BACOLOD -- Far too many people know the city of Bacolod for its Masskara festival and delicious inasal. But for those who have actually paid a visit to the city, these two are just tidbits of what they can find.
What many fail to realize is that Bacolod is also home of delicious food and even better company. While in Bacolod, we checked out the two hottest restaurants in town owned by "MasterChef Pinoy Edition" judge Chef JP Anglo -- Mai Pao Restaurant and Mu Shu.
Anglo, more known as Chef Jayps on the culinary show, came from a family of optometrists. Growing up, however, he never seemed to find interest in the medical field. Instead, he grew fond of the food industry while he was still a child.
“Whenever my family and I ate out, I would always sit on a chair facing the kitchen,” Anglo said.
And indeed, his curiosity led him to a profession he grew to love. Gaining formal education from CCA Manila, Le Cordon Bleu Sydney, and TASE, Chef Jayps has earned every right to be called a "MasterChef."
Experience on the show
Without a doubt, his role as a "MasterChef" judge gave him a new outlook in life. Asked how the hit reality TV cooking competition has changed him, he said, “MasterChef taught me to be humble and open to criticism. Since I give out criticisms every day, I also need to be open to it.”
The TV show has also left an impact on his personal life.
“Whenever I eat out and the staff recognizes me, they see to it that I get the best food and service,” he shared. “But most importantly, 'MasterChef' taught me to speak Tagalog more often.”
Having grown up in Bacolod and Australia, Chef Jayps speaks fluent Ilonggo and English.
Among the other "MasterChef" judges Chef Fernando Aracama and Chef Rolando Laudico, Chef Jayps’ restaurants are located in his hometown, Bacolod. As a result, people who want to try his delicious Filipino-Chinese dishes need to get on a plane.
Fortunately, the young chef promises this will change as he is busy planning the opening of his third restaurant in Metro Manila.
“I want them to taste my cooking real soon,” he said.
Mai Pao: The healthy choice
Mai Pao table piece
What started out as a dimsum restaurant in 2002, has grown into one of Bacolod’s healthy restaurants.
In fact, Mai Pao proudly claims that they are the only restaurant in Bacolod that does not use MSG. This makes the restaurant a rare Filipino-Chinese establishment that does not have MSG to add flavor to their food.
Apart from this, Mai Pao serves alkaline water to their guests.
A few years ago, Mai Pao had a complete makeover—renovating its interior and revamping its menu.
And it was just in time for the South Beach Diet craze. As they introduced dishes straight from the diet, more locals came to know the restaurant. And in a city laden with sweet crops, Mai Pao quickly turned into the go-to restaurant for those who are strict with their diet.
Its interior showcases some vintage Chinese photos, that give a feel of entering a Chinese home.
The dishes that first came to my table were the appetizers chicken feet and siomai—two very distinct Chinese dishes that my family and I order when we eat out. The appetizers were rich and full of flavor.
Next, came the Fish Fillet with Tofu and Black Mushroom, deliciously cooked without missing a beat. Compared with other restaurants, Mai Pao cooks their tofu perfectly—not too soft and not too tough.
Fish Fillet with Tofu and Black Mushroom
Just as I was still savoring the first course, the waiter brought out the Sizzling Chicken with Cashew Nuts. One bite into the chicken and you can instantly tell Mai Pao is serious about not using MSG—the dish burst with flavor, the natural way it should be.
Sizzling Chicken with Cashew Nuts
Their Chopsuey Vegetables consisted of a variety of vegetables cooked delicately and in sync with one another.
The last dish, the Salted Fish Fried Rice was among the ones I enjoyed most. It was perfectly seasoned just the way I wanted it, a bit of salty without overpowering the entire dish.
Salted Fish Fried Rice
Coincidentally, when I interviewed Chef Jayps about the first dishes he created, his answer was fried rice and chicken curry. He admits though, that his fried rice has improved since then. And indeed, I have to agree.
Mu Shu: The night is young
Mu Shu at night
Just like a werewolf changes its form on a full moon, Chef Jayps’ second restaurant, Mu Shu transforms itself when the clock strikes 12.
On weekends, it is the go to place for young adults who want to unwind after a busy workweek. The posh interior of the establishment becomes a relaxing lounge. And the food, ah the delicious food, you can’t help but fall in love with it.
One look at the menu and you’d understand why the restaurant is frequented by those with a passion for good food.
On the food, Chef Jayps said: “I don’t do fusion. I still make the food recognizable but give a slight twist to it. I just add one or two ingredients or experiment with the cooking method. Adobo is still adobo.”
Upon the suggestion of my server, I ordered the Pritchon Pancakes—a remnant of a shawarma dish with bits of roast pork and cucumber rolled in pita bread and served with hoisin sauce.
While I was still enjoying the appetizer, the manager, Martin, personally came over to deliver my other orders for the night— Molo Soup, a classic Ilonggo specialty that brought me back to my childhood.
When it was time for the main course, I already developed a deep liking for the restaurant that could not be explained in words. But when the next three dishes came, my whole world turned upside down. I knew then that these were the dishes I would order the next time I return.
The first dish was the Beef Kebabs, a couple of grilled marinated beef on skewers served together with either garlic rice or pita bread. Each bite into the meat was delectable; juicy, succulent and all the more inviting. If you’re on a diet, you better forget it now.
After the beef, Martin came out with the Crispy Bangus Belly with Pumpkin Stew and Talangka Fried Rice. On its own, it was already a complete meal. It was the sort of dish that I could normally find at home, yet those dishes never came as perfect as the one served in Mu Shu.
Crispy Bangus Belly with Pumpkin Stew and Talangka Fried Rice
Finally, we were served a typical Tortang Talong dish that was brilliantly plated. At first, I thought it would just taste like every other Tortang Talong—I mean, it’s such a simple dish. But the moment my teeth sank into the vegetable, I knew it was nowhere near simple. It was one of the best Tortang Talong dishes I’ve had in a while. There was just something about it that made its flavor taste a lot different; familiar yet so mysterious.
On Halloween every year, Mu Shu turns itself into the city’s happening event place. The Mumu Mu Shu Halloween Party has been a solid part of every Bacolodnon’s tradition since it started in 2007.
With mind-blowing dishes and an elegantly trained staff, it is clear to see why Mu Shu has become a household name in the city.
Chefs Jayps talks about Kris
Kris Aquino's TV Show-- Kris TV
The single and young Chef enjoys surfing, traveling and going on food safaris whenever he has free time.
Between being a "MasterChef" judge, handling his two restaurants, and putting up a third one, we admire how he is able to squeeze in some time for himself.
On a couple occasions, we found him as a guest on Kris Aquino’s morning talk show, "Kris TV," where he cooked a few dishes for the Queen of All Media.
When asked about the experience: “She [Kris] has one of the sharpest palates. She has an in-depth knowledge about food, so there’s no fooling around with her,” Chef Jayps replied.
“Kris is very straight-forward. And it is always a pleasure to learn how I can improve my dishes—by hearing the criticisms of my mentors, colleagues, and anyone who gets a chance to taste my cooking,” he added.
We’re all excited to see the third restaurant Chef Jayps is opening in Metro Manila. And by the way he has captured the hearts and palates of his Filipino viewers, it won’t be long before he becomes a local favorite too.
Mai Pao Restaurant is located at the 6th Street Lacson, Bacolod City. Mu Shu can be found on 20th Lacson St., Bacolod City.