You'll Go Crazy for Loco Manuk's Insanely Flavorful Roast Chicken
This chicken dinner is a winner!
5072 SGC Building, P. Burgos corner B. Valdez Street, Poblacion, Makati City
Open from 12 p.m. to 1 a.m. (Sunday to Wednesday) and 12 p.m. to 3 a.m. (Thursday to Saturday)
(SPOT.ph) It’s easy to dismiss Loco Manuk as another all-for-the-aesthetic, Instagram-worthy restaurant. Their spacious dining area on the second floor is, after all, an IG junkie’s dream come to life: Every nook is covered colorful messages from the restaurant’s patrons plus vibrant posters and funky décor. Even the bold, patterned tiles make for a great #shoefie background.
But for chef Danny Parreno, it’s more about expressing his colorful Peruvian background than it is about racking up likes on social media—not that they mind the latter, of course. “We wanted people to feel that Latin, Hispanic influence,” says Parreno. “So we decided to go with a look that is loud. All of this, for me, is just about having fun.”
Plus, they’ve got food that’s as vibrant and impactful as their interiors—Chef Danny cites not just his home country, Peru, but also Thailand as his main culinary influences. “I really liked the punchy, fresh flavors of Thai food,” says Parreno. “Coming from Peru, that flavor profile wasn’t foreign to me since we also use a lot of lemon and chili. So when I discovered Thai food, I thought ‘Oh my god, I’m at home.’”
The Philippines, too, has become another source of inspiration for Perreno. “Coming down to Manila, I started to get excited by all these different products,” he shares. “You have these amazing mangosteen, for example, or these beautiful Indian mangoes. For me, I thought this was like chef’s paradise.”
Parreno channels the spicy, citrusy flavors of Peruvian and Thai food into Loco Manuk’s specialty, the rotisserie-style chicken. And as much as possible, he uses local produce to create the flavor profile he’s looking for. “We’re very particular with the wood we use to roast our chicken,” he explains. “We tried different kinds of wood and we always came back to kaimito. It’s a nice plum that has this sweet aroma, and then we still wanted to have a smoky flavor, so we did a 50-50 blend with mahogany. Then we slow-roast for three to four hours in a nice, controlled heat.”
All the meticulousness pays off once you get a bite of the juicy Wood Roasted Chicken (P630/whole, P330/half, P170/quarter), whose mildly fruity, smoky notes hit you from skin to the tender meat. It’s so tasty, you almost forget about the sauce, but Loco Manuk has five, which lets you know they take dips seriously. If you only have space for one, try the Chimi Loco (P45)—Loco Manuk’s fresh chimichurri uses Vietnamese nuoc cham or fish sauce, Thai nam prik pao or chili jam, calamansi juice, and finely chopped Baguio pechay and spring onions.
The Southeast Asian influence also shines through in Loco Manuk’s other offerings. The BBQ Spareribs, Szechuan Caramel & Fried Garlic (P450) is amazingly buttery-soft, which contrasts wonderfully with the toasted spicy-sweet caramel crust. If you’re dining solo, you can also opt for the rice bowls: The succulent pork ribs of the Red Braised Pork Ribs Rice Bowl (P260) also falls apart at the slightest touch of a fork and has a salty-spicy bite from a black-bean relish that pairs perfectly with rice.
Loco Manuk isn’t just all about the chicken, either: Their tagline is “Chicken and Churros,” which lets you know that dessert is a must here. The Churro Sandwich (P180) is just the sweet treat you need to cap off a flavorful meal—the churro discs are buttery and pillowy-soft, and come with a thick scoop of ice cream of your choice: Berry Sauce and Strawberry Ice Cream, Salted Caramel and Vanilla Ice Cream, and Cookies ‘n Cream Ice Cream.
There’s a lot of good things going on at Loco Manuk—and we don’t just mean the vibrant interiors. But Parreno isn’t quite done developing his resto yet. “We wanted Loco Manuk to kind of be like a living organism,” he shares. “So every day it changes. There could be new writing on the wall, for example.” He also plans to open a bar in the space soon and has already teamed up with a mixologist. Lots of exciting things are planned for Poblacion’s new, bright spot—but we dare say the chicken is more than enough to keep you coming back.
Photos by Majoy Siason
*Update: A previous version of this article mistakenly called Danny Parreno the owner of Loco Manuk. This has since been corrected.