DAVAO CITY — Lugang Café of China’s Bellagio Group of Restaurants has opened its first branch in Mindanao at the SM City Ecoland here and several more are planned in other cities in the island.

Jonathan Kevin J. Bangayan, Lugang Café Davao operations manager, said two other branches are targeted to open in Davao before the end of the year and by 2020. They will be located at the Ayala Abreeza Mall and SM Lanang Premier.

The other target cities are Cagayan de Oro (CDO), Tagum, and General Santos.

“I have friends in CDO who also urged us to open there because people there are looking for it, maraming Chinese doon pero walang mahanap na (there are many Chinese living there but one cannot find) Taiwanese or Chinese food,” said Mr. Bangayan, referring to both Filipino-Chinese and Chinese nationals.

“But no tangible date, maybe in the next three to five years pa,” he added.

Mr. Bangayan, whose family bagged the Lugang Café franchise for the entire Mindanao, said their decision to bring the chain here is to fill the unmet need for an upscale Chinese restaurant and his mother’s love of the cuisine.

“What you are lacking here in Davao is a good fine dining Chinese restaurant… (and) my mom loves Chinese food and she always goes to Lugang Café in Manila,” he said in an interview during the restaurant’s “Feast All You Can” promo which is being offered in time for the ongoing Kadayawan Festival.

“She looked at Davao and thought that it is appropriate already to open Lugang. We talked to the owners, and the rest is history,” he said

A Chinese chef from Lugang has been brought in to oversee the kitchen and ensure adherence to the restaurant chain’s standards.

Mr. Bangayan said some of the ingredients they use are sourced locally, but most other items, such as the seasonings, come from China.

“When you look at Taiwanese food, it’s more of less sauce and the use of ginger and basil. A lot of general Taiwanese cuisine usually comes from Lugang, Shantou. This is where most of the food comes from,” he said.

“If we do change our ingredients to the ones available here, baka maiba ’yung lasa (it might change the taste),” he said. — Maya M. Padillo