Around the world in a five-course meal

- Paula C. Nocon () - December 11, 2002 - 12:00am
Can you travel the world in one sitting? Can you enter the mind of an artist through a meal? Can you invade a foodie’s personal kitchen in a mall? And can you do all these things in a restaurant?

Yes, yes, yes and yes. At the new Store Super Global Café.

The pleasure of dining can indeed be a magical mystery tour as soon as one enters this corner store by the park at the spanking new Greenbelt 3. Be in for a surprise, an assault on the senses, a taste of something you’ve probably never experienced before.

The concept is the brainchild of foodies, travelers and artists Carlo Tanseco and his cousin Reena Francisco with Figaro’s Chit Juan. They wanted to put the world on a platter, so to speak.

"When I travel, I experience the culture through the local cuisine," explains the globetrotting Tanseco, designer/consultant for CITEM, and owner of Atmosfera. "I can forego shopping and other luxuries and amenities in a foreign place just so I can eat well."

Francisco adds: "We live to travel. We work hard the whole year and we invest what we earn in traveling!"

If passports had food stamps, then Store Super’s menu reads just like that. Talk about hodgepodge!

You can start with some Spanish lentajas soup. Whet your appetite with a Greek salad of spinach with feta cheese, followed by Indian garlic curry with roti chenai dipped in garlic-flavored curry sauce. Slurp some linguini with wild mushrooms in cream-garlic sauce, Italian-style. Make your piece de resistance, choose Cajun-esque blackened catfish with tomato-mango salsa, or perhaps a lamb biryani or braised Korean beef. And then top that off with a creamy pastry called Tower, molten chocolate oozing out of a lava cake, and the corners of your mouth.

"But take note: it’s not so-called fusion cooking," explains Juan. "It’s not East-meets-West in one dish. Each item on the menu tries to retain the authenticity of its origin."

However, the biggest suprise is that nothing in the menu costs more than P400.

Tanseco is emphatic about this. "The dishes are almost like comfort food. They’re simple fare, but really well-prepared. For example, you get the best of Thai food from the street hawkers, just as you get the best Filipino food at home. We Asians love to taste food from one another’s plate. We like chatting over meals. So that’s the kind of eating we want to encourage here."

Each meal, then, is like a postcard, created in recollection of every precious culinary memory imprinted on their taste buds. Time and again, Tanseco or Francisco or one of their friends would return from a trip to describe an unforgettable dish, and the next feat would be for Francisco, an avid cook, to replicate the flavor back here at home. In this sense, Store Super is like an extension of her kitchen.

It’s the closest thing to taking a photograph with your tongue.

The café itself is pretty as a picture: colorful, imaginative, dream-like. Like the menu mix, it is a highly visual melange. And one expects nothing less, since Tanseco is an architect by training, while Francisco majored in visual communication.

"Walking into this café is like walking inside Carlo’s head," discloses Francisco. "What you see on the panels are the things he has seen, what he has learned, all those abstractions he can’t really put into words, but can only express visually."

Tanseco’s design concept is almost as if he put all the art galleries and museums he had ever visited inside a box – and then shook them all up! Hanging on the walls and between tables are breathtaking glass panels – modern stained glass windows, as it were – etched with graphic illustrations of Oriental and Occidental images, Latin words and Chinese characters, Western elaborateness and Eastern austerity. The high-roofed space is compartmentalized through larger-than-life wooden and aluminum frames, "doorways to Tanseco’s psyche," as Francisco calls them, and painted in spicy shades of curry, saffron and paprika. Hard to miss is an enormous green pear hanging from the ceiling. The fruit of all their labor, perhaps?

But what you can’t see but will notice anyway is the amazing acoustics of the place. There is none of that din one might find in many new restaurants nowadays, thanks to Tanseco’s ingenious acoustic scheme that absorbs unnecessary noise, bang-and-clatter, and gossip from the neighboring table. So all you can hear are the ooohs and aaahs and yum-yums from your date, as well as the world music soundtrack from the speakers.

For Carlo, the ambitious idea that is Store Super manifests in a peculiar mix of elements, but it all pretty much comes from one source. "The concept of the place – my love for food, my passion for traveling, my background in architecture, my work in design – it’s all really the same thing. You will find, more often than not, painters, artists, designers, writers who also love to eat and cook and travel. It’s all part of self-expression and communicating," he says.

In other words, Store Super is a literal and figurative melting pot, but it’s more than that. It’s a travelogue, a photo album, an art gallery, a slide show, expressed in food and ambiance. It’s about people who have seen the world, who are so much the better for it, and would like to share that experience with others.

Store Super, as Tanseco, Francisco and Juan promise, is a global café. Have a bite there, and with a just little imagination, you can have the world at your tongue tip.
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