Noodles are underappreciated and underrepresented in the Philippine dining scene, says Chef Gregorio “Gigo” de Guzman. This is why he thought of putting up The Noodle Studio, a modern restaurant that gathers together different noodle dishes from 11 Asian countries. “As it is, there are so many places that offer pasta, but the original noodles come from Asia which, as the story goes, was brought to Europe during the time of Marco Polo. While there are variations in their pasta dishes, where they use tomatoes, cream, or in the case of aglio oli, oil, here in Asia, we have a very diverse cuisine using noodles. So we thought of gathering them all here.”
Because of the diversity, even enjoying these types of noodle dishes can be challenging as one would have to go to a dining spot specializing in that particular cuisine, he adds. “If you want Pad Thai, you have to go to a Thai restaurant. For Mee Goreng, you have to find a place that serves Indonesian food. We wanted to put up a place where a group of friends can gather and have their choices form among our noodle dishes.”
Among the noodle nations represented here are China with its chicken noodle soup and Hong Kong dark noodles, Malaysia with laksa lemak, Taiwan with its beef brisket, and Indonesia with its mee goreng, and Korea with its jap chae. They are not offering ramen here, as Gigo says they are leaving that to the other restaurants that are doing it very well. What they do have from Japan is a hearty yakisoba.
Yam Som O (Thai Pomelo Salad)
Claire's Pancit Canton and Yakisoba
The Philippines is represented of course, and for Gigo, the connection really hits home. That is because his recipe is an adaptation of his mom’s cooking. The dish is called Claire’s Pancit Canton, named after his mom, entrepreneur and Jukebox Queen Claire dela Fuente. Fans from among the titos and titas might want to note that she has given inputs into the restaurant’s conceptualization. “She has given me valuable inputs and they were very welcomed. I have been managing the family’s food business (Claire dela Fuente Grill and Seafood at Macapagal Avenue), and I thought I could put this up easily but we hit rough patches. The construction, for example, took us nine months. Her experience has helped us very much.”
Beef Brisket Noodle Soup
Cold Noodles with Hainanese Chicken
Chicken Karaage and Yakimeshi
Bagoong Fried Rice
His inspiration for the restaurant, he attributes to his father, Moises de Guzman. “He passed away 11 years ago. My fondest childhood memories were of the two of us going to a restaurant where he would order two noodle dishes. What he would do is taste his noodles and then give the rest to me because he knew that it was my favorite. In a small way, this restaurant is me keeping this memory.”
His recipes are inspired by his childhood travels and backed up by a ton of research. Gigo, who pursued a culinary course at Enderun Colleges and interned at the Michelin-starred Le Jules Verne Restaurant in Paris, took to cookbooks and the internet in search of recipes. He also talked to friends across Asia on how they prepared their food.
He hesitates to call his dishes authentic, saying they were "inspired" by traditional recipes. He has also developed variations of dishes that diners are familiar with, calling them The Noodle Studio Exclusives: kung pao spaghetti, curry stir-fry pasta, and 2.0 versions of char kway teow and mee goreng, to which he added his own personal twist. He is particularly happy with their cold noodles with hainanese chicken which he says is a collab with his head chef, Alister Sun.
Char Kway Teow 2.0
Fried Salmon Pouches
Salted Egg Poutine
Curry Puff Pastry
For those who want something other than noodles, there’s are other options such as bagoong rice, chicken teriyaki, thai green curry chicken, and chicken karaage with yakimeshi. Desserts are mango pudding and a "modified" turon, where the bananas are mashed together with the langka, and served with vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce.
Chef Gigo offers his dishes as carb-loaded comfort food, as a pick-me-up to enjoy when having a bad day, or something to fill you up after drinking. He envisions the restaurant as a workshop or “studio” where various Asian noodles can be explored and enjoyed in an upscale, modern setting.
The Noodle Studio is located at the 2nd floor, Ayala Malls on the 30th, Meralco Avenue, Ortigas. Visit thenoodlestudioph on Instagram and on Facebook.