6 New (Food) Reasons to Visit Station X in Boracay
In the past months, as Boracay was emerging from the pandemic and welcoming more visitors, the island’s dining scene has gotten more varied with new restaurants opening on White Beach and along the main road. In April, six new ones opened at Station X—the entertainment, food and art complex adjacent to Hue Hotel and Resort at Station 3.
Of the six food outlets in Station X’s recently launched Food Hall, two were started in Iloilo for fun and out of boredom during the pandemic, two are long-time island favorites, one is a spinoff, and one is a first venture.
“We had so many applications for this space but we wanted to get locals and startup entrepreneurs who have different concepts and are in line with our values as a company, which are integrity, uniqueness and passion for their products,” Station X admin and retail manager Rose Gomez says. “Now we’re offering party packages with food from all tenants of Station X.”
“It creates a great synergy with Hue Hotel’s La-ud restaurant and Prisma Bar,” adds Hue Boracay operations manager Lhodie Caldeo. “With the Food Hall, everybody—walk-ins and in-house guests—can enjoy six different food concepts. Those who are staying at Hue need not go out; we have a lot of long-staying WFH guests as well as vacationers, and this gives them more options.”
Here are the six new food stalls at Station X’s Food Hall.
Voglia Pizza Napoletana
One of the most fun origin stories of any restaurant has got to belong to Karl Espinosa Maridable, who started Voglia with a capital of P500 and because of a pizza craving.
Naples-style pizza at Voglia
Imagine a rainy night in Iloilo during the height of the pandemic lockdown in 2020. He has a bottle of hot sauce in his house that he bought online because it tastes like the one at Kermit Pizza in Siargao. Naturally, he wanted to have pizza with his hot sauce, so he ordered through a delivery service but the dispatcher told him they couldn’t deliver to his address. So he called up another pizzeria and while waiting, he saw the first pizzeria deliver to his neighbor’s.
He was so mad and frustrated that he decided to make his own pizza. He bought one kilo of flour, mozzarella, basil, yeast and olive oil. When his pizzas began flying off the oven in Iloilo by word of mouth, he fittingly called his home-based pizzeria Voglia (craving or desire in English).
“In Iloilo, I started with four pizza plates, then eight, then 16,” Maridable says. “I sold only online because it wasn’t feasible to open in 2020.”
Voglia’s Karl Espinosa Maridable
He then sought out pizza makers in Naples and studied online, and applied for accreditation with AVPN or the True Neapolitan Pizza Association.
Voglia offers classic pizzas like Margherita, Marinara, Five-Cheese, as well as house specialties like Voglia (with prosciutto), Lestat (Italian sausage), and Garibaldi (with pesto). Karl uses San Marzano tomatoes and all-imported Italian ingredients. Also on the menu are pizza breads and salads.
Apart from being a pizza maker, Maridable is also a DJ, a government employee, owner of the club G Lounge, which is located in an area Ilonggos call Smallville. What’s next for him? Well, that depends on what he’s craving next.
Otako Monsta & Crazy Tori
“It was just over drinks one Saturday night that Otako Monsta happened,” is how four millennials describe starting the Takoyaki food stall. Nicole Tedoco, Xyra Javellana and Rod Delfin went over to Gian Go’s house for drinks, and luckily Nicole brought her takoyaki machine to make pica-pica. Everybody loved it.
Otako Monsta’s takoyaki comes in a variety of seafood flavors
By Monday, they had signed up for the following weekend’s Mercato Iloilo food bazaar even though they didn’t have suppliers, packaging or a second takoyaki machine yet. On the first day they sold 180 boxes (1,080 balls); on the second day they sold 400 (2,400 balls).
“It was like a thesis that we completed in six days,” Javellana says. Today, Otako Monsta has over 40 branches nationwide, mostly in the Visayas.
Millennial entrepreneurs Nicole Tedoco and Xyra Javellana of Otako Monsta & Crazy Tori
Their takoyaki comes in original flavor (octopus), ebi, cheese, scallop and, for dessert, green tea. For the Station X branch, they also threw in chicken karaage with rice.
Both girls have culinary backgrounds, with Javellana having interned at the Michelin-star Blue Duck Tavern in Grand Hyatt, Washington, DC, and Nicole following her to intern at the Watergate Hotel.
The first food venture of Ritchie and Arlyn Chan, Chan’s brings to the island the Singaporean favorite kaya toast, chicken and pork rice bowls, and for a local touch, salted yema.
“We wanted to bring in a Hawker’s style menu,” Arlyn Chan says. “I personally like the coconut-based kaya, and it’s family friendly and not too expensive.”
Chan’s has a salted yema version of kaya toast
Chan’s serves the coconut-based kaya with two soft-boiled eggs to make it a filling meal, while the salted yema uses kosher salt. “We Filipinos like sweet and salty combined in one dish,” she says. “My kids love runny eggs and they eat it with toyo and rice or dip their bread in it.”
