Pagudpud rarely sees innovative restaurant ideas despite a big tourist market that hit 110,000 in 2011. With big opportunities for niche play here, a couple builds their Filipino-German fusion outlet in the northern town.
Seventy-five kilometers or two hours away from Laoag City, by the vast rice fields at Sitio Salucag, Brgy. Burayoc in Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte, is the last place one would scour for a German restaurant. For husband-and-wife owners, Marites and Detlev Cotte, it just might be the perfect quaint place to build Bergblick, which in German means mountain (berg) and view (blick).
Marites is a Filipina and Detlev, a German.
Introducing German cuisine to the travel market had been a struggle for the couple. Despite the surprise and relief of Europeans, especially Germans, to see such a 72-seater restaurant in the north, they only comprise less than five percent of Bergblick’s customers, Marites said. Eventually, they had to give in to the local traveler’s demand for pinakbet and bagnet. Fusion was one their answers.
Bergblick’s menu is an interesting mix of Philippine regional, German, and Filipinized German (or Germanized Filipino) cuisines. Its main course is dominated by Filipino favorites such as adobo and sinigang while having separate sections for Ilocano staples like Ilocandia Express (mixed vegetables with coconut milk, chili, and bagnet) and German dishes like Pfanderl (bread crumbed pork chop, pork roast, sausage, cabbage roll, pan-fried potatoes and mixed salad) and Königsberger Klopse (steamed meat balls in white wine sauce with kapers).
Fusing both East and West culinary traditions, he came up with their Homemade Malungay Ravioli (with adobo filling in Italian tomato sauce with fresh herbs, served with mixed salad) and Pinakbet Lasagna (with pumpkin sauce and salad decoration).
Bergblick’s kitchen is run by Detlev, who was only 22 when he became one of the youngest sous chefs in Switzerland. He further honed his culinary experience by traveling to other European destinations such as England and Switzerland. Later, he took an executive education for chefs in Germany.
Detlev was at the height of his career in Europe when he decided to settle in Asia for good with his wife. He brought with him the kitchen standards and management practices from the West, which are reflected in the way he selects ingredients and preparation, among others.
Marites described their food as “fine dining” although their restaurant is devoid of the upscale ambiance and the price associated with it. What Detlev does is integrate painstaking preparation and presentation into his dishes in a way that elevates these to haute cuisine level. This way, he hinted, even Filipino food ̶ any any dish for this matter ̶ can be raised to the level of fine dining.
Aside from food preparation, he implements his training philosophy on his five-member crew, all locals, to have good kitchen skills and service delivery. Training comes very natural each day and he said he never misses to teach them the small details in restaurant management.
“Even the small things you try to take care of,” he said. To prove a point, he asked his waitress where a person of a particular demography should comfortably sit inside his restaurant. With a bit of prodding, he got the right answer.
Last summer, during the surge of tourists following Paoay Kumakaway’s launch, Marites said customers opted to wait for as long as two hours just to be seated. But it is only during the peak months (December and summer) that BergBlick gets this crowd, making the couple think twice about expansion.
This mindset may not last long. Off-season tourism is rising in Ilocos Norte with its growing appeal for business events and more student field trips. Additionally, BergBlick now tops all Pagudpud-based restaurants in leisure-focused TripAdvisor, where varying touristy stories converge into a single banner: a German outlet “in the middle of nowhere”.
BergBlick may just have to wait further, just as much as a touristy town like Pagudpud had waited for a kind of innovation as theirs.