A Momentous 5th

With an unprecedented growth in the last five years—on the average opening one restaurant every 70 days—The Moment Group is showing no signs of slowing down. If anything, it is gearing up for an even faster expansion, and with eyes on showcasing some of its brands on the international scene.

“We are growing pretty fast. And I don’t think we’re stopping any time soon. If we can open one restaurant every 45 days, that would be a happy challenge,” said Abba Napa, one of the three hungry dreamers who founded TMG with Eli Antonino and Jon Syjuco.

“The mindset of Filipino diners has changed in the last 10 years, and that is very exciting for us. Eating and dining out is not just for nourishment but a social experience now, so you can push the envelope when it comes to creating dishes. I guess we are all foodies at heart,” she added.

Steak aburi maki from Ooma. The Japanese casual restaurant is under the helm of The Moment Group, which is marking its 5th anniversary with a record of opening one restaurant every 70 days.
TMG currently has 10 brands in its portfolio in 27 locations, with revenues growing by over 60 percent year-on-year in the past half-decade.

“The dream is to make it to 50 and build Moment to become something that can be constantly creating value and adding value to our industry, our dining scene and even to our society,” Napa said.

Napa led a small group of food writers last week for a seven restaurant-swing at Bonifacio Global City – the place where TMG began in 2012 with its first concept restaurant, Cue Modern Barbecue, which has since closed but, who knows, could one day return.

The tour began at 8 Cuts, the pioneer in the better burger category and the first to offer handcrafted burgers with a full service. 8 Cuts brand manager Ian Palabyab served secret menu items, such as the special stacks sliders as well as new flavors of the onion rings which have gained cult-like following among return patrons.

Chocolate xiaolongbao – an innovation from the Philippine team of Din Tai Fung, and sumptuous pork sisisg from Manam’s.
Phat Pho Manila, a partnership with Cebu’s Abaca Group, served grilled shrimp goi con, chicken satay, and the runaway winner of a dish Angus beef satay that was tender and flavorful, while Ooma, TMG’s innovative Japanese casual restaurant, prepared ebi and kani aburi and steak aburi maki. Mecha Uma’s camo onigiri, on the other hand, showed how Chef Bruce Ricketts intelligently combines ingredients that one would not immediately think would work together: chicken strips, egg, and umeboshi (pickled plum).

Din Tai Fung, a five-time Michelin Star awarded half-century-old Taiwanese brand with its world-famous xiaolongbao, rolled out new menu items that were prepared by its Philippine team: crispy chicken cutlet, stir-fried beef with scallions, three-cup chicken, crispy seafood noodles, mushroom fried rice, and chocolate lava xiaolongbao (this, in particular, was so well-received that it is now being served in other Din Tai Fung branches in Taiwan).

Manam, which offers classic and reinvented local dishes, including what is touted to be the best sisig in the capital, paired its pancit sisig with trio of bibingka – de leche, ube, and galapong of salted duck egg. Manam’s sisig, whether in its original form or as pancit topping, has consistently impressed diners – “a delicate interplay between meat, tendon and cartilage, crispy skin and fat” as Anthony Bourdain once described the perennial Filipino favorite dish.

Grass-fed cheeseburger from 8 Cuts
To cap the food crawl, we entered a regular-looking 7-11 store at the RCBC Savings Bank Corporate Center. Inside is a secret door, where rows and rows of Jufran ketchup, Mang Tomas sarsa, and Datu Puti soy sauce and vinegar would greet the uninitiated. At the end of the dimly lit passageway, one thick velvet curtain away, is the Gatsby-like Bank Bar, listed by CNN as one of the “7 Most Intriguing Speakeasies in the World” that serves the most extensive range of liquors, spirits, and cocktails in the city. 

“When we create concepts, the process comes from a place that is emotional and personal. It is not about trends, but about cuisine that we love,” said Napa, while lounging at Bank Bar and looking every inch a five-year winner. “We want our restaurants to stand the test of time.”

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Topics: A Momentous 5th , The Moment Group , Abba Napa , TMG , Eli Antonino , Jon Syjuco

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