One of the best things about traveling to our other countries is that you get to experience their culture and try their local cuisines. But as much as we would love to travel on a regular basis, the sad truth is not all of us can, unless of course your job involves a lot of traveling (lucky you!). There is this new resto in Taguig, however, that can take you to 10 different countries in one sitting with their extensive menu.
Inspired by some local diners that he saw in New York and London, Raymund Magdaluyo of the Red Crab Group returned to the Philippines with a fresh new concept for a South American diner. When couple Jun Sunga and Vanessa Matsunaga approached him, that concept and dream grew, and turned into reality, thus Naxional was born, now with 14 partners on board one of which is Vanessa's brother, Kapamilya hunk Daniel Matsunaga. “It started with Sir Raymund Magdaluyo, he traveled to New York, well he travels a lot and then he saw this diner, South American diner, so I think he really got inspired by the whole thing. And then it so happened that my brother and I, together with my husband, we approached him with an idea of a Brazilian restaurant so the idea just combined and it's just too good not to put together. And we’re so excited for the whole thing, it’s a baby for our family.” Vanessa said.
Vanessa Matsunaga, Gege Matsunaga, Jun Sunga
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Looking through their menu that boasts specialties and household dishes from 10 different countries (Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Cuba, Mexico, Ecuador, Peru, Puerto Rico, and Venezuela) can be pretty over-whelming in a really good way. The exotic names and detailed description of the dishes labeled from which country they’re from will really pique your curiosity and will make you want to try them all. But if you really must decide on one, we got some recos for you:
The South American Map at the entrance of Naxional showing the produce of each country
For starters, their Elote is something I can personally vouch for. It is a chargrilled sweet corn covered in chili butter, mayo lime, and crumbled cheese which gives so much flavor that surprisingly complement each other. Trust me, this one is the bomb!
From there you can either go with the Picanha, if you’re a meat lover. It’s a rare cut of Brazilian steak, that’s just too good so much so that all the boys (Daniel included) are raving about it. “Oh my God, okay that guy is a carnivore. He definitely loves the Picanha,” Vanessa shares. Even her husband Jun Sunga is all into it. “We’re biased because Daniel and I are meat lovers so that's why we put it in the menu, and now it’s actually one of our bestsellers. It’s funny because our chef was telling us that she hasn’t seen people so passionate about one piece of steak.” And PBA Star Gabe Norwood, also one of the partners of Naxional, is no different. Talking about his favorite dish Gabe says, “Man, I like steak so Picanha, it’s a cut of steak I’ve never had before up until we invested here. I highly recommend it especially with the side of the chard pineapple and Brazilian fried rice.”
If you're on a diet and want to go for a healthier option then you may try their Encebollado (an Ecuadorian dish), which is a fish stew with cassava and pickled red onions. “I always come here and I always order the same thing that I don’t even have to tell them what I’m gonna order anymore. It’s so yummy,” enthuses Vanessa. However, when it comes to her ultimate favorite dish in the menu, Vanessa can be a little biased for all the right reasons. “My mom cooks all the Brazilian recipes here and I’m super enthusiastic about eating her food, because for a long time I lived by myself together with Daniel. We just wanted a little piece of home and she cooks so well, so yeah I guess all her recipes are my favorite,” she adds.
We've surely got surefire hit on our hands—and a homey, unpretentious one at that. "I think it's just the atmosphere that we're trying to sell. It’s a diner so it's perfect for families, and also the experience. You don’t need a passport to go have a taste of South America, because you can get it here in the Philippines (at Naxional),"
Naxional is locaed at Second Floor, Uptown Parade, 9th Avenue Corner 38th Street, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City. It is open Monday to Saturday, 11 AM to 1 AM and on Sundays from 8 AM to 10 PM. For the latest updates, you follow Naxional on Instagram and Twitter @NaxionalDiner and on Facebook.com/NaxionalSouthAmericanDiner.
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Photographs by Jana Jimenez