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Ponce: A Spanish Sojourn

How a restaurant in Tomas Morato aims to help people escape the bustle of the Metro.

WORDS BY KENDRICK GO

Ponce’s house special: Cochinillo Asado del Chef

T here are times when a dining venue is built on a particular location to help its potential guests escape that location.

This is the case for Ponce, a restaurant launched just late last month. Situated in the perennially busy neighborhood of Tomas Morato, Quezon City, the newfangled hangout seeks to welcome guests and take them away from its immediate vicinity. How far? Think more than 7,000 miles; think of a journey that ends in the mountainous parts of the Iberian Peninsula where the Spanish make their popular wines and their famed paellas. It is quite a distance to cross but Ponce hopes to be a threshold that can quickly bridge the gap.

“Ponce is on a pursuit to bring good Spanish fare, opulent wine, and amazing experiences closer to people,” the restaurant’s press release states. “Ponce believes that good food and good stories make life great.”

It is a theory that has been tested. Years ago, a man named Maximo Ponce pursued this version of a great life with zeal. He was an adventurer and as a boy in Tarlac, he looked after farm animals, picked fresh produce and created memories. It was a way of living that enthralled his son, Dick Balajadia and, soon enough, he too was having an adventure of his own. Balajadia, with his partner, Mars, traveled to Europe, particularly Spain and sampled the area’s gastronomic treats. Through this experience, he got the inspiration to build Ponce and as a form of acknowledgment, he named the place after his dad.

“Ponce wants to welcome and inspire great stories, vibrant laughter, and warm memories,” the release said. And it also wants to capitalize on Filipino palette capable of appreciating Spanish cuisine.

Ponce’s breezy interiors aim to give guests an al fresco vibe emulating the experience of dining in Spain.
T he Spanish influence of Ponce is very evident the moment you step in. As the press material stated, the place boasts of an “inspiriting vibe,” afforded mostly by its breezy interiors and verdant accents. Such effects, according to its promoters, intend to give guests an “al fresco ambiance that perfectly emulates what it’s like to enjoy a meal in Spain.” And, given this intent, it is only natural for the menu to complement the interiors.

Curated with the help of Chef Angelo Santicruz, Ponce’s offerings consists of Spanish specialties. Among its highlights is the “Paella Mars y Montaña which features well-crusted rice, pork meatballs, clams, and prawns. There’s also the “Calamar a la Andaluza,” described as a “Tapas y Entradas offering of Andalusian squid fried to crisp golden perfection served with a side of garlic aioli.” Then, there’s the house special: the “Cochinillo Asado del Chef.” Said to be so tender that a “saucer could cut through it,” this can satisfy appetites with a crisp skin flavored by a variety of spices.

Of course, it does not seem like a complete gastronomic homage to Spain without drinks. And, upon scanning the restaurant, a neon sign will let you know that it also has that feature: “Sangria? Wine Not?” White or red, Ponce has concocted sangrias that aim to go well with its dishes. They can also be taken directly through the speakeasy bar just above the dining area. Overall, if you wish to unwind, the place has gone through considerable lengths to provide that escape for you.

“Despite being situated in one of the Metro’s busiest districts, Ponce can be your quiet and relaxing escape after a long day,” the release said. In other words, while it is inspired by Spain, it is also a tribute to the Tarlac that Maximo Ponce knew; the verdant, provincial escape which inspired his son to travel and create a place in the busy city that will help others get away from it even for a short while.

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