Food de Sentosa is owned by Mr. Ronnie Teo, a Singaporean who's immigrated and married here. His son, David, turned out to be a co-teacher of mine at the College of Saint Benilde, but had to take a leave to help out at the restaurant due to the unexpected boom of demand there. He is now its full-time manager but you can also find him inside the kitchen helping his dad cook.
The elder Teo is a retiree who started the restaurant simply because he got bored after retirement. He had always loved cooking as a hobby and being the cook of the family, he brought in his family recipes as well as his own style of cooking and drew from Singapore's mixed Malay-Chinese heritage to build up Food de Sentosa's menu.
The eventual success of Food de Sentosa is one of life's quirks that just happens: With no business plan, no formal culinary training, no background in the food business, but armed only with a love of food and cooking, he launched his restaurant in November 2009. He never expected it would take off the way it has--they were even featured in the Philippine Daily Inquirer without their knowing a reviewer had visited--because he wasn't serious about it when he started, recalls David.
Today, they have regulars in and out of BF, like a fellow Singpaporean who travels all the way from Batangas just to eat there three to five times a week. Can you say Food de Sentosa addict?
One other reason for his success may be that Mr. Teo simply can't say no to any customer requests--he once cooked tempura for a customer. "Sometimes, he will cook something new on the spot and sometimes the dish would find its way to the menu the next day," David grins. He will also create new dishes with in-season ingredients like tom yao, kay lan, bok choy, and tang-o either from the local market or flown in from Singapore. (They also have kid-friendly dishes like Fried Fish Fillet with Chili Crab Sauce that's not spicy and custom-made prawn-flavored fried chicken).
We loved the Lamb Satay, grilled to tender perfection and served with Mr. Teo's own traditional peanut sauce. Food de Sentosa's version of satay sauce is not as sweet as the Madurese version served in Pawon Ageng; I think it has more tamarind, and has a more herby aroma. Which do I like better? Give me both! Nobody ever died of a satay overdose, and one of these days when wifey is not watching I'm going to prove it! The sauce went very well with the unique aroma of lamb.
The Black Pepper Beef had a nice savory flavor, though not as hot as I would've expected from a Singaporean restaurant; unfortunately there were some tough bits.
I enjoyed the Nasi Goreng, Malay-style spiced fried rice with bits of meat, vegetables and egg, made savory with belachan, Malay dried shrimp. I rather wish the portion was a bit larger because we finished it before we could consume all the beef. The Nasi Goreng was really a meal in itself--a scrumptious one at that--so we could've gotten two and skipped the Black Pepper Beef.
I also wish I wasn't allergic to crab. A serving of chili crab went to the other table just as Cat and I finished eating, and the aroma simply grabbed me and almost made me forget I'd already eaten.
I've always said BF Homes needs more restaurants like these, and I'll say it again. Singaporean food is a great way for Pinoys to start sampling the wider galaxy of Asian cuisines, blending as it does the influences of Malaysian and Indian cuisine with the familiarity of Chinese, and Food de Sentosa is just the place for it.
One last detail: Why the color purple as the restaurant's theme color, we asked David. Because his dad didn't want the all-too familiar red, David laughs. Food de Sentosa's striking color was a great way to announce itself to the community a year-and-a-half ago, being the first restaurant here to use it in a big way. Today, his cooking and can-do attitude has endeared himself to his customers and has established his former hobby into a full-blown business.