First look: Sabao, the Filipino soup bar

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COCONUTS HOT SPOT — Sabao is the name, and soup is the game. The Mothership group, who are behind Pink Panda and The Red Light, has launched a new project yet again.

Just weeks after opening seafood restaurant Bait’s and healthy food joint Sprout, this hardworking company is giving people something to be bowled over.
Sabao is a Filipino soup bar. “This is how we would like to present Filipino food to the world,” says Erwan Heusaff of the Mothership group. “Vietnam has pho. Japan has ramen. And Singapore has laksa. Filipinos have sabaw, which is super flavorful, using techniques and ingredients that you don’t usually find in soups.”
He adds, “My chef friends abroad who come here to the Philippines and try our sinigang with sampaloc are amazed by it. But each time we export our food, it’s always the fatty stuff, which is great but I don’t think is that interesting.” 

Erwan did his homework and studied why our soup is good (“The process is there. They are cooked for long hours.”) and why it isn’t (“They lose texture because everything is cooked at the same time.”). From there, he took to the drawing board and came up with an ingenious idea on how to address both: a choose-your-own-adventure type of soup that can be transformed into a filling and satisfying meal.

Sinigang with hefty slices of pork belly

You start off by choosing your soup. There are five to choose from, all of which are made from scratch and for 16 hours. There’s Bulalo, Tinola, Sinigang, Molo and Binakol. Each comes with a medley of vegetables and meat. The Sinigang, for example, is composed of sampaloc sambal, roasted tomatoes, red radish, pickled sibuyas tagalog, kang kong, grilled eggplant, grilled siling haba, tamarind broth, and your choice between pork belly, shrimp or for vegetarians, just plain veg.
From there, you are made to decide between eating your bowl with rice (brown, red or garlic white) or noodles (sotanghon, canton or misua). Then, you proceed to the add-ons: bawang chips, baked saging na saba, toge, and balat ng manok, to name a few.


Encased in glass, floor-to-ceiling


Playful design using native materials

If you don’t feel like having soup, Sabao also has a roster of noodle/rice bowls (the Mochiko with the rice flour-battered chicken with sampaloc glaze and spiced honey piques my curiosity the most), platitos, which include pan-seared molo and beef salpicao, or its range of baos like the chicken adobao.
The chefs and the brains behind the group obviously played around with tradition and perhaps, even polished it a bit. And while that can be risky, especially among protective Pinoys, this restaurant unarguably breathes new life to dishes we otherwise can just enjoy in our own homes.

Sabao’s creativity and novel concept, I believe, are enough reason for us to try it out, indulge on something unique yet familiar, and slurp away.

Sabao is scheduled to open later this week.
Sabao, G/F, Signa Designer Residences, Valero cor Rufino Street, Salcedo Village, Makati; 11am-11pm ; +63 917 5818969.

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