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Food and Leisure

Down South is a hall for all

ARTMAGEDDON - Igan D’Bayan - The Philippine Star
Down South is a hall for all
The Bistro Group has reopened and reimagined its My South Hall food court at Conrad’s S Maison in Pasay City. And it goes beyond being a mere food court; it feels more like a hall of flavors.
Photos by Walter Bollozos

At the end of the pandemic, we will go out with our loved ones and start living. Again. Not like before where we synthetically clocked in day after day, barely human, automatedly accruing properties and insuppressible pressure. But live, dammit, live. Gaze at sunsets, God’s own screensavers. Walk the dog (even if she were the Beast of the Village out to drag you hell-ward by the leash). Listen to music and watch movies like a child open to wonderment (killing the crusty critic within). Talk rather than text. Attend good art shows and partake of equally good food. Savor and not just consume.

It is not the end of the pandemic, not by a long shot. The Greek alphabet is long and full of terrors, but we are starting to adapt. Like we always have. Charles Darwin foresaw the bad eggs but predicted how resilient the good ones are. Maybe at this point, after most of us being holed up for two long years as emperors of living rooms and summoners of delivery riders, we should not just adapt, but — no matter how difficult it is — do our own personal renaissance. And the quest is punctuated with hearty meals.

Jean Paul Manuud, president and COO of The Bistro Group, believes it is indeed high time for a reset, a recharge and a sumptuous repast.

The Bistro Group has reopened and reimagined its My South Hall food court at Conrad’s S Maison in Pasay City. And it goes beyond being a mere food court; it feels more like a hall of flavors.

Southern heaven: Favorites from El Pollo Loco, Bulgogi Brothers, Modern Shanghai and Fish & Co.

What Paul has noticed is when customers are in a particular restaurant within a cluster of Bistro Group “synergy stores” (say, within Uptown Mall or Conrad), they order dishes from the other Bistro brands as well. Paul has seen the pattern and thus, duly inspired, he and the group decided on formalizing that experience with My South Hall with its lineup of restaurants such as Bulgogi Brothers, El Pollo Loco, Modern Shanghai, Fish & Co., Buffalo Wild Wings, and Fresh Co. (Right outside the hall itself are other Bistro restaurants such as Texas Roadhouse, Italianni’s, and Watami.)

Manuud explains, “(That was) the inspiration — a food hall where our well-loved restaurants are located in a common area. My South Hall is a big venue that houses our dependable concepts and features different cuisines that are in synergy with one another. There is no duplication of flavors, whether you prefer Japanese, Mexican, Chinese, Korean, American, and a lot more. And it offers full service, so you don’t have to leave your table. Our servers will take care of your orders and serve them.”

The place is comfortable and spacious (which is of utmost concert for us social distancers); the interior design is cool, comfy and contemporary (creamy wood tones dominate along with sofa cushions in teal [or turquoise, if you are slightly hungover]); the enthusiastic food servers and managers are all strictly following health and safety protocols; and the kitchens are rocking with cuisines for diners of all gustatory persuasions — call it “hall for all.”

Paul explains how it is usual to see, for example, a mom and a dad whet their appetites with steamed chicken feet or those signature xiao long bao from Modern Shanghai, the daughter gravitate toward salads and wraps at Fresh Co, while the two boys go crazy with Slammers and jalapeño pepper bites from Buffalo Wild Wings, with all of them sharing some Bombay fish-and-fries combo from Fish & Co., marinated boneless short ribs and wraps from Bulgogi Brothers, or tasty flame-grilled chicken from El Pollo Loco. (The components may vary, but we adore how families — traditional or non-traditional — operate: each is an individual, in terms of food, music and otherwise, and yet everyone shares.)

“Everyone gets to choose,” the Bistro executive says. The cuisines are curated and the experience of cross-ordering from Bistro brands within and right outside the hall is seamless. Paul utilized the downtime during the long lockdowns to rethink some of their restaurant strategies.

My South Hall was transformed from its former setup of being an elevated fast-casual food court into something more sophisticated, a space that would fit in the new dynamics consistent with the grand reset the world has long been hankering for.

Lisa Ronquillo, The Bistro Group VP for marketing; Guia Abuel, VP for operations; Jean Paul Manuud, The Bistro Group president and COO; and Divine Peralta, director of operations.

“The response of our customers has been encouraging,” he says. “They have high expectations for Bistro brands and our aim is to meet — even surpass — those expectations. The situation now is significantly different from last year’s when we felt the gloom of the pandemic hovering over us. This is because more and more people are getting vaccinated and people feel safer going out of their homes.”

Manuud says the people behind the Bistro Group are in high spirits. “Bistro is back!” he concludes. Customers sharing dishes from Korea, China, Mexico, the US and other countries — well, that could give us a semblance of normalcy. A new season after downer upon downer of episodes. A family sharing a meal, being in the same hall — what could top that?

Now, what should we do as the metaphorical winter of discontent might soon be ending? We simply head South.

* * *

My South Hall is at Level 1, S Maison, Conrad Manila, Marina Way corner Seaside Boulevard, Mall of Asia Complex, Pasay City. For information, follow My South Hall on social media.

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