu but sweets of the liquid kind are available to complement the savories in their extensive lineup of signature drinks from the more tame ice blended teas, juices and smoothies to the adventurous spiked blends.
Looking at passing on the business as a legacy for their three sons, Jan and Karen never rest easy in their constant push to improve and introduce innovations to the restaurant. Karen, having left her former job of 10 years at a telco, now mothers over Ilaputi and their other concept, Irie Gastropubliko, as the Chief Operations Officer of the Ethan Irie Group.
The couple especially welcomes the involvement of their patrons and relishes the connections they make across all their social media platforms. With their tangible passion to share great overall meal experiences, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see another 13 years of Ilaputi or even more.
(Read in full on www.pornografeed.wordpress.com.)