Here's Why You Should Head To Cheech & Chang HK Roasts For Chinese New Year And Beyond
We've all been there—or at least, our palates have.
A massive wave of Chinese roast craving hits, but alas; you, the cravee on a mission, must either torturously long lines to get your hands on a plate of succulent char siu, or perhaps try your luck at making a reservation to indulge in a crispy on the outside, juicy on the inside serving of roast duck only to be told that the next available opening is months away.
The craving goes unfulfilled, and no one wins—certainly not your tummy.
But listen closely; Kapitolyo holds a secret, a weapon to combat the most debilitating kind of food frustration, especially of the Chinese roast variety. In an enclave lies a newly opened Hong Kong-inspired joint that we wish had entered our lives sooner.
For the Chinese roast lovers, meet Cheech & Chang, the coolest dudes on this side of the city who you'll be sure to thank, again and again, for their delicious dishes at Cheech & Chang HK Roasts that answer every roast lovers' prayers.
"Some of our customers, they would say, 'I go to Hong Kong just to eat that. And now, I don’t have to because you guys are here.' That’s the [biggest] compliment I think we've gotten so far," beams Vince Alvarado, Cheech & Chang's head chef.
Vince, alongside main investors Iñigo Uy, Rafael Ysip, David Yulo, Angelo Balili, and Miguel Munarriz, are Cheech & Chang. Representing a new generation of Manila's food-loving entrepreneurs, this band of merry men has been busily cooking up their menu of classic Chinese, Singaporean, and Taiwanese-influenced dishes since September last year—and have been happily expanding operations since.
A bowl of Back Chor Mee
First-timers as they are in specializing in Chinese cuisine, be warned against underestimating them and what they're bringing to the table.
These guys definitely have aces up their sleeves that have all culminated in this Kapitolyo institution in the making; take Vince, whose four years of Cantonese cooking experience at Crystal Jade shine through in his newest venture, Iñigo and Migs who were fixures at Poblacion's Holy Grail of watering holes, Tambai, and Rafael who once worked Calderon's Spanish kitchen.
To complement their talent at taste, there's also their trained eye for curating an atmosphere, which is undeniably part and parcel of a memorable dining experience you'll want to return to, possibly multiple times in a week. When it comes to Cheech & Chang's vibe, Rafael is the one to thank.
Shipping containers painted in masculine matte black, picnic style and elevated seating, an open kitchen, a canopy of string lights, and a nostalgic playlist all mix together in an al fresco setting that was purposely meant to resemble that backyard from days gone by, be it yours or a friend's, where you had some of the best conversations of your life.
Cheech & Chang's warm facade
"We wanted it to be comfortable, an [easygoing] space... We wanted it to be a place that you can go alone or as a group where you can be happy with good food without frills and not have to spend as much as expensive restaurants but get the same quality," explains Iñigo.
"Oh, and and have a good conversation with some good drinks to go with it too," adds Miguel, an aspect of the Cheech & Chang experience that arguably sets them apart from the crowd of aspiring go-to establishments in the area.
As Cheech & Chang's owners, these restauranteurs don't just watch from the sidelines while others run the show for them. You'll find them stirring pots of broth, steam rising in their eyes and everything, checking for their meats' readiness, manning the cashier, taking and serving orders, and best of all, taking the time to sit with their diners to talk about their food—or even just how they're doing for the day.
Let it be known that you don't just arrive and leave Cheech & Chang with a full stomach; you call it a night with a new batch of acquaintances who are bound to become friends after your second, third, and fourth visit and beyond.
Seated are Iñigo Uy and Miguel Munarriz, accompanied by Vince Alvarado flanked by co-investors Timothy Ahyong and Robert Porter
Redirecting attention to titilating tastebuds with the roasts we talked so much about, read on.
Cheech & Chang, while offering a variety of undiluted Chinese favorites like roast duck, BBQ pork, and beef brisket, features many different flavors from several other Asian palates. The roasts are definitely their crowning glory and a must-try for first-time diners, but their offerings certainly don't pale in comparison and deserve an equally large role in your next gustatory indulgence session.
