With 28 restaurants and only two fashion retail outlets in the building, the newly opened UP Town Center undeniably gears toward becoming the next popular eating hub in this side of Katipunan.
Located within the 7.4-hectare University of the Philippines Diliman East Campus property along Katipunan Avenue in Quezon City, the UP Town Center (UPTC) features a merry mix of restaurants targeting diners’ diverse food preferences—from ramen, steaks and pizza to Vietnamese and Filipino favorites, and cupcakes and doughnuts.
UPTC, Ayala Malls’ newest development, doubles as a haven for students, professors and even young professionals who wish to unwind after a stressful day in a relaxing indoor-and-outdoor environment. Even families in the nearby villages and subdivisions have a new spot to bond with their loved ones while enjoying good food.
“We really wanted to be in this location and make it a venue for dining first,” says Javi Hernandez, Ayala Land assistant vice president. “Eventually, we will have everything that you will see in all Ayala malls like cinema, department store, entertainment, services.”
UPTC’s two-story structure now stands what used to be the old University of the Philippines Integrated School (UPIS), but the latter was moved to its new campus across the street.
“This is actually the best of both worlds,” adds Hernandez. “We get a development along Katipunan, then UP got a brand new campus with brand new facilities. UPIS is relatively old already and needed a new look. The best win for everybody.”
Ayala leased 7.4 hectares from UP, but only 7 percent of the total development or about 5,000 sq m have been developed. On construction behind the UPTC is a shopping center which will occupy about 60,000 to 70,000 sq m. It will have a supermarket (Rustan’s), department store (joint venture of Ayala Land and Store Specialists Inc.) and a call center or business processing outsource office on top of the shopping center.
Hernandez says one of the nice things about working with UP is that they impose restrictions that are quite clear and understandable.
“They said you can only build on half of the land, touch so many trees and relocate trees,” says Hernandez. “Which we all did because UP wanted to preserve what the land was known for.”
This is Ayala’s first university town concept. It obviously caters to students who look for affordable dining or a hangout place to do group study.
“Katipunan has already had its fair share of dining establishments all throughout the past decades,” says Hernandez. “Most of them are fast-food and some casual dining places. If we have to fill up these little 28 spaces with another fast-food or another popular coffee shops, we are not bringing any value to the community because we are just replicating what is already there.”
So, UPTC has opened its doors to new dining concepts from new entrepreneurs.
An example is Kos Ouzeri, a Greek restaurant which is run and operated by students of culinary school First Gourmet Academy under the supervision of executive chef Mats Loo.
Another is the Vanilla Cupcake Bakery, the first food venture of the owners of fashion boutique Kamiseta.
The 8 Cuts Burger Blends is the newest project of the owners of a famous flip-flop.
“We need to bring newness into the community and we pride ourselves in doing that,” says Hernandez.
Out of the 28 dining spots at UP Town Center, at least 12 restaurants are making a big buzz among foodies these days. Each has unique specialties worth trying.
The Liberty New York Steak House, conceptualized from New York and inspired by the TV series, “Mad Men,” serves a wide selection of tender, juicy steaks, such as K Pop (chargrilled US beef rib-eye steak with red bean barbecue sauce, kimchi fried rice and veggies); Classic Steak House (charbroiled rib-eye steak with house-blend seasoning and steak frites); and Tomahawk (prime black angus rib-eye bone).
For salads, pica-pica and soup, go for French Onion soup with carefully roasted sliced onions and flavorful beef stock and melted cheese; Falafel Salad, mixed greens with golden chickpea falafel, feta cheese, caramelized walnuts and marinated olives with herbed red wine vinaigrette; and Tater Tots, fried mashed potatoes with homemade ketchup, whiskey mustard and lemon garlic aioli.
It’s Asian with a twist at Ba Noi’s, which offers Vietnamese dishes including Goi Cuon, (pork, shrimp and vermicelli rolled in rice paper topped with penut sauce); Bo Luc Lac (stir-fried beef with fried basil); and Pho Ga (steaming hot chicken noodle soup with fermented soy bean paste and chili sauce).
