Chef JP Anglo Does Modern Filipino Dining
The celebrity chef combines his love for city and surf at SarsaDecember 10, 2015 by Joanna Francisco
He is widely known for his surfer lifestyle. But the 36-year-old JP Anglo is too busy to take off to the world famous surf spot Siargao these days. What the man is famous for is as a celebrity chef, mostly due to his stint as judge on the local franchise of the television competition show MasterChef. And what keeps Chef JP Anglo too busy to surf is his own restaurant Sarsa, highly regarded for its Negrense cuisine, as well as the demand for his growing number of other restaurants. He recently opened two spots in prime areas of Makati within several weeks of each other, including a new contemporary concept called Kafe Batwan.
Everything grew quickly for Sarsa after the instant success of its first restaurant in Manila. Now he occupies a space at Forum in Taguig's Bonifacio Global City (BGC). Anglo’s cooking earned him instant credibility in the industry, with glowing reviews from the press and a celebrity following soon after opening.
“Clinton Palanca came on the fourth day and we were shocked,” he recalls. Food critic Palanca was impressed, writing “excellent molo soup, batchoy and inasal about 500 km closer to home.” Plus, the prices were affordable.
Anglo studied and trained at Le Cordon Bleu in Australia within an intense five-year period, which he says gave him discipline and a good foundation in kitchen habits.
His boyhood years were spent in the Philippine southern province of Negros in Bacolod City, a region known for its rich cuisine. “I really don’t want to reinvent the wheel. Here at Sarsa we have Filipino and Negrense [Negros island native] classics. We’re just a bit more playful with them, “ he says. “Our food is relaxed, fun. Growing up in Bacolod, I’m used to hearty meals. I’m not used to fine dining or molecular gastronomy, or courses.”
“People say the food is good. They keep coming back. So that’s a good thing,” he says, unassumingly.
One of his innovations at Sarsa is the lechon manok pancit canton (roast chicken with canton noodles), the classic dish to which he added extra crunch with Boy Bawang (a local garlic snack brand), just for fun. “Our pancit palabok [noodles with shrimp sauce] is your classic palabok, with XO sauce. But XO is a Chinese sauce traditionally made of dried scallops, chinese ham, garlic, and chili. We made it Filipino using dried squid, tuyo [dried fish], and dried longganisa [suasage], to accompany the palabok sauce,” he says.
His exposure to Chinese food came from family. “My grandfather is Chinese, so my upbringing is somewhat ‘chi-noy’ (Chinese-Filipino). My aunt was a very good cook. So our style of cooking here has that Asian style, that chi-noy aspect, which I think makes it unique.”
On the short one-page menu, more of Chef JP’s culinary creativity is showcased in dishes like Tortang Talong (eggplant omelette) with kesong puti (carabao milk cheese), Crispy Squid marinated in milk, Sinigang Fried Chicken, and the popular chicken inasal (marinated roast) which he mixed with another Philippine mainstay, sisig (sizzling pork cheeks and liver). “We’re proud to say we are the inventors of the inasal sisig,” he says, one of the big hits.
Sarsa is of course, a Tagalog word that means sauce, and the restaurant offers some interesting ones. “We like to play with our sauces. We don’t want to disturb the [classic] dishes, because they’re good already. But we make sauces to compliment. We have a lechon kawali [fried pork belly] with two sauces, a chocolate sauce using tablea [native chocolate tablets] and in case you’re not too crazy about the chocolate, there’s pinakurat [vinegar]. Because fat… crispy pork—and chocolate—works!” he says.
The restaurant interiors show a fresh version of a hacienda home, with colorful Machuka tiles that are used in these stately homes in Negros. His sister Tracie, who is one of his business partners, supervised the look of the place together with designer Gabby Lichauco of Open Studio. “It’s a modern approach to Filipino family style dining. It has a beach-y vibe because of our personality,” he says, pointing out the surfboard that stands by the entrance.
For an unforgettable culinary experience for foreign tourists, Anglo recommends the experience of an island feast. “I would tell them to go see me,”
he says, with a smile. “[I would] Take them to Siargao, or Bacolod. I’d serve a boodle fight. Latag mo sa saging [You lay everything on banana leaves], just put everything there, eat with your hands. I’ll serve them kinilaw [ceviche], grilled pork, guinamos fried rice. It’s great, if you do it properly.”
Anglo lives around the block from Sarsa in BGC and loves it. He sometimes rides his skateboard to work, or cruises on his blue Vespa to hang out with other restaurateur-chefs in the neighborhood, including Wildflour to buy bread, or chilling with Erwan Heusaff at Niner Ichi Nana or Bruce Ricketts at Mecha Uma. Not too bad for a day’s work in the city.
Sarsa Kitchen and Bar is at 7th Ave cor 25th St., Forum, Bonifacio Global City. For reservations and inquiries, call 02-8660912 and 0927-7060773