The Aristocrat Restaurant Turns 75 years : 1936-2011!
The Aristocrat is celebrating its 75th Anniversary. What is the secret behind the restaurant’s staying power? For a local Filipino brand to endure three generations, there must be many compelling reasons. Foremost among these must be the superior quality. After 75 years, The Aristocrat remains “the home of the best chicken barbecue in town” as its best-selling specialty continues to be an all-time favorite for Filipinos here and abroad, and even among foreigners yearning for a taste of unique Filipino cuisine.
The One and Only – Aristocrat Chicken Barbecue
So what is the secret behind the Aristocrat’s best seller — The legendary Aristocrat Chicken Barbecue? Primarily, it is the special marinate solution, a time-honored recipe originally crafted by the founder and matriarch Dona Engracia Cruz-Reyes, preserved for decades and closely guarded not just as a trade secret but a legacy of the Reyes clan. Yet even before applying this recipe, part of the secret already starts from obtaining only the finest premium quality ingredients – beginning with the Aristocrat’s “perfect chicken” (in weight and color, size and shape, smell and touch). So stringent is the quality control at the Aristocrat that suppliers bewail why their deliveries rejected by the Aristocrat can be accepted by hotels and fine dining restaurants. The Aristocrat is undaunted, remaining staunchly faithful to the doctrine of the matriarch “Una sa lahat, huwag manloloko ng customer!” The Aristocrat accepts only the freshest ingredients – meat and fish, vegetables and fruits are all delivered fresh, not frozen or processed. The chicken barbecue is also freshly cooked – not pre-cooked then reheated like some fast-food restaurants, because as Dona Engracia Cruz-Reyes insisted, “Mas masarap at mas malasa; mas malinamnam at mas malambot ang bagong-luto!” Finally, the chicken is grilled to a reddish brown color, using a patented griller specially fabricated and customized to suit Aristocrat’s exacting standards.
Patrons must agree and that is why they keep coming back even after all these years, and despite the proliferation of new barbecue restaurants or inihaw-inasal chains. For a perfect complement, the classic 3-piece chicken barbecue is paired with the country’s original Java Rice and unique Java Sauce, garnished with the native achara (pickled papaya). Many competitors have tried hard to duplicate the classic Aristocrat chicken barbecue, but alas, no one has been able to match, much less beat the taste of the all-time favorite, best-seller and specialty, the one and only – classic Aristocrat chicken barbecue.
Tastes Good and Feels Good
As in all brands that endure the vicissitudes of time and the vagaries of competition, the unshakeable customer loyalty that Aristocrat enjoys among its patrons must transcend the functional or rational dimension — not just the “steak”(or in this case, chicken) but the “sizzle” (or Java sauce), so to speak.
Customer feedback indicates that eating the classic chicken barbecue does not only ”taste good” but even more importantly, “feels good”. This emotional benefit can be attributed to all the fond memories of clients when they had their first taste of the Aristocrat chicken barbecue many moons ago — perhaps when their parents treated the children for lunch after Sunday Mass, or at a couple’s first date after a romantic stroll under the golden sunset in Manila Bay; maybe when they were guests at a best friend’s graduation party or during a company “blow-out” by the boss. Whatever the occasion, the Aristocrat seems to offer not only “comfort food”, but it helps relive the pleasant memories of family and relatives, friends and colleagues – all sharing a special meal at a special place. The matriarch must be pleased because she welcomed customers like her own children – deserving only the best in taste and heftiest in portions. This helps explain why dining at Aristocrat has become an enduring Filipino family tradition.
A Craft Not Just Commerce
The Aristocrat’s attention to detail shows a love for cooking as a craft, not just commerce. There is a passion for perfection that has become a culture of excellence beyond chicken barbecue. The famous Aristocrat pancit canton, a favorite accompaniment to the chicken barbecue, derives its delicious taste not only from the generous “sahog” composed of meat, shrimps and fresh vegetables, but embedded right in the noodles which are manufactured within the restaurant premises using a proprietary recipe, instead of buying from commercial noodle makers. Even the peanut sauce used in the original Java sauce and “kare-kare” is made only from freshly-ground peanuts rich in flavor and not purchased as commercial peanut butter. The “bagoong” (fish paste) is made, not bought, using only fresh “alamang”. Instead of commercial powder form, The Aristocrat Iced Tea uses the finest tea leaves and extracted in-house, blended with lemon and honey to produce a deliciously refreshing, uniquely frothy beverage.
Yet even if one uses top ingredients and follows the recipe, there is still no guarantee it will produce the best-tasting food. Lola Asyang would always exhort her children and staff to “cook with your heart.”
Same Old Recipe, Brand New Look
In commemoration of the company’s 75th Diamond Anniversary, the President Ms. Priscila Reyes-Pacheco, a grandchild of Dona Engracia Cruz-Reyes, has received the mandate from the Board, composed of descendants of the matriarch, to spearhead a comprehensive campaign to revitalize the brand, starting with a renovation of the original store at the corner of Roxas Blvd. and San Andres St. Renovations across all outlets are also being undertaken, including a new modern logo that will ensure the brand remains timeless and timely; classic yet contemporary. Just like what mature and established brands do, the Aristocrat is undertaking this major initiative to attract new and younger families even as the restaurant continues to welcome and honor its many generations of loyal patrons. Rest assured, even as Aristocrat embraces a brand new look, it will continue to serve original, time-honored recipes.
The Aristocrat Begins Expansion
In recent years, as the population has grown exponentially and Manila has expanded north-east-southward, it is heartening to know that the Aristocrat has also started to branch out in order to be more accessible to its patrons, albeit slowly and surely to ensure compliance with the founder’s exacting standards and cooking philosophy. It already has branches in Robinson’s Place Manila (RPM) and 5 SM malls including MOA, Manila, San Lazaro, North EDSA and up to San Fernando, Pampanga; aside from free-standing restaurants in Jupiter Street in Makati, Subic in Zambales and as far south as San Pablo in Laguna. More company-owned and franchised stores are planned in the near future. Deliveries (at 894-0000) are growing in-step with consumers’ need for convenience, while catering increases as party-hosts discover the special treat of Aristocrat chicken barbecue freshly-grilled in their own backyards.
A Filipino Brand with a Global Potential
On its 75th Anniversary, the Aristocrat is poised to go global and delight foreigners with unique Filipino cuisine, judging from its citation in “Planet Barbecue” by Steven Raichlen, who wrote that the Aristocrat chicken barbecue is the dish to try if a traveler had only enough time for one meal in Manila. And it appears tourists have taken heed of the advice based on the growing number of foreign patrons.
After 75 years, the Aristocrat Restaurant proudly remains as “the home of the best-tasting chicken barbecue in town”, if not the whole country, and hopefully in the next 75 years, in the whole world, as the Aristocrat continues to elevate unpretentiously delicious Filipino cuisine into “food fit for royalty”.
If a diamond is forever, then the Aristocrat is for good – literally and figuratively — committed to nourishing families with authentic Filipino food and nurturing families with traditional Filipino values.