Starweek Magazine

Aling Asyang’s legacy

IN MY BASKET - Lydia D. Castillo - The Philippine Star

On the day Gorio was threatening to wreak havoc on Bicol and Metro Manila with heavy downpours, when the traffic situation on Roxas Boulevard was horrendous, with vehicles on a virtual stand still, we went through the dreary day and continued to proceed to the Aristocrat restaurant to re-live happy memories of having original  Pinoy comfort food. This was a resolve we made with our friend two months ago. So go, we must!

The Aristocrat was founded by a housewife, Engracia Reyes, after some successful small food ventures. That was 80 years ago, during which time it earned the reputation as a top dining place among Filipinos (and foreigners) seeking original Pinoy comfort food. Aling Asyang, as she became known (likewise as Lola Asyang and Donya Asyang), built the restaurant with the belief that “when one is served good food, given excellent service, he/she will feel like an aristocrat.” That adage is adhered to by her descendants.

The place on Roxas Boulevard must have been lucky for the Reyeses, who  never transferred their operation elsewhere. It was upgraded with fully air-conditioned, double pavilion-type halls, done in beige and brown, with a skylight. It was nearly full when we arrived and through the hours we spent there, diners kept  coming in. The staff led by an efficient Rochelle were quick and gracious.

Now the food for which we made the long trip from our base. We remember their curb-side service which we often patronized at night before going to late movies. That was the time they introduced Chicken Honey, fried to a crisp, marinated in a sweetish sauce. We would follow it up with halo-halo, overflowing with sweets topped with a slice of leche flan and ube ice cream. That rainy day we had to have them – together with the hard to find camaron rebosado, pancit bihon with kikiam balls and the traditional kare-kare. It was a super lunch that made us resolve to go back for other Aristocrat foods of yesterday that are still good today.

There is a bake shop located by the left side of the entrance. The Torta de Los Reyes, akin to sans rival in heavy chocolate, is a must-taste and must-buy. Browse and find more goodies to take home.

The Reyes food chain spans an extensive food empire. Daughter Clara is the Reyes behind the Mama Sita’s mixes and sauces, named after a daughter, grandson Alvin has Serye, granddaughter Priscilla manages the Aristocrat, another granddaughter Millie makes the most delicious American ham, causing long lines wherever it is served. Granddaughter Nancy has published a series of cookbooks, plus the Reyes Barbecue in malls and supermarkets.  

Indeed the Legacy of Aling Asyang lives on to satiate cravings for authentic Pinoy comfort food.

Have a Filipino meal today!

E-mail me at [email protected]

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