Photos by Star Sabroso
With almost every new restaurant focusing on offering something new or something “Instagrammable” just to attract diners, it’s good to know that there are still some that prioritize what’s truly important to stay afloat in this competitive business – good food made with fresh ingredients.
“If you don’t have quality, fresh ingredients, I don’t think you can come out with something that’s good. Because that’s the basic and that’s the only way,” Teresa “Tiki” Dula Laurel told The Standard Life.
And good food is what Tiki has been offering in her restaurant ever since it opened in 1999.
Tiki and her late brother Rod Dula founded Mama Rosa 17 years ago to honor their mother, Rosa Eco Dula. But before there were tables and chairs and plates, Mama Rosa a decade earlier was already a brand of innovative bottled sauces which Tiki made. These sauces: bagoong, soy wasabi, balsamic vinaigrette, etc. were then offered in the restaurant and used in most of the dishes until Mama Rosa closed down in 2006 when Tiki was diagnosed with glaucoma.
But Tiki had always wanted to relaunch Mama Rosa. Fom Timog and Eastwood – the former locations of the two Mama Rosa branches – the restaurant reopened in the burgeoning food district in Kapitolyo, Pasig City in 2015.
“I just live around the corner – a five-minute walk from here. One morning I saw this place and thought it was the right size for me [to start again],” she shares.
The reopening of Mama Rosa was well-received by its loyal patrons. “They’re really happy that we’re back. I’m happy that some of our old customers seek us out when they found out that we are open again,” says Tiki.
But Mama Rosa’s long hiatus was not a wasted time as Tiki used the downtime to further develop the sauces and dishes to offer to returning and new clients.
For instance, the Kinilaw na Isda which was previously made one way now comes in three variants – with green mango and gata (coco cream), with salted duck’s egg and black beans, and with cucumber, radish and kamias. There’s also the new crowd favorite Sinaing na Tulingan in Olive oil which is made of bullet tuna steamed in olive oil and cooked with capers and dried kamias.
Along with new and improved offerings are Mama Rosa’s signature dishes that made the restaurant a hit when it first opened to diners. The menu still has Pako and Suha salad made of fiddlehead fern, pomelo chunks, julienned jicama and heart of palm drizzled with a generous serving of the fresh Mama Rosa Honey-Kalamansi-Wasabi dressing; the tasty Guinataang Sigarillas whose basic ingredients of sauteed wing beans with tinapa (smoked fish) simmered in coconut cream result in a heady mix of sumptuous flavors; and the heavenly Leche Flan which is infused with limon de China, among a couple more other Filipino dishes.
It is evident in her dishes that Tiki prefers to serve Filipino food in traditional fashion but supplements them with creative, unconventional ingredients – something that she advocates in this age when many restaurants get away with dishes whose impressive presentations don’t compensate for the lack of flavors.
“I don’t do fusion, I just innovate,” avers Tiki, citing for example Mama Rosa’s Binagoongang Baboy, which is made of bacon-cut pork belly instead of the usual lechon kawali.
But she understands the way the market runs today. When people go to the Internet or their social networking sites to check out restaurants, having pretty photos and positive reviews are crucial for a restaurant to get more customers.
“I notice that we’re losing the essence of Filipino food when we’re just focusing on making them visually pleasing. For instance, my niece always tells me that we should always make our dishes ‘Instagrammable’ and in turn I tell her that if I only work on making my food ‘Instagrammable,’ would my customers from 10 years ago come back?” shares Tiki.
The restaurateur believes that the challenge for the food business today is not so much on serving good food but marketing it the way it should be marketed. And when restaurants are fighting for the most creative plating or the most innovative fusion, the bottomline should always be great quality and delicious taste.
And while Mama Rosa benefits from the traditional word-of-mouth in attracting new patrons and those who are coming back years after – with company in tow – the restaurant has also evolved to go with the changing times. “I have a social media manager and we’re very active on Facebook,” shares Tiki.
Apart from strengthening their online presence, Tiki and her strong R&D team continuously develop more dishes and more sauces (such as Pickled Chillies and Neptuna sauce) “that can help preserve Filipino food” and keep the memories of Mama Rosa alive.
Mama Rosa restaurant is located at 9 East Capitol Drive, Kapitolyo, Pasig City, and is open daily from 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. For updates and more information, visit MAMA ROSA Restaurant on Facebook.
COMMENT DISCLAIMER: Reader comments posted on this Web site are not in any way endorsed by Manila Standard. Comments are views by manilastandard.net readers who exercise their right to free expression and they do not necessarily represent or reflect the position or viewpoint of manilastandard.net. While reserving this publication’s right to delete comments that are deemed offensive, indecent or inconsistent with Manila Standard editorial standards, Manila Standard may not be held liable for any false information posted by readers in this comments section.