All the spreads, except the yema (which comes from Pan de Manila), are from Singapore, while the meats for the rice bowls come from their commissary in Manila.
The chicken rice bowl is a spinoff of Singapore’s Hainanese Chicken (it doesn’t have the four sauces but instead is topped with scallions and served with sriracha sauce), while the pork rice bowl is Hong Kong’s famous char siu pork.
Chan’s owners Arlyn and Ritchie Chan
“My husband and I love to eat on our travels, that’s why we wanted to open a food outlet here,” Arlyn says.
Arlyn designs and sells workout clothes in Manila, a business also started during the pandemic, while Ritchie has a trading company for office and restaurant furniture.
It’s not just dessert! Icy Paradise serves a variety of fresh fruit, tea, jelly juices, granola and yogurt all mixed in a glass. It’s a unique sensation in the mouth to be eating with a large straw—because the granola variety is not just a drinkable dessert. If you’re on a diet and want something healthy, you can get the Apple and Grape Granola for your meal.
Icy Paradise is a spinoff of Bacolod’s Krizie Ice Jelly, which Kristin Nicolau founded in 2019. She was working in Singapore when she discovered Chengdu’s famous ice jelly (made from plant extract) and, together with a Chinese friend, they opened at SM City Bacolod.
Icy Paradise’s drinkable desserts, and servings of healthy fruit-and-grain combos
“It’s a healthier version of milk tea; the toppings are fresh fruits, raisins, sesame seeds and peanuts,” Nicolau says.
In Boracay, she partnered with her friend Melvin Sanchez (they were both working for a textbook and academic publishing house) to create Icy Paradise.
“When the pandemic came, I knew that the next place I would open in would be Boracay,” Nicolau says. “In Bacolod, 95 percent of our customers are locals, but in Boracay new clients from all over the country come every day, so the exposure is greater.”
Kristin Nicolau and Melvin Sanchez of Icy Paradise
“In June, we’re also going to launch some rice bowls, burritos and chips,” Sanchez adds. “Boracay is the No. 1 tourist destination in the Philippines, so this will open the gateway for the brand.”
The first dish I ever ate at this Korean outlet was cold noodles—and I absolutely loved it. Think of it as the gazpacho equivalent to ramen, and where ramen is piping hot, Bbongdal’s Kimchi Noodle is actually served with shaved ice in the soup, boiled egg, seaweed and sesame seeds.
On the menu is a variety of hot noodle soups like Doenjang Jiggae and Rameon Jiggae; K-fave Bulgogi, Kimbap or K-style sushi, Jakbal or braised pork cooked with soy sauce and spices, and Kodongoh or grilled mackerel. They also serve side dishes of kimchi, radish leaves and marble potatoes with every meal.
Bbongdal’s kimchi noodle soup
Owner Kim Jin Young has lived in the Philippines for 31 years, and in Boracay for the past 18. “Before the pandemic, our customers were about 70 percent Korean tourists, but now mostly Filipinos,” he says.
Young actually only started cooking in the Philippines when he met his wife in Iloilo, then he opened a restaurant at Sarabia Manor Hotel and lived in the city with her (their grown children still live in Iloilo). He’s opened (and closed) restaurants all over Boracay, and now he’s at Station X.
Bbongdal owner Kim Jin Young has lived in the Philippines for 31 years, 18 years of them in Boracay
“Why do I love the Philippines? I don’t know but I love cooking Korean food for Boracay visitors,” he says with a laugh.
Plato D’Boracay has a long, beloved history in Boracay since 2005. Shy Alzate started a souvenir shop on the beachfront with her husband Benjie Valencia before getting into the food business.
“My husband was a really good cook especially when he was drunk,” she says, laughing.
Now, fans of Plato D’Boracay get to see Alzate and her son Gene Valencia cooking and running the outlet. “It’s basically Filipino and comfort food. That’s what I learned to cook from my dad. When I was a kid, he would wake me up at midnight and ask me to cook sizzling hotdog kasi lasing na siya.”
No drunk cooks at this outlet, but the food is as good as Filipino food gets. They have Singapore-style chili crabs, lemon-garlic buttered prawns, sinigang, binagoongan, bulalo, tinola, dinakdakan and all-day breakfast fare like tapsilog.
Shy Alzate and Gene Valencia of Plato D’Boracay
Plato D’Boracay gets its seafood from Aklan and Capiz because frozen food, according to mother and daughter, changes the taste of the dish—and also to help local suppliers and fishermen.
Valencia joined the family business in 2019, but still teaches English and Literature part-time and online at Olivarez College in Parañaque. He says he didn’t really change anything on the menu because his parents’ recipes were perfect as they were.
“I think what I changed was just the staff training,” he says.
Alzate adds, “We serve ordinary Filipino dishes but they taste different because we cook it with love.”
The Food Hall at Station X is located at Station 3.