‘Cue is bringing food back to its basics – the cooking-over-a-fire kind of basic. And its grilled offerings are but a taste of more culinary revelations to come.

THEY’RE AN INTERESTING, if highly unlikely trio, to say the least.

Jon Syjuco sells flip flops as the Philippine distributor of Havaianas. Abba Napa’s family feeds you upscale Italian food through her family’s L’Opera. And Eliza Antonino, once in public service, now delves into the Filipino end of the eating spectrum via Masas.

‘Cue Modern Barbecue

Yet they came together, this motley crew, to form the Moment Group, setting out to do soemthing a little different: not trendy, nor buzzy, but something that would, by its mere existence, enhance the local culinary scene, they went for a concept so ingrained in the Pinoy soul, creating a venue that serves the most primal of treats – meat over fire. Yes, they conceptualized a barbecue place, boldly called ‘Cue Modern Barbecue.

Now, before your eyes glaze over at lusty thoughts of smoked, slow-roasted ribs, with fat dripping sensuously down your arm – snap out of it! – it’s not entirely what you think. Sure there are ribs, but interestingly enough, it’s not ‘Cue’s spotlit superstar. There is much more to this place than baby-back.

No, the plan was to explore as many approaches to cooking meat over fire as they could – not just the way our Yankee friends do it, but everyone else, as well.

Description: Inside of Cue Modern Barbecue

Inside of Cue Modern Barbecue

From the dark recesses of their once-upon-a-time home office, hours of deliberation were put in to figure out what kind of story they wanted to tell. A trip spent noshing throught some of the best American food on this side of the world inspired ideas to play on – a highly calorific way of menu development, I would think, but, hey, it’s all in the name of research! How’s that for dedication to the cause?

It took some time for them to wrap their heads around what exactly “modern barbecue” entailed, but once they had their eureka moment, it was full steam ahead from there. So, if you care for the little nuances of what you’re eating, you’ll find some Middle Eastern touches, some Oaxacan, some Latin American fire, some good ol’ Southern American glory, and of course, riffs from Manila. Yup, their menu is more eclectic than a box of crayons.

Alongside one of their most ordered, and dare I say most “controversial” dishes, for example – an appetizer of smallish soft tacos, which you fill with grilled beef and, oh yes, bone marrow – you can find classic like mac and cheese, or a terrific Caesar salad. The super Filipino monggo gets jazzed up into a base for chili. A giant rib eye might pique your interest, or perhaps beef belly, lamb ribs, or a tender roast chicken. In the sandwiches lia some great flavours too, like a house-cured corned beef, or an unlikely, but still-delicious, grilled cheese.

Description: An appetizer of smallish soft tacos

An appetizer of smallish soft tacos

Arguably one of their strongest dishes is something that all three owners feel very strongly about: the house burger. Now, in a burger-crazy town like Manil, where everyone gets fiercely passionate on the subject, coming up with a burger with impact is no mean feat – it has to be special, not just something to fill up space on the rest of their menu. And I can say that their patty offering is good enough to merit its own separate restaurant: made with locally sourced ans specially blended beef, served in a proprietary bun with a side of sweet potato fries, it is a dish that makes a strong statement about what they are trying to achieve with their restaurant – a very global yet decidedly Filipino take on food.

After having speaks with this newly established restaurant group, you can’t help but be caught up in their giddy enthusiasm. They are clearly a group that loves good, uncomplicated, yet still sophisticated food, and it shows in the dishes that they serve. Although by no means perfect, the three are humble enough to embrace this and acknowledge that it’s a work in progress, taking their baby steps into hopefully more forays into the local food scene.

Young and driven, and armed with years of eclectic experience, the ideas they have up their sleeve are, at least on paper, quite spot on.

Description: Jack in the Box is unveiling a new grilled sandwich

Jack in the Box is unveiling a new grilled sandwich

A new sandwich concept – actually a restaurant within a restaurant – is nearing completion, and promises to fill yet another space in the restaurant landscape that needs filling.

It’s one of those “Why didn’t I think of that?” type of concepts, and it’s quite a doozy – the kind of food that will keep the social networks busily buzzing about it.

It’s exciting times ahead in our local food scene, and upstarts like these three comrades-in-arms will lead the cgarge forward, one baby-back rib at a time.

Caught in the moment

The ‘Cue trio – Jon Syjuco, Eli Antonino, and Abba Napa – talk prime cuts, cooking heritage, and fixing up the neighborhood

Any future restaurant ideas that the Moment Group is cooking up?

We have a basketful of ideas and half-developed concepts. Our imminent projects, however, have to do with the locations we [already] occupy. We believe it’s important to make sense within the neighborhood we’re a part of – complementing those aroung us and offering something, hopefully, relevant to its diners.

What is the food philosophy behind ‘Cue?

‘Cue is our attempt to give barbecue some loving. We felt that barbecue hadn’t yet transcended into the dining scene locally. Here it is still referenced to Americam-style BBQ from foreign chains or the well-loved ihaw on the beach, both fun in their own right. We wanted to showcase the diversity of what barbecue can be. We’re going to do this through ‘Cue’s evolution, slowly but surely. We didn’t just go to the American south but to many other places with barbecue in their cooking heritage. Our islands house all the heritage needed and we’re very happy to build from our roots. In the end we wanted our first establishment to allow us to have a meal that we could all enjoy on a personal level as well, and good hunks of grilled meat did that.

Any new dishes that will come out soon on the menu?

We’d like to pay homage to the local pig. We believe it deserves to be represented.

What is the story behind the Moment Group?

We chanced upon this great lil’ spot. We had this opportunity to work with some amazing people, and we looked around the neighborhood, asking ourselves how we could add to the story. If we were going to re-enter this [food] world and be consumed again, we wanted to hoptfully add value to the landscape. And one day, when our country’s dining scene finally gets recognized for its variety and charm, it would mean a lot if we played a part, no matter how large or small, in that moment.

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