Archive for January 2011
BY DOMINIQUE JAMES
“When we no longer have good cooking in the world, we will have no literature, nor high and sharp intelligence, nor friendly gatherings, nor social harmony.” – Marie-Antoine Caréme, Chef (1784-1833)
The population of the Filipino community in Jersey City, New Jersey, has steadily grown through the years. The latest count estimates more than half-a-million who now takes up both permanent and long-term residence there. And from all indications, the population is expected to rise in the years to come.
A very good (and quite visible) indication of this growth can be seen in the steady increase of Filipino-owned establishments in the area. Stores, groceries, restaurants, among others, run mostly by enterprising Filipinos, pop up alongside all other small businesses serving the community.
One such new and exciting venture is Side Grill.
Side Grill, located at West Side Avenue and which opened just three months ago, is a contemporary Filipino restaurant serving many of the most popular and well-loved dishes from almost all major regions of their homeland, The Philippines. There are already a number of well-established Filipino and Asian-themed restaurants lining up West Side Avenue. But Side Grill, as the newest addition, is yet another visible Filipino “food culture” stamp on the area.
While Side Grill is decidedly and authentically Filipino, serving an amazing breadth and depth of selections featuring mostly all-time favorite dishes and catering primarily to the Filipino palette (a taste of home, so to speak), this is not to say that they are exclusively serving the Filipino clientele. As a matter of fact, since Side Grill threw its doors open, the restaurant has enjoyed very supportive patronage from Americans and a curious mix of people hailing from various nationalities. At any time, it is not unusual to see Americans and people of different nationalities share and partake meals with Filipinos. This is quite an unexpected but very welcome development since the Filipino cuisine, which is mostly an exotic fusion of Western and Oriental influences, has yet to enjoy as much popularity as other Asian cuisines, particularly that of the Thai, Japanese and Chinese cuisines.
So, what draws all sorts of people to Side Grill? The delicious food prepared by chef Herman Villadolid and his all-Filipino kitchen staff? The beautiful and colorful ambience of the dining area? The trademark and almost-patented happy and warm welcoming smiles of the Filipinos?
Most likely, it’s a magical combination of all of the above.
[Note: I’ve had the delightful pleasure of photographing Side Grill’s delicious food for their first major promotional campaign. This photo shoot project was done with Dennis Altobar. Together, we’ve photographed almost 50 mouth-watering dishes within the span of a week all on location. We’ve also photographed Side Grill’s restaurant interior and exterior during the day, and at night time. Many of the pictures are now featured in Side Grill’s beautiful and elegant website, serving as a counterpoint to the fantastic logo designed by Mark Gonzales. Some of the food photographs are individually featured as the main visual element of full-color posters and all other collateral promo materials designed by the creative artists of The Studio. These posters and promo materials has been professionally printed by Marisse Panlilio of MPGrafx.]