BY WAYNE CHARGUALAF
Guam will soon get to experience a unique spin on Filipino cuisine when JT’s Manukan Grille — a chain owned by Joel Torre, a popular Filipino actor — opens two locations in the Tumon Bay Center in Tumon and the Compadres Mall in Dededo.
“Joel comes from a place called Bacolod,” Gerald P. Yingling, one of the managing members of JT’s Manukan Grille’s Guam LLC operations, said. “They’re a part of the Ilonggo tradition and their food is very distinct. For example, everyone here knows bulolo, but they have their own interpretation. Rather than the heavy beef broth we’re accustomed to, they use beef broth but there’s a little bit of a sourness to it, kind of a cross between sinigang and bulolo.”
Due to the popularity of the chain in the Philippines, Yingling said the plan is to pare down the menu to about 10 “star dishes” when the restaurants open. This is to make customer service more efficient in anticipation of a large initial rush of customers. They will then phase in the full menu over time as business stabilizes.
One of those star dishes — which is featured prominently in JT’s advertising — is Bacolod inasal, or chargrilled chicken in the style found in Bacolod.
“It’s not horribly sweet like most barbecues and it has all these different layers of flavor — you can taste a tiny little bit of sweetness, you can taste the garlic, you can taste the citrus,” Yingling said. “I think we’ll be one of the very few — maybe even the only — real inasal restaurant on Guam.”
Yingling said he was inspired to bring JT’s to Guam during an attempt to try and bring another Filipino franchise to Guam. He and his partner would eat at JT’s over the course of several days while meeting with the other company to secure a deal. After encountering a number of difficulties with the other company, his friend said, “Why don’t we just bring JT’s to Guam?”
Torre took time out from a busy filming schedule to visit Guam and loved it, according to Yingling.
“He loved Guam, loved the people, was excited about all the Filipino restaurants and the tourism area, and it just so happened that when he was here we decided to start looking for a few locations,” he said.
That began a process which led to the company buying a more than 1,300-square-foot space in the Tumon Bay Center and a 2,500-square-foot space in the Compadres Mall in April.
The combined total investment for both locations is projected to be more than $200,000.
Although Yingling said JT’s will not be open 24 hours, it will be serving customers through breakfast, lunch, dinner and on into the early morning.
“We have a beer and wine license, so we’ll probably stay open until about 2 a.m., try and be a little bit of an after-hours spot,” Yingling said.
The Tumon location is expected to open by the end of July and the Dededo location is expected to open in September or October.
Yingling is a former general manager of the A.B. Won Pat International Airport, Guam. mbj