Famed Chinese Restaurant Mott 32 Is Opening in Cebu, Not in Manila. Here's Why

Mott 32 Cebu is number six in the world.
IMAGE MOTT 32

Mott 32 is a familiar name to serious food connoisseurs hopping from city to city and country to country chasing after the world’s best. Founded in Hong Kong in 2014 but named after the location of the first-ever Chinese convenience store that opened in New York in the 1800s, the restaurant has acquired an enviable reputation for serving traditional Chinese cuisine and elevating it to global standards. 

To date, there are five Mott 32 restaurants in some of the world’s most vibrant cities; in addition to the original in Hong Kong, there is a Mott 32 in Vancouver, Las Vegas, Singapore, and Bangkok. The sixth location is opening in the Philippines on Wednesday, September 1, but don’t look for it anywhere in the nation’s capital. Instead, the first Mott 32 in the country is located at Nustar Resort and Casino in Cebu City.

Robinsons Land Corp President and CEO Frederick Go 

Photo by Mott 32.
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“At Nustar, we want to bring the best of the best in the world right here to Cebu City,” Robinsons Land Corp. president and CEO Frederick Go told Esquire Philippines during a special preview of Mott 32 ahead of the restaurant’s official opening. “We thought about it, and we said, ‘What is the best Chinese restaurant recognized all over the world?’ And we said, ‘It has to be Mott 32. It’s a brand that almost many Filipinos who travel all over the world recognize.” 

It's one thing to want a global restaurant brand to open in Manila, but it’s quite another to actually get them to do it. Initially, Go says the officials of Maximal Concepts, which is the global F&B company behind Mott 32, had no plans to open a branch in the Philippines, probably much less in Cebu.

Nustar is the first and so far only integrated resort casino in Cebu City

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“We had to show them what Nustar was going to be,” Go said. “It’s a development that’s going to be the newest star not just in Cebu, not just in the Philippines, but perhaps in all of Asia. You put this property anywhere in the world, it will stand out. 

“We knew Mott 32 only opens in the best of the best locations in the world,” he added. “We had to show them what we were building. Fortunately, we were able to convince them.”

Xuan Mu, Mott 32 co-founder and managing director of Maximal Concepts, corroborated the statement. 

Mott 32 co-founder and Maximal Concepts managing director Xuan Mu

Photo by Mott 32.

“No, we weren’t planning to open in the Philippines,” he said when we cornered him over a serving of soft quail egg with Iberico pork and black truffle siu mai. “We said no to many other smaller cities elsewhere in the world. But we said yes to Cebu. I think maybe it’s because their team, Frederick’s team, they were very sincere and passionate about it. They wanted us to be here. I guess we couldn’t say no. So we said yes, fast forward a couple of years, and now we’re here.” 

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Mu also credits the city itself, as well as the Nustar property, that helped convince them of Mott 32’s next location. 

“It’s a beautiful city, of course. The property is amazing. That’s one thing. But also, timing. When they approached us, we did have some space for the restaurant. We never expected it to be Cebu. We’re in Vegas, and other places. (Cebu) is a nice city, and we know it’s going to be successful.”

Applewood Roasted Peking Duck

Photo by Mott 32.

Mott 32 worked with its frequent collaborator, award-winning designer Joyce Wang, on the interiors of the Cebu branch. The result is a stunning space that combines elements of a Chinese imperial palace with contemporary urban style. Mu says that while there is a resemblance among all of the Mott 32 branches across the world, each one is distinct and carries certain characteristics unique to its location. It's also a source of pride that Mott 32 Cebu looked to the province’s craftsmen for its furniture pieces.

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The food, of course, does not disappoint. Cebu’s head chef Tam Wai Sang trained under the original Mott 32’s master chef Lee Man Sing to offer the absolute best culinary creations that the restaurant is known for. This includes signature dishes like Barbecue Pluma Iberico Pork, which are delicate pork pieces smothered in Yellow Mountain honey; and the Applewood Roasted Duck, which takes about 48 hours to prepare.

Assorted Dim Sum

Photo by Mott 32.

Cebu City is certainly not lacking in dining options for more sophisticated palates, but Mott 32’s arrival kicks things up a notch for residents of the Queen City of the South. It’s yet another sign that Manila certainly doesn’t have a monopoly on the world’s most exciting culinary institutions.

 

 

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Paul John Caña
Associate Editor, Esquire Philippines
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