WHAT’S UP, QUE PASA?
Checking out the hottest hipster barbecue joint in Naga City
During my first visit to Naga, I happened to chance upon Que Pasa, a Mexican-inspired restaurant that had just recently opened. Now when you’re in a small, booming tourist city like Naga City, a newly opened restaurant really draws a crowd. Que Pasa, as it turned out, was no exception. I passed by the restaurant on its soft opening, and as expected, there was already a long line of buzzing hipster college kids and yuppies outside. It was tempting to brave the crowd to find out what the fuss was about, but I thought, nah, next time.
“Next time” turned out to be just a few days after. It was a weekday, and the girlfriend and I had just dropped by Naga Metropolitan Cathedral to take photos of the famous Porta Mariae arch. What used to be an empty property in front of this famous arc where Ina is housed during Peñafrancia Festival was now Que Pasa, and since it was gloriously uncrowded that particular day, I thought, why the heck not check the place out?
Upon entering, I was immediately taken by Que Pasa’s interiors. The walls were concrete and brick, painted with quotes and intricate doodles, the furniture bursting with yellows, oranges, blues, and reds. The eating area resembled a church (the girlfriend pointed out), and the high ceiling, stained glass windows, and rows of colorful wooden tables all had something to do with it. Not to mention, there was a big-ass signage surrounded by yellow bulbs in front, full center, that was impossible to ignore.
Owned by the same company behind Bigg’s, one of the biggest food chains in Naga, the restaurant was expected to be tasty without being too pricey – and what Que Pasa turned out to be was an upscale barbecue joint serving a fusion of American, Mexican, and Bicolano food.
The setup was pretty much like a cafeteria – you had to line up and select your preferred meat, sauce, and side dish – and this was probably why there was a long line outside during its opening. Once you’re familiar with the system, though, it wouldn’t take as long to order.
The girlfriend and I ended up getting two sticks of Pork Barbecue (P68 each) in two different sauces and two side dishes – no rice because we had just eaten a shitload of food from different places. We got some pork barbecue and paired them with the Que Pasa sauce and Chili Xocolate. There’s an option of having the sauces already on the meat, but you can also have them in a separate cup, which is what we did.
We found ourselves a nice, well-lit spot by one of the archways and dug in our trays.
The meat itself was good. Smoky, delicious, and tender. The Chili Xocolate Sauce was just okay – it was barbecue sauce tossed with chocolate and chili, but to me, it tasted like raisins more than anything. The Que Pasa Sauce, on the other hand, was delicious. It was a simple mix of garlic oil and paprika-lime sprinkle, but it was tasty that it could easily please any picky eater.
For the side dishes, the Judias Blancas (white beans) we ordered was just okay. They were neither exciting nor bursting with flavor, but they weren’t bad. The Paprika Mashed Potatoes were definitely better though. They were just seasoned right, although they could have had better texture. The one we had had a weird gummy texture, and that was slightly off-putting.
Overall, the meal at Que Pasa was satisfying. I’d try it with some Bicol Express rice next time, and I’d order some booze once the bar is up and running. If you do decide to drop by, go on a weekday to avoid the crowd, but if you can’t, take your friends along. Then at least the waiting wouldn’t be so bad.
Must-try: Barbecue + Que Pasa sauce
Good but could be better: Gummy mashed potatoes
Plus points for: High-ceiling, airy interiors, wall art, and cool signage
Barlin Street, Naga City
Getting there: Hail any tricycle and tell the driver to drop you off at Barlin. It’s near the cathedral.