TWO INCHES doesn’t sound so big, until we’re talking about the thickness of a chicken fillet.
That’s what Monga, a fried chicken fillet outlet from Taiwan, is boasting about. A press release says two inches, while other sources say it’s two centimeters, and that’s a big difference. Either way, BusinessWorld was quite full. Besides, we didn’t have time or tools to measure.
The chicken is handed to you on white paper, then you use your hands to consume the chicken. BusinessWorld didn’t immediately enjoy the experience of the bird in the hand (despite one being better than two in the bush), because it was steaming hot, a point I should have typed with an exclamation point. We got The King (P199 with rice), wrapped in a simple salt and pepper batter. Once you get past the steam and you’ve cooled your fingers and mouth down with the selection of teas (with the tea leaves coming straight from Taiwan), it really is a pleasurable experience. The bird is about as big as a face, and it has been marinated for 24 hours, according to Charles Lee, Marketing Director of the Vikings Group, which brought the franchise of Monga here from Taiwan (itself founded by Taiwanese comedian, Nono). The result is a fillet that’s juicy and tender, just the way any bit of poultry should be.
While there are other chicken patty places around, Mr. Lee emphasizes that with Monga, save for one tiny strip of bone, you’re mostly getting meat. No biting through batter there. Other items on the menu include the Hot Chick (chicken fillet seasoned with chili powder), Taiker (seasoned with Japanese sauce and seaweed powder), and the Nuggets and Crispy Chicken. Those familiar with the brand Monga (which opened in Megamall earlier this month) are looking forward to the Chee-Z Signature (P209), a few fillets tossed with cheese and tomato sauce or special chili.
As we’ve mentioned above, Monga was brought in from Taiwan by The Vikings Group, and based on Mr. Lee’s statements, the group is on a roll. Known for buffet restaurants (and the Vikings helmet birthday greeting), the group currently operates several branches of Vikings, the specialty Vikings Niu, Four Seasons Hotpot, and just last year it acquired the classic Tong Yang restaurants. But they are not all buffets — looking at their à la carte basis restaurants, they’ve opened an Italian restaurant called La Vita in The Podium, Monga, and on Nov. 15 they opened Putien, a Chinese cuisine concept from Singapore that earned one Michelin star in its home country.
“The market now is changing. People are now travelling more often,” said Mr. Lee about bringing in more foreign brands to the country. “On a business sense, it’s good, because it expands our portfolio.”
While one can say that the buffet experience in the Philippines was pioneered by the late Vicvic Villavicencio and his Dads group of restaurants, Vikings can be seen as a bit of a progenitor for a second (or third) buffet wave, mainstreaming buffet culture in the country and making it more accessible. “We always believe in customer experience. Besides putting up a restaurant for the sake of putting up a restaurant, we look at it as a whole, the overall customer experience: from waiting, to dining, until going home.”
Monga is located at the Lower Ground Level Mega A, SM Megamall. — Joseph L. Garcia