Rico Rico is shaking up the food-court scene
It's from the group behind Churreria La Lola.
Food on Four, 4/F SM Aura Premier, C5 Road corner 26th Street, Bonifacio Global City
Open daily from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
(SPOT.ph) While SM Aura’s Food on Four is no ordinary food court, there is one brightly lit stall at its center that stands out. If the pastel colors of Rico Rico don’t attract you, then the smell of paella cooking in their open kitchen should do the trick.
“We wanted to build a kitchen where your grandma will be cooking,” shares co-owner and director for marketing Dani Aliaga, hence the light color scheme that is easy on the eyes and the blue-and-white tiled counter that serves as Rico Rico’s bar seating. It’s easy to imagine yourself sitting in an ancestral kitchen, watching your Spanish grandmother cook up a storm.
The wholesome vibe goes beyond just the look of the place. “If we wouldn't make it for our families we wouldn't make it in our food court [stall],” says head chef Edgar Sanuy. It was a philosophy the group behind Churreria La Lola and Tomatito—aside from easy favorites Rambla and Las Flores—has always abided by, and they don’t see any reason to stop now despite the challenges that come with operating in a food court.
“People are expecting to pay [less] when they come to a food court,” shares Chef Edgar. “So our challenge came when we didn’t want to sacrifice any product we used in our restaurants. We’re not going to use anything here that we wouldn't use in a very nice paella place in Spain.” This meant striking a balance between using the freshest ingredients for their dishes and offering them at reasonable prices.
It’s not an easy task, but it was a challenge the group hurdled successfully. Their solo paella, which is actually large enough for two people if both aren’t so hungry, are priced below P400, while their to-share pans are kept below P600. They are reasonable prices, especially when you consider how the quality of the ingredients shines through just from the first delicious bite. Plus, Rico Rico allows you to customize your paella, to a certain extent.
While Rico Rico offers six paella bases, you can choose to add more toppings like egg, chorizo, salpicao, and more, plus you get to pick from four different kinds of aioli: Parsley, Saffron, Garlic, or Chili. And while the staff can help you decide which topping goes well with each base, at the end of the day, you can’t go wrong with any combination. It’s the magic that comes with using only the best and the freshest toppings.
If you want to stick to the classic seafood paella, get the Marisco (P320/small, P595/to share). The squid is almost melt-in-your-mouth soft and the shrimp has a nice crisp bite. Both are lightly seasoned, to highlight the subtly sweet flavor the seafood broth gives the rice.
Meat lovers will enjoy the Carne (P290/solo, P550/to share). The rice has a smoky flavor that goes well with the sweet-glazed pork, with slivers of fat making each bite richer. Have this paella with the Parsley aioli, for that burst of freshness that will elevate this dish.
Those who love the strong umami flavor of squid ink will enjoy the Negra 2.0 (P265/solo, P495/to share). The briny flavor of the squid is as bold as the rich black hue of the rice grains, with juicy chicken chunks and the clean sweetness of red bell pepper adding contrast.
While the paellas are the star of the show, their tapas and desserts are not to be missed. The Chorizo Croquetas (P190) are the perfect snack, and you’ll be surprised to find that the velvet-smooth filling isn’t made from potatoes but from a lighter blend of flour, cream, and smoky-sweet chorizo bits.
The Leche Flan (P120) also isn’t the Pinoy dessert you’re accustomed to. Served in a glass jar, this flan is made with both egg whites and yolk for a dessert that is light and airy, with the charred saccharine flavor of caramel a whisper at the end of each spoonful.
Rico, shares Dani, means "yummy" in Spanish. Fitting, since no other word will be on your mind with every bite of Rico Rico's delicious paella.
Photos by Jericho San Miguel