Below are some of the can't-miss dishes at Cheech & Chang:
For the noodle slurpers
Playing on Filipinos' love for a flavor profile that seesaws between sweet and savory, Cheech & Chang's beef brisket broth bowl is everything but unbalanced. Made with a hefty serving of aldente noodles, melt in your mouth beef chunks, and an addition of crunchy leafy greens for added texture, we definitely love that you can get a bite of each ingredient with every spoonful. Think of classic pares, but instead of having it with rice, it's enjoyed as a soup.
Dan dan says hello from Taiwan! An unexpected mixture of mild spice underlying lots of peanuty sweetness is what this bowl of dry noodles greets you with. A staple of casual Taiwanese dining, Dan dan noodles are best enjoyed saucy with a tall glass of beer. It's given a unique twist by the Cheech & Chang gang, too; it's topped with homemade chicharon, the saltiness of which just make everything pretty "dan" perfect.
Bak chor mee
A tribute to Iñigo's time in Singapore where he spent a year falling in love with the country's food, this hawker stall best-seller is now in Manila for us to enjoy. Cheech & Chang's version has all the yummy toppings like mushroom balls, fishcake slices, ground pork, more of their own chicharon, and leeks, but it's the sauce that really takes the cake here. Its sambal-based black vinegar
For the rice loyalists
According to Vince, it took them a whopping 10 tries to get their Hainanese chicken recipe to taste exactly how they wanted to. ("It tasted like tinola at first," he quips). But that's the beauty of it; as simple as this dish is, mastering it—and putting your own spin to it without overpowering its fundamental flavor—is a real labor of love. With chicken marinated for at least 24 hours and cooked for more than an hour, its broth used to make its rice, then served with dips of sambal, ginger scallion, and sweet soy, you won't want to split your order, even though it's big enough to satisy two.
Sometimes, all we want is a hot plate of the most nostalgic food we can think of after capping off a hellish day. The guys at Cheech & Chang know this all too well, and so, they present a dish that no Filipino restaurant can't be without: fried chicken and rice. But theirs isn't their run of the mill fried chick; here, it subtly hints at Hainanese flavors of mild ginger and sesame, but not so much as it overpowers the familiar taste of this ubiquitous favorite.
To prove how much they take their Hong Kong classics seriously, this group vows to use only a specially made roast oven to make their Chinese dishes. Their char siu, a.k.a. Chinese pork bbq, is a result of this commitment, and it's a masterpiece bursting with smokiness and lip-smacking slivers of fat. It's marinated a full five days before serving (and roasted for an hour) to help bring their top secret char siu marinade blend to the surface.
For the big bao believers
Char siu and fried chicken
If you're not big on rice but wish to sample Cheech & Chang's own take on fried chicken and char siu, worry not; they have both dishes in bao form and it's just as filling and delicious. The fact that they make their own bread makes the experience even more special! Fluffy white bread envelopes what kind of meat you feel like taking big, unashamed bits into; crispy and nutty chicken, or tender and smokey pork?
Applause for the dish that got the ball rolling, please! Their roast duck, while often enjoyed as a bao, can also be ordered on its own, and is ultimately the reason why Cheech & Chang came to be. It's certainly the dish that gets everyone thinking of the vibrant Hong Kong food scene and what all 10 of this restaurant's investors really wanted to bring to Filipino diners. To say what you're thinking, yes; they definitely got their duck game right, and the roast duck bao is everything you're imagining it to be, from the inclusion of crunchy skin, to fat, to soft, slow cooked flesh.
For the thirsty
For now, Cheech & Chang is serving up classics like glasses of Gin Tonic, Scotch, and Martini as well as local beers, but be patient! A gin bar is set to open next door very soon and will be the first in Kapitolyo of its kind. Still unnamed, it's set to offer a selection of 40 to 50 gins that'll go wonderfully with your choice of Cheech & Chang dish.
Cheech & Chang HK Roasts is located on 75 W Capitol Drive, Pasig, Metro Manila
Photography by Paulo Valenzuela
Additional images from @cheechnchanghkr