Lemon Grass opens at SM Seaside
Thirteen years after its first branch opened, Lemon Grass is now taking root at the SM Seaside City Cebu on October 18, 2018.
What started as just a simple business expansion turned into a passionate cultural exchange between families from Thailand, Vietnam, and the Philippines.
Unknown to most, the Laguna Group actually delved into Thai cuisine years before Lemon Grass came to be. As the pioneer Food & Beverage Concession at City Sports Club Cebu in 2002, the group ran a Thai concept at the fine dining May-i outlet.
In his stint at the Culinary Institute of America in Napa Valley, Laguna Group Corporate Chef, Raki Urbina, met fellow chefs from Thailand and Vietnam in the prestigious Worlds of Flavor Conference. It was there that his interest in putting up a restaurant featuring these countries’ cuisines came about.
“I was fascinated with how Thai and Vietnamese cooking shared many common ingredients but differed very much in taste”, says Chef Raki. In fact, Lemon Grass became the official restaurant name due to it being featured in a lot of Thai and Vietnamese recipes.
An invitation to visit Thailand paved the way for the Urbina family to go into extensive research for Lemon Grass. Chef Raki reconnected with friends and colleagues during this trip and was amazed to learn that one of them was a mentor for those training to serve the Thai Royal family. The trip also led them to cross paths with Mr. Andrew Boongird, who fast became an adopted son of the Urbinas as he generously helped the group immerse in Thai culture. Staying at Andrew’s family home meant that the group got to cook with his very own mother, learning the ins and outs of everyday Thai home cooking. One of the most rewarding immersion was going to the market every morning to buy household food provision.
The Urbinas also forged relationships with Vietnamese friends over the years, a cultural exchange that took place both here and Vietnam. Seeing the lack of Viet restaurants in Cebu, Laguna Group CEO Julita Urbina and the rest of the family felt it was right to feature this alongside Thai cuisine in their first venture after the group’s flagship, Cafe Laguna.
In 2005, Lemon Grass opened at the Ayala Entertainment Center in Ayala Center Cebu. It enjoyed a steady following over the years which led to its relocation to the Ayala Terraces. To date, diners of different backgrounds and ethnicities converge in Lemon Grass for a hearty meal of much loved Thai and Vietnamese dishes.
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