The public has long known Nelson Canlas as the lively entertainment reporter on GMA Network’s newscasts, who serves them up with the hottest and most talked about showbiz happenings.
Thriving in broadcast journalism for the past 14 years, Canlas still loves every moment of dishing out celebrity news, and has no plans of slowing down, but has happily found another way of “serving” the public on the side.
“This time, with food—good food,” he happily told The Manila Times as he welcomed the paper to his barely two-month-old restaurant Tomas Morato, Quezon City, Palm Grill.
“I am never stressed with [showbiz]work because I am happy doing it. I believe, that anything that makes you happy will never stress you out,” Canlas shared.
“However, 14 years later in the [TV] business, you’ll find out that after a grueling day of coverage, it’s difficult to shut off from the world when you finally get home at night. When we started this restaurant, I realized there can be another way of shutting off from all that in a completely different world.”
That world, Palm Grill, is a venture he co-owns with Jose Miguel Moreno, who is also a brand new restaurateur, and like Canlas has a background farthest from food and beverage. A nurse by profession, Moreno turned into retail wiz as former country marketing manager of a luxury Swiss swatch brand.
Canlas and Moreno confess they have contrasting personalities. When it comes to decision making for Palm Grill, the TV reporter is more conservative, while the marketing man is more experimental. Thankfully, when it comes to the dishes they serve at the restaurant, they quickly came to an agreement.
“Our food is not fusion—it’s downright comfort food, no fuss, simple,” Canlas declared.
The menu’s centerpiece is a unique chicken recipe the partners are most proud of. Called the Green Chicken, the dish has been “tweaked to perfection” by Moreno’s mother, who first inherited it from her grandmother.
In describing the star of the show, Canlas confidently said, “It’s something you’ve never tasted before.” Indo-Malay in influence—with Moreno’s roots in Zamboanga del Norte—Green Chicken is slow-cooked in coconut milk and topped with seven secret spices.
“Last year, Miguel’s mother said, ‘I want to enter into a business, I want my chicken recipe to be served.’ I thought to myself, ‘What’s special about another chicken recipe’?” Canlas continued.
“I thought I’d tasted every chicken recipe there is until Miguel’s mom came to Manila and invited us to dinner—I was sold! I immediately said, ‘Let’s do this! I’ve never tasted anything like it before’!”
From there, there was no turning back.
Canlas and Moreno, despite being greenhorns in the food industry, learned the ropes and committed to being hands-on in their business. Canlas takes care of marketing, photography and menu designing, while Moreno is in charge of management and the restaurants over all look.
Moreno also came up with the restaurant’s logo, inspired by two main ingredients of their star recipe—palm (coconut) and chicken—with a play on the elements.
Ode to family
Besides their tender and tasty Green Chicken—whose sauce is possibly related to pesto with tons of spunk, for lack of a better word—Palm Grill features three more chicken recipes with their own unique stories.
“Oswald’s Fried,” is an old fashioned fried chicken recipe, made and named after Moreno’s educator turned politician and historian grandmother Oswalda Cabel. She is still known today as the only living historian and only female councilor of Jolo, Sulu.
With a crisp light batter, juicy meat and just the right hint of lime—“The way our grandmothers do it,” Canlas noted—Oswalda’s Fried gives off nostalgia in every bite.
Then there’s the “Olympus Roast,” roasted chicken whose recipe came from Moreno’s grandfather.
“Miguel’s grandfather operated a small steakhouse in Sulu called Olympus Steakhouse, which they opened when they relocated from Cebu and Zamboanga. It was a hit and people would go there for only two things: the steak and the Olympus Roast,” Canlas narrated.
Served surprisingly with peanut sauce, Olympus Roast is a chicken dish reminiscent of the Morenos’ family banquets.
Finally, “Labuyo Chicken” is the only recipe from the duo’s generation. Made from scratch with fresh labuyo or native chilies, the recipe was developed after Canlas’ friend and The Manila Times’ entertainment columnist MJ Marfori threw in the hot suggestion.
“MJ, a good friend of mine, was one of the first few to taste our menu. Being a lover of spice, she remarked, ‘I wish there was something spicy.’ And we thought, why not? We have something sweet, salty and savory, why not spicy?” Canlas recalled.
Canlas and Moreno are proud to have developed this spicy chicken recipe that simply teases the buds with spiciness, rather than a downright strong kick that needs dousing with water.
Granted their restaurant exists in a lair of other established dining concepts, Moreno told The Manila Times there are three reasons why their confident Palm Grill will make in the business.
“First, it’s because of our food–the Green Chicken most especially. I know a lot of people will be able to taste it for the first time and come back for more, that’s why I am so excited that it’s already here in Manila.
“Secondly, we have a beautiful and comfortable place to offer. And third, it’s our people. We have our service partners [whom they also treat like business partners, with their own saving accounts and a portion of the restaurant’s earnings]who give their best to every diner who walks in.”
As for Canlas, Palm Grill gives off the feeling of home, not just for him but those who have already tried the restaurant.
“It’s a new monster because it equally makes you tired, but it’s the home you’d like to go to after a hard day’s work. We give off that vibe to our diners,” the reporter and now certified restaurateur ended.
Palm Grill is located at 175 Tomas Morato Ave. Scout Castor, Quezon City. For reservations, call 0917-853-9490 or visit their Facebook page.