"Sea-ing" Is Believing: Lawrence Cua And Iya Jimenez's Bun Appetit Is Now At The Grid, Power Plant Mall And Ready To Satisfy Seafood Cravings!
Flavorful clams, juicy lobster claw, tender crab meat, and sweet, plump shrimp are on the menu from lunch to dinner, every day of the week.
Crab roll from Bun Appetit
Longtime fans of Bun Appetit will be head over heels about the news! Gone are the days when the Salcedo weekend market was the only place to savor Bun Appetit's gourmet seafood sandwiches that have earned a cult following over the years. Lawrence Cua and Iya Jimenez, the enterprising husband and wife duo behind the original food concept, have found a new home for their mouthwatering creations at The Grid, Power Plant Mall's newest food hall that brings together some of the best in the best in the local food scene.
Best of all, they're already open for business. You can literally head over to the mall right now, pick a spot of your choosing in any of The Grid's cozy nooks, and proceed to enjoy every bite of Bun Appetit yumminess (of which there will be plenty), from first to last.
In a conversation with Iya about Bun Appetit's latest expansion, the retailer-turned-full-time foodie seems just as excited about her newest venture as her diners.
"We are very happy to be here in the company of our friends, and movers of the food industry and the chefs that we admire. We're very honored to be here [at The Grid], and also quite overwhelmed with the responses!" says Iya with noticeable giddiness.
Her chirpiness is completely understandable—and even a joy to see—considering Bun Appetit's small beginnings. Unlike their contemporaries at The Grid whose lives have been defined by food for as long as they can remember, Iya and Lawrence were simply two Filipinos on vacation who tried a sandwich that they enjoyed, recreated it when they got home, and then sold it to a handful of curious friends who wanted a taste.
Not in their wildest dreams did this pair imagine that they would eventually become one of the metro's most beloved food creators whose unique takes on seafood—a forever Filipino favorite—would make waves—nay, tsunamis—in the culinary landscape.
As the story goes, Iya and Lawrence were in New York heeding the advice of a friend about food they shouldn't miss. Riding on the US' east coast's world-famous reputation for serving up some of the best seafood in the market, this couple was more than eager to sample a generously stuffed lobster roll. Misled by the name and expecting to be greeted by a plate of sushi, Iya was initially confused to be given a sandwich—and a chilled one, at that!
Overcoming any and all hesitation about the fluffy buttered bun overflowing with fresh, bright orange lobster flesh that lay before her, Iya took a bite, and so did Lawrence. It's safe to say that the experience rebooted their taste buds, permanently rewiring their brains to teach them to crave for this unique dish while instilling a desire to share it with Filipinos in Manila.
"It was a life-changing moment. We loved it," Iya continues with a smile.
Upon returning home, their search for a similar sandwich was futile. Local versions turned out to be more mayonnaise than lobster, full of extenders and fillers, or just not as fresh. Their frustration grew as their craving deepened. Then, as they unknowingly followed the footsteps of many a successful entrepreneur who found the answer to a need, they decided to try their hand making it themselves. The taste was firmly lodged in their memory after all, and it took just a few rounds of trial and error to get their homemade version of the lobster roll to match the flavor they had remembered so well.
And just like that, Bun Appetit's obra maestra was born.
Lobster roll, a.k.a. Iya and Lawrence's edible masterpiece
Yet even after perfecting it, their lobster roll recipe was meant to be for their personal consumption, and nothing more. But with the non-stop badgering of the said friends who first tried it (and became just as obsessed with it), the couple was convinced to scale production and go public.
Iya and Lawrence then began with home and office deliveries in August 2014, and a few months later, became regular participants at the Salcedo weekend market where they carved a name for themselves. The weekend event would also become the venue where they would first face upset customers in their foray into food—customers who were not angry about what they were served, but by the fact that supplies had run out before they had gotten their hands on a lobster roll, which by then, was already accompanied by other popular menu items like the crab sandwich featuring lightly seasoned shredded crab meat and the shrimp grilled cheese masterpiece.
It was an excellent problem to have and one Iya and Lawrence gladly addressed, as it showed Bun Appetit's true potential.
And what a potential it indeed proved to be as no one less than Charles Paw, founder and CEO of the Tasteless Food Group, sent them a personal invitation to collaborate with him on his newest project, The Grid. Knowing good food when he sees it, he was a loyal customer from the very start.
Iya and Lawrence were floored.
"When we were meeting with Charles and we saw the roster [of partners], we were asking ourselves, 'What are we doing here together with the other names?' We're very happy though, and everyone is so encouraging. It's a healthy community," Iya elaborates.
It's been six years since Iya and Lawrence had that fateful New York lobster roll, four years since Bun Appetit was introduced to Filipino foodies, and two weeks since they opened at The Grid. While not every day in the business has been smooth sailing for this couple, Iya admits that she's extremely glad to have taken the plunge with Bun Appetit. It's been extremely rewarding for both of them and is certainly a reflection of their love for food, and all the good treats they encounter on all their travels.
Iya now takes care of the business and continues to be a hands-on owner; she still maintains her spot at the Salcedo weekend market where it all began, and is currently concentrating on getting things going at The Grid.
For those wondering about their Grid menu, everything they serve at Salcedo is also available at The Grid—and diners can now have it every day of the week, instead of just Saturdays! Aside from their delicious sandwiches, also a must-try is their simple but super tasty bowl of garlic noodles (an ode to a similar Chinese dish they encountered in San Francisco), lobster mac and cheese, and creamy, thick clam chowder.
Given that a majority of their menu items are seafood, Iya assures that all ingredients are a hundred percent fresh and that they never, ever compromise this. Seafood is imported from all parts of the Philippines with the exception of the lobster claw, which comes all the way from Maine, USA.
First-time Bun Appetit diners are very much welcome to order their best-sellers and share them with a group! Sharing an insider's tip, Iya adds that she and Lawrence are actually open to suggestions from their loyal following about new recipes to try (someone's lemon pepper suggestion was a soaring success!), so be ready with creative ideas for this couple!
We could go on and on about just how yummy Bun Appetit is, but you'll have to see, and taste, their sure-to-satisfy menu to believe it.
What are you waiting for? See you at Bun Appetit, The Grid!
Produced by Christina N. Lopez and Grace Libero-Cruz
Photography by Daniel Soriano
Special thanks to Sab Lee
Shot on location at The Grid, 2F Level Expansion, Power Plant Mall, Makati