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Manila, evenings and Uncle Cheffy nostalgia


Manila, evenings and Uncle Cheffy nostalgia

Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury

This was my second trip to the Philippines within a gap of two months. In Manila city, Malate is an area with a heavy presence of cuisines of various tastes and choices, including some very authentic Arabian, Italian, Chinese and Filipino restaurants. Though I am not a very big food lover still I always try to find the best suitable dishes whenever I visit any new country. To me, the Philippines was certainly an unexplored place. One evening, after dinner, a local friend said: “do you like shisha?” Casually I replied, why not. For the first time, I had been introduced to shisha back in 1997 in Bangkok. That too was an Arabian restaurant. In my own city, Dhaka, there has been mushroom growth of “shisha bar” since 2009, I could not manage time to visit any. When my Filipino friend uttered the word shisha, it brought me back to the memory of 1997. We walked into a restaurant – more precisely, the verandah of a restaurant, where I saw lots of people enjoying their shisha with the live performances of the singer. In the hot and humid summer evening of Manila, I would generally avoid any place without air-conditioning as I am a bit allergic to hot weather. But the fragrance of shisha combined with spicy dishes compelled me in occupying a table. Then a man appeared in front of us with a mesmeric smile. His name is Nats Rufino. Within minutes I realized, the entire team of Uncle Cheffy simply has mastered the qualities of magnetically attracting their customers. I forgot it was a restaurant. Instead, it gave me the feeling of being at home or at least in a place surrounded by friends and buddies.

Do people go to the restaurant just to meet their hunger? No. restaurants are more than food on plates. The chef and the team are masters of an elaborate illusion spanning from hospitality to nourishment. They dedicate themselves to the customers who purchase their services and thus create an environment in which dinner or lunch restores more than just their nutrients.

Restaurants are places of congregation and communication. They’re public yet very private rooms in which many people might feel more at ease than at home when in certain company. They’re equalizers – the executive with six houses and the employee with a mortgage underwater get the same chairs, the same plates, and the same food.

To most of us, who are frequent travelers, restaurants provide shelter and entertainment. Restaurants are varied in their cuisines and delivery. Plus, no matter how hard we try, the chef always considers him or herself as better than others and that is the key point that would attract customers. Sometime, a great restaurant would turn us a bit lazy – and that is nothing negative. We love spending time in laziness enjoying the atmosphere as well as the fragrance of food and the surroundings. Sure, laziness plays a role. Just as driving a car 10 miles to work is lazy because you could get up two hours earlier and run to work every day and back. Or as using a washer/drier instead of going down to the river.

Going to restaurants is supposed to be one of the most loved activities worldwide. Everyone would love to visit his or her favorite restaurant every now and then. Food aficionados enjoy exploring new restaurants. Going to a restaurant could be a great family outing and everyone loves to spend quality time with friends and family at a restaurant, eating good food amidst a warm and friendly ambiance. Generally, people love to go back to a restaurant again and again because of the food, the service, the aesthetic ambiance and of course, the x-factor which could be from chefs to simply the exclusivity.

The most common reason why people love to go to restaurants even though it involves spending money on food. It could be the greatest motivator. People love having delectable dishes conjured up by highly talented and creative chefs. Dishes in a restaurant are supposed to be the masterful creations of expert chefs who have been trained thoroughly to master these dishes and get the perfect taste. Some restaurants thrive completely due to the reputation and expertise of their chefs while some others take immense pride in carrying forward for generations, a gastronomical tradition that has been made really famous by the founder of Uncle Cheffy.

Manager of the restaurant, Nats said, “Here we treat our guests as a family”, and he is absolutely correct. Each of the staffs will be delightedly serving the customers with a mesmeric smile. I possibly hardly have seen such a wonderful team of staff in any of the restaurants in the world.

Uncle Cheffy is a restaurant with distinctive differences. Here people go not only for eating – they go there for spending quality time and refreshing themselves from mental and physical stress. I and my Filipino friend spent almost two hours at Uncle Cheffy and when we were leaving, I told myself – next evening I must come back.

It is important to mention here that, while visiting a foreign country, most of the people try to find a place, where they can spend evenings in most cases, not only for enjoying food but also to refresh their mind. At Uncle Cheffy I have discovered the right place. Most importantly, none of the customers of the restaurant are left unattended or ignored. The team Uncle Cheffy will show equal attention and dedication to each of the tables – each of the customers. And in return, they only expect the customers to come back again. I haven’t seen even a single customer of Uncle Cheffy leaving with a sad face. They leave with absolute satisfaction. That is the specialty of this place.

And about food? The Iraqi chef is another magician. Each of his dishes are mouth-watering and delicious. No one possibly can complain about any of the items prepared by him.

Whenever I will go back to Manila, no matter how tight are my schedules, I will not miss the opportunity of visiting Uncle Cheffy.

Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury is an internationally acclaimed multi-award-winning journalist and editor of Blitz. Follow him on Twitter at Salah_Shoaib

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