LECHON. It is the centerpiece of every Filipino celebration. While different places have their own versions of this world-famous Filipino roast pig, perhaps the most popular and well-loved is Cebu lechon. Locals love it so much that they have made it a part of every celebration. Visitors, meanwhile, make it a foodie habit to eat lechon whenever they are in Cebu and to bring home kilos upon kilos of it as pasalubong for family and friends.
Among the most famous lechon brands in Cebu is Rico’s Lechon, which a lot of people consider as the best. This is why quite a number of Metro Manilans (and even lechon lovers from other parts of the country) even order Rico’s lechon from Cebu and have it flown in to Manila for special occasions in their lives.
The good news is that there is no need to hop on a plane—or make a lechon get on a plane—to enjoy Rico’s lechon anymore. Rico’s Lechon, the home of Cebu’s best lechon, has now come to Manila with the opening of its first Manila store at The Fort Strip in Bonifacio Global City, Taguig, last 3 August. Brought in by Meat Concepts Corporation, Rico’s Lechon brings in its famed cooks and roasting team from Cebu to make sure the quality of its lechon in Manila is the same as its famous lechon in Cebu.
Occupying a sprawling space that seats 180 persons in its main dining room, Rico’s Lechon’s flagship restaurant in Manila serves exactly the same lechon as the chain does in its hometown Cebu. It houses a spacious glass-walled Roasting Pit where people, even non-customers, can watch the lechoneros roast up to 10 pigs all at the same time. The quality of the lechon is even better than one that is flown in from Cebu because it is freshly roasted and thus keeps the crispiness and crunch of its skin and the juicy tenderness of its meat. It sells for P900 per kilogram of regular lechon and P950 per kilogram of its spicy variant. Yes, it has a spicy variant. Spicy Lechon happens to be an invention of Rico’s Lechon in Cebu.
The lechon of Rico’s is a cut above the rest because it makes use of only native pigs, its secret stuffing and “marination” locks flavors in the meat, and its slow-roasting process—which takes all of 3-1/2 hours—guarantees the qualities of a perfectly golden, juice and flavorful lechon. It is served not with the usual lechon sauce made from liver but with sukalami, which is a concoction of vinegar with chili, garlic, onion and other herbs, spices and condiments. As it goes perfectly with lechon, sukalami has become so popular these days that it is now bottled and sold at P140 per bottle.
Now in Manila through the efforts of its new owner George Pua, president of Meat Concepts Corp., Rico’s Lechon is turning out to be a big hit among lechon lovers in the metro this early. Positioning itself as a full-fledged Filipino restaurant, it will be serving not just its famous Cebu lechon but the whole core menu of Rico’s Lechon. Besides Dinuguan (which utilizes the blood of the pig slaughtered for roasting) and Chicharon Bulaklak (which puts to good use the innards of the pig), the menu includes a number of lechon-related dishes, such as Lechon Paksiw, Lechon Humba, Crispy Feetchon (deep-fried knuckles), Prichon (fried lechon) and Lechon Sisig.
The menu also carries a wide variety of Filipino dishes, including Bam-I, Sizzling Squid, Bulalo, Grilled Pork Liempo, Chicken Inasal, Camaron Rebusado, Monggos, Sizzling Tanigue, Pusit na Pinaputok, Pancit Canton, Chopsuey, Adobong Kangkong, Calamares Prito and Gising-Gising, plus three interesting variants of Kare-Kare in Beef Tripe Kare-Kare, Pork Pata Kare-Kare and Seafood Kare-Kare.
One of the restaurant’s signature dishes is the Trio Fried Rice, which is available in solo and platter portions. Not your usual fried rice, it contains three kinds of dried fish—danggit, tuyo and tinapa.
Now that the flagship restaurant in Manila has opened its doors to the dining public, Rico’s Lechon is now building its commissary and finalizing details for the construction of four more stores that are due to open before the year ends. These are located at Tiendesitas in Pasig, Glorietta in Makati, and Ayala Malls Cloverleaf and U.P. Town Center in Quezon City.
More are expected to open in 2019 following four store models—a kiosk, which is a purely chopping area, is all takeout and no dine-in; a small restaurant with a limited menu with lechon and 10 other cooked items; a full restaurant, with a full menu of 30 items or more; and a flagship restaurant, which carries the entire menu and houses a Roasting Pit and a Sugba area for grilling meats and seafood. The commissary will be done by October this year, and construction on the Tiendesitas branch has commenced. Soon, the rest will follow and once reestablished in Cebu and stabilized in Manila, Rico’s Lechon will be setting off to conquer other places in the country and expanding not just in terms of stores but also product lines.
“I’ve been a patron of Rico’s Lechon for years and personally believe it’s the best. “We want to be able to have Cebuanos take pride in sharing this with the rest of the country and eventually the world,” says Pua.