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In-car gourmet dining, anyone?

In-car gourmet dining, anyone?

Jeanette Tuason

Pinoy gourmands ride the wave of the latest innovation on food tripping amid the government’s quarantine rules

We are now entering the fourth week of ECQ/MECQ status imposed by the government in its desperate drive to combat the rise of coronavirus cases. As indoor and outdoor dining are still not allowed, the craving for their favorite food just cannot stop Pinoys from stalking their sources of culinary joy. Their latest discovery? Driving, parking, and eating inside their vehicles serving as a mini-bubble. And this is not your typical drive-thru, or parking lot feast. Popular restos are now offering gourmet dishes adapted to the restrictions of the times.

Let me share the thoughts of a restaurant owner and diners about this in-car dining idea.

Elbert Cuenca, Elbert’s  Pizzeria/ Metronome
How did this service start?

One ECQ day, a good friend was pleading for a way to order our carbonara since it’s his wife’s favorite. The problem with carbonara is that the sauce we make includes raw eggs and that it coagulates when it cools down. So it needs to be eaten as soon as it’s plated.  Eager to please, I told him he could park curbside, and we’d serve him the carbonara on our warm pasta bowl. I also gave him the number of the restaurant so he can sit in the car and be served. 
Of course, it worked, and since then, he’s been calling it the CAR-bonara hack. It’s also common to see purists eating our pizza curbside as they want fresh out of the oven.

Do you think this will stay? 

At this time, it’s a solution for customers who want to dine in when it isn’t allowed by the government. It certainly isn’t a new idea, as drive-ins were a bit popular in the US back in the 1960s and 70s, with window-mounted trays and waitresses on roller skates. It will be a service we will continuously offer for those who are still uncomfortable dining out altogether. 

How could it be improved? What makes it a unique experience?

I guess we could go as far as presenting the food in trays, the way they do in airplanes. Drive-in dining is an in-between of dine-in and take-out. It gives customers a choice to able to eat our food at its best quality while in the bubble of their vehicles. 

Rich Sanz and Maxine Marcelino, entrepreneurs
What was the restaurant event you attended?

The Gelinaz Shuffle is a one-day culinary pop-up event where restaurants all over the world swap secret menus. The clincher: they don’t know whose menu they’re doing. 

Our very own Toyo Eatery (#43 on Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants) participated. While all the others did a dine-in setup, @toyoeatery pulled off the first-ever in-car dining experience due to the current dine-in restrictions.

Some of the country’s most talented chefs, including Margarita Fores of Cibo and Bruce Ricketts of Mecha Uma, were invited to participate. It started with a briefing about the event and the stations around The Alley at Karrivin. 

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The first stop was grabbing non-alcoholic drinks at Metis then to our designated parking slot. An envelope with a QR code to watch Erwan Heusaff’s introduction and a curated Spotify playlist to complete the mood of the in-car dining. 
The first two courses were served while we were in the car, while the rest were offered on-demand by honking the horn. The food was presented in beautiful sugarcane packaging and packed the paper by local artist Carl Jan Cruz in a Korean Jobagi way. 

We think it’s a great, innovative idea given the current dining restrictions. And we hope to see more restaurants offering it if they’re lucky to have an ample parking space for clients. 

How could it be improved? What was so unique about it?

I guess it would be better if all the courses from start to end were served there in the car instead of a takeaway. Having some of the country’s top tastemakers together to cook up a gastronomic feast where people can enjoy safely in their vehicles. 

This year’s Gelinaz Shuffle has a significant theme too which is Silent Voices. The menus used were from the restaurants that were forced to close because of the pandemic. It was a fantastic tribute to the food of these restaurants. 

The dining industry is the most severely hit by the pandemic and the government must start thinking of the economic effects of the lockdowns on businesses. Even though take-out and delivery are allowed, the bulk of the restaurant’s revenues comes from their dining service. We hope that the government will consider opening establishments to vaccinated patrons. Even if the threats of COVID-19 persists, life goes on and by this time, we need to find ways to live with it.