THE PHILIPPINES, by virtue of hundreds of years spent trading with China, has never lacked restaurants serving good Chinese food from different culinary regions.
A brief walk through Chinatown in Binondo would take one to culinary gems like the decades-old eatery Quik Snack which serves really good beef chami noodles while the hole-in-the-wall Dong Bei served dumplings made fresh every day.
But for those looking for good eats in a more sophisticated setting, AShark Club may just be the thing as the 1,600-sq.m. restaurant, occupying the second floor of Golden Phoenix Hotel in Pasay City, aims to be recognized as “a place with good food and entertainment,” according to one of the restaurant’s board director, Bernard Chong.
Opened on June 28, the restaurant’s lobby operates much like a premium membership club or lounge but brand manager Amy Peng assured that they are open to everyone, especially for conferences and gatherings.
The main dining hall, decked out in gold accents, can seat around 200 people, though smaller groups can opt to occupy the seven VIP rooms which can seat a dozen. Several VIP rooms also have a built-in KTV system.
“This is patterned after China, where most of the restaurants have KTV. They love to sing there and, of course, [this] must be accompanied by good food. If you want to eat and sing, you have to go to two different places. Now, you can go to one place,” said Mr. Chong during the opening.
Rates for VIP rooms range from P20,000 to P50,000 consumable.
The “good food” aspect of the restaurant is apparent in the extensive menu as the kitchen is helmed by five Chinese chefs — each with his own area of specialization — and two Filipino chefs.
“We have chefs from Canton, Hunan, and Sichuan. [Most] of our ingredients are imported so the experience is very different,” said Ms. Peng.
She added that their dishes are mostly priced below a thousand pesos, making it “pretty affordable.”
A few specialty dishes though, can set one back a nice sum of money as Ashark Club offers shark fin dishes such as Braised Shark’s Fin in Special Soup which costs P1,888 for a single serving, while Braised Bird’s Nest in Chicken Soup costs P2,288 for a single serving.
Despite a strong international campaign against the use of the ingredient, shark’s fin is considered a status symbol in Chinese culture and being able to serve it means the person is of significance. Mr. Chong said they named the restaurant after the marine animal because they believe it would bring luck.
True to its name, AShark also houses two live sharks in a separate room where customers can pick their seafood and fresh produce from a display area.
Several dishes to try out are the sauteed snow diced beef with black pepper (the beef was particularly soft and juicy), the steamed red grouper with peanut oil (the delicate flavor of the fish went really well together with the peanut oil-based sauce), fried pechay (the pechay — bok choy — was chopped to tiny pieces and served crusted with almonds, delicious with a soft interior and crunchy exterior), and the pan-fried lamb chops (with none of the gaminess, fork tender, and cooked to a perfect medium rare).
AShark Club is located at the second floor of the Golden Phoenix Hotel, Mall of Asia Complex, Pasay City. For details, visit www.asharkclub.com. — Zsarlene B. Chua