Wednesday, November 23, 2016


There is one thing about owning the Filipino palate. It is distinct and confident. It is a fusion of so many cultures which fires up its limitless potential in creating and discovering a new taste for a lot to enjoy.

For my birthday month, I recently visited Los Angeles in pursuit of additional learning in writing. But I was blessed to also make an interview happen with a former classmate in primary school who owns Rice Bar located at 419 7th St., Los Angeles, CA 90014, USA.

The last time I got hold of him was when he was pursuing a career in Biology following his parents' steps whom all varsity players owe their lives following an injury at the University of Santo Tomas since they are both doctors. Back when we were barely teenagers, Charles would invite our group of friends to play football at their garden but little did he know, I was actually looking forward to sitting down, taking a relaxing moment over pastries at their house and a glass of delicious orange juice. I don't know what's in that juice but it was like no other. My childhood days was so fun because of the casual play time at their home.

And then I came across an article featuring his food and I was struck in awe. Because it was such a huge shift. And I couldn't be prouder that he stood up for what he really is called to do. As I aim to do a feature successful entrepreneurs whom I personally know, I thought I had to know his story and above all, taste the food.

Rice Bar stood simply between a convenience store and a jewellery shop. This 275-square-foot wide space transforms Charles' memory of food from home cooked by their helper back in the Philippines into life. As he made us taste familiar dishes sparkled with his own magic, it represents the typical dining experience in the Philippines, particularly in Manila. The L shaped bar holds 7 yellow stools offering a what-you-see-is-what-you-get vibe. It's the typical home setting in a kitchen. Imagine when you would wake up early and go to the kitchen and your mom would ask you, "Would you want to have something to eat?". As soon as you say yes, mom would instantly be pacing back and forth in preparation as you sit and wait by the counter. You make casual talk and then you get hold of the comfort food just as how you want it to be. That's it! That's how I felt looking at my childhood friend prepare Rice Bar's bests.

Pork Longganisa
is Philippines' own sausage...
My sister and I had a struggle in choosing because we actually liked everything there is in the menu. There's just the two of us and her baby so, we opted for the two dishes we haven't tasted in a long time. And that we would just try to critic by sharing both of our orders to each other.

The home made Pork Longganisa was prepared sweet and spicy with pickled vegetables and garlic crumbs. This is her ultimate favourite since when we were young. Atop the garlic rice, are the pork longganisa and a sunny egg. This is one of the famous breakfast sets that you would encounter in the Philippines. And we missed this terribly. Usually, there would be vinegar on the side to tickle your senses and highlight the kicking spice of the pepper enriched sausage.

On the other hand, I ordered for Bisteg Tagalog, also a favourite of both my sister's and mine. And it certainly exceeded my expectation. You see, here in Hong Kong, calamansi is seldom used in cooking. They use it for its fragrant properties and to drive away mosquitoes but Chef Charles knew far better to use it in cooking this special dish. Soy Marinated Black Angus beef is pan seared with red onions, squeezed of Calamansi and is completed with Kalinga Unoy (sun dried rice). It is a struggle to  find this authentic taste in Hong Kong and it's funny how after all this years, I had to be reminded of that homey feel it comes with.

My sister and I turned into hyenas because it was late lunch already at that time and we only went for an hour of parking 2 blocks away from Rice Bar. For a moment, we felt like we were in a turn-turo, a convenient eatery, in the Philippines since my younger sister and I had a lot of moments eating in one when we were in college. To the tune of famous Filipino bands like Parokya ni Edgar, Eraserheads and Bamboo, we munched our food all the way and were given a treat of Tinolang Manok by the chef and were welcomed to a sauce counter where the patis, suka, and toyomansi were readily available.

Dishes of decent size at a
prize range of
US$9 up.

Tinolang Manok is a chicken ginger soup that is complimented by green papaya and some pechay (Tagalog term for Chinese cabbage). After a good hearty meal, desserts are available in the form of home made rice crispies in vanilla, lime and marshmallow and the one I missed the most was Iced Buko. This place explodes of everything that is familiar yet each dish is infused with fresh presentation ideas. I took in the rest of my food with Rice Bar's Stumptown Cold Brew.

It's such a great way to get hold of Chef Charles since he is roaming right in front of you minding other orders and cooking at the same time so I took my chance. Watch this clip for a general idea of Rice Bar's vibe.


So many write ups had been written about Charles rise from being a humble culinary student to becoming executive chef at 23. He was brave enough to chase his dreams that no matter what obstacle he had faced, he was head on to fulfilling them.

He was studying Biology to follow his parents' footsteps of being in the medical field but he wanted a different kind of expectation from him so he discovered his own niche. He saw himself being broke yet wanting to fulfill a career in the culinary arts. He never saw that as an obstacle. His experiences run from Ritz Carlton in Half Moon Bay to Restaurant Guy Savoy in Las Vegas to French Laundry (awarded the best restaurant in the world twice) to a San Jose family-run bistro to finally in Patina. If you would see the flow, it is interestingly diverse because of his hunger for a perspective.

In Patina, he got trained by Executive Chef Tony Esnault for 2 years. Patina, the fine dining restaurant hall in Disney hall's gorgeous silvery box had him cooking for 4 years. Eventually, he succeeded his mentor as the Executive Chef at the age of 30. At 32, he opened up Rice Bar and at 33, Charles' blessings continue to pour as he informs us that his son was 4 days old. And he was very happy about it that he had special treats on the house for these people.

"Hey guys! I just had a son and because of that, I have something for you all!"
I am more than proud of him in going all the way into creating what he can call his. Way to go Charles! You inspire us all!

Related posts:

1. SO THAI SO GOOD - Thai food always intrigues me. Check out the location of where I left my heart recently for a good Pad Thai experience.

2. FLOI WYCOCO a.k.a MR. INVESTOR - here's another inspiring story of a Filipino who strives to pursue his advocacy of making a #financiallyliteratePH.

3. AGAINST UST - Read how this girl is so anti-UST, it went viral!

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