Practically every balikbayan I’ve ever known in my life has hankered for the sweet-but-savory taste of the barbecued chicken at The Aristocrat, that bastion of Pinoy cuisine that has satisfied the voracious appetites of several generations. It’s practically the first thing – well, save for sinigang na baboy, I guess – they demand to eat almost as soon as they get off the plane. Fortunately, one need not trek off all the way to Malate to get a taste of this divine bit of roasted fowl.
Reyes Barbecue stalls can now be found in practically every mall in the Greater Manila Area and there’s even a stand-alone resto along Tomas Morato in Quezon City.
This particular chain is run – obviously – by the Reyeses, the same clan of powerhouse cooks who brought the Mama Sita food line and The Aristocrat to life. Unlike The Aristocrat, though, the chain concentrates on just about everything that can be cooked on a grill – and they do that spectacularly well.
Case in point: the chicken barbecue plate (P 89.00) at the top of this post. Virtually boneless, save for the wingtip on one side, the chicken is absolutely moist, tender, and flavorful. Paired with the sweetish achara (shredded pickled papaya) and a small tub of the classic Reyes Clan peanut sauce, it’s almost criminally good.
Same thing goes for the pork offerings. Skewers of pork barbecue are a trifle pricey at P 32.00 per skewer, but are so deliciously meaty and tender that they are worth it. The grilled liempo [pork belly] plate (P 98.00) is another excellent choice. You get a proper half-slab of char-grilled belly that’s almost meltingly tender to the bite, not too fatty, and totally flavorful.
They also offer grilled squid stuffed with onions and tomatoes and bangus [milkfish] belly, but I’ve yet to sample those. I do recommend their eggplant salad, though. Grilled eggplants are peeled, chopped up, mixed with onions and tomatoes, and flavored with vinegar. It gives a perfectly sour counterpoint to the sweet, sauce-drenched meat.
My sole complaint is that the Java rice served with the meats is a little substandard. Otherwise, I get blissed out every time I order from a Reyes stall.