For that perfect sweet-ending, Banh Da Lon is a warm pandan cake filled with mung bean drizzled with coconut cream and toasted sesame seed. It’s almost has the consistency of our
very own sapin-sapin. Ba Noi’s is owned by Dodjie Violago.
To nicely warm your tummy, a bowl of Ryu Ramen and Curry’s Tantanmen will do the trick. It’s a spicy miso-based broth with ground pork, soft-boiled egg, negi, fragrant garlic oil and two slices of tender chasyu pork.
“It’s one of our bestsellers in the house,” says singer-composer Ogie Alcasid, who’s one of the six owners of Ryu. “Most of our ingredients are imported from Japan.”
Other must-tries are Gomoku Ramen (shio-based broth made with fresh squid, shrimp, ground pork and sautéed veggies); pork gyoza (pork dumplings); katsu curry (crispy deep-fried pork cutlet with curry sauce). Prices range from P200-P300.
For pizza lovers with big appetite, there are three delicious treats from Steveston Pizza: Mexican (Baja-seasoned chicken breast, green peppers and onion, tomatoes and cilantro salsa); Green (herbed pesto butter, shrimp, brie and scallions); and Canadian (ham, mushroom, peppers and onions).
Savory and sweet
This is the first time Dulcelin Gourmet opened a restaurant. Since 1991, it has thrived in takeout orders.
Frozen Mango Torte remains its best-selling dessert and it’s still expected to be its top dessert in the restaurant.
But, Dulcelin has more to offer than mango torte as prepared by brothers Ricky and Miko Morelos. Sample roast beef belly (tender beef slices with red wine and mushroom gravy, rice and sautéed French beans); Scotch Eggs (marinated egg packed with Italian garlic sausage, breaded, fried, and served with miso corn rice and seaweed salad); and pork inasal (marinated pork with crispy, thinly sliced skin that’s been cooked separately from the meat. The skin is brushed with chili oil and comes with lime-patis sauce).
“This restaurant is a showcase of our family food and popular food trays that people have been ordering from us for many years,” says Miko Morelos.
Pinac showcases heirloom Kapampangan cuisine, starting with Pako Salad; Crispy Hito Balls with Mustasa and Buro; Sinigang na Ulo ng Salmon sa Miso; and Makabagong Bistek Tagalog. Dessert is divine with Brazo de Mais with Salabat.
Salu-Salo is another Pinoy restaurant serving all-time favorites, including seafood Pancit Luglog, Bibingka with Salted Egg, Crispy Pata and Lechon Paksiw.
For hanging out, there’s the Primary Kitchen Bar. It is a modern Mediterranean bar-restaurant which serves food with predominant Spanish, Italian and Greek flavors, and an exquisite list of Latin and other standard cocktail mixes. It is owned by Ellaine Miles, Jaime Sison and Michael Tiaoqui. Primary also serves local, premium, imported beers and spirits.
The restaurant 8 Cuts Burger Blends offers handcrafted burgers, chef-prepared sides, starters and salads. Its name refers to the eight cuts of beef used in the blends—chuck, rib-eye, short rib, sirloin, brisket, hanger, flank and ox tail. All patties are made in-house from 100-percent pure US beef.
If you’re craving for real sweet treats, Lucca Bakery has a lot to offer: Five-layered Chocolate Cake and Hazelnut Indulgence. It also serves light pastries (Mango Danish) and cookies (Chocolate Toffee Cookie and White Chocolate Macadamia) paired with organic Arabic coffee. Everything is made fresh at Lucca.
If you still need to fill up your tummy, visit J.Co and enjoy its signature Alcapone (with creamy white chocolate and roasted Californian almonds). Tea Rock serves local milk tea brand which is a combined New York, Los Angeles and Tokyo café concept. Popular concoctions are Lemon Green Tea and English Black Tea with ice cream. The Vanilla Cupcake Bakery presents yummy cupcakes in all flavors, designs and colors.