"The Real Thing" used to be the advertising slogan for Coca-Cola, the ubiquitous soft drink brand with the classic white lettering against a red background.
It's also the name of a themed diner at Tomas Morato in Quezon City which opened late last year.
And it was named such for a reason. The place screams "I love Coca-Cola so much that I'm giving it free advertising!" at the top of its lungs, from the familiar signage font to the huge coke bottle-shaped shelf filled with Coca-Cola memorabilia.
It even has a display of mini polar bears reminiscent of old Coke commercials, which, by the way, are also aired on the restaurant's lone flat screen television.
After drowning in a sea of red and white, one would naturally think that Coca-Cola has a lot to do with the establishment of this diner.
Surprisingly, The Real Thing is not the soft drink company's concept, but that of Noelle Cassandra and KV Golamco, who happen to have a vast collection of Coke paraphernalia.
(Read this article by my colleague, Ira, to know more about the diner's history.)
Just like the diner's interiors, food served at The Real Thing are also infused with Coke and other Coca-Cola products -- from Sprite and Royal Tru-Orange to Sarsi, the sarsaparilla-based soft drink sold here in the Philippines.
The drinks, obviously, have Coca-Cola in them, too. There's the Brazilian chocolate iced coffee (P99), which seems to be a glorified version of the Coke float.
It tasted weird, but in a good way. The coffee and melted semi-sweet chocolate helped elevate the flavor of the drink (which can actually pass as a dessert), making it a tad more refined.
The next item on their menu, the Chicken tenders with Coca-Cola barbecue sauce (P169), was not as impressive.
It seemed more like fried bread than chicken, especially after serving it with a generous helping of potato wedges which added more oil, salt and starch.
The sweet and spicy Coca-Cola barbecue sauce, unfortunately, was not enough to redeem this dish.
The Sarsi fish and chips (P249), however, made me take this diner a bit more seriously. Instead of the usual milk or beer batter, the fish was coated in Sarsi batter, giving it a deep brown color.
The fish was served with criss cut fries and a Sarsi-mayo dipping sauce, which was surprisingly yummy despite its unappetizing appearance.
The first few bites were interesting, with so many things going on in my mouth -- from the piping hot fish to the sweet and crunchy batter and the sarsaparilla aftertaste, which may not sit well with fish and chip purists.
Things started to change, however, when the fish started to get cold. Just like all other fried food, its taste wasn't as pleasing. Try forcing the rest of it into your mouth and you'll start to get dizzy.
To make the most out of this dish, share it with a friend or two. Or if you're the fast food junkie, finish it quickly.
I wasn't fully satisfied with my meal, but the restaurant wasn't to blame. After all, one can't really expect much from diner food, which is usually characterized by fried food and burgers.
Still, I commend the owners of The Real Thing for coming up with a refreshing concept, one that has made foodies and Coke fans enter this small space in Il Terrazzo -- or at the very least, do a double take.
THE REAL THING
2/F Il Terrazzo
305 Tomas Morato corner Scout Madrinan
Quezon City, Philippines
For reservations, call (632) 352-4320