Oxtail Filipino Inspired is the latest arrival on Chicago’s Filipino food scene. The brainchild of Chef Rampelle Aguilar and his brother-in-law Chef Ben Sussman, Oxtail aims to put a contemporary twist on familiar Pinoy dishes.
In anticipation of their first pop-up dinner on May 3, Chefs Ben and Rampelle held a sneak peek event at Map Room on March 29. We got to sample their pork belly adobo, tilapia ceviche and shiitake lumpia while chilaxing with old pals and making new ones. That’s part of Oxtail’s vision, according to its Indiegogo page: to create “a growing community of people who love to eat [their] food.”
Chef Rampelle explained that Oxtail was born of his and Chef Ben’s mutual passion for Filipino food, a desire to be their own bosses and what they (and we!) see as a dearth of readily available Filipino cuisine.
“You can’t get a lot of Filipino food in the city or even out in the burbs,” Chef Rampelle said. “There are so few of them that if there was a Top 10 list of Filipino restaurants in the Chicago area, all would make the list by default and the list might still come up short. We saw the scarcity as an opportunity to grow our business and move toward bringing Filipino Inspired cuisine to the mainstream.”
His wife’s pregnancy cravings may also have had something to do with this concept coming to fruition.
“She would crave Filipino food a lot. She’d go on GrubHub to order some for delivery with the hopes that something would come up on the search, and there would be one result nearby at a random Asian restaurant that had pancit on their menu. And we were both like--this has to change. We want to move toward making Filipino food more accessible and available to people across the city,” Chef Rampelle said.
That accessibility will come, for now, in the form of pop-up events. Chef Rampelle has managed restaurants and consulted for start-ups in the past; he knows from personal experience how financially risky the restaurant business is. He calls the pop-ups “mini marketing events” to showcase their talent and cuisine without committing to the financial strain of a brick-and-mortar. But that doesn’t mean they’ve made any small plans.
“As the [pop-up] events progress and we make more money, it gives the future restaurant a more solid foundation and lowers the early start up risks,” Chef Rampelle said. “When the time comes, we might have either a food truck or restaurant or both.”
Judging from the turnout at Map Room and Oxtail’s fully funded Indiegogo campaign, Chefs Ben and Rampelle can look forward to some early success.
“It was extra reassuring when the locals and other people outside our direct friends and family came to support. We made enough food for 100 people and by the end of the night, had sold out,” Chef Rampelle said. “We’re super excited for our main pop-up event on May 3 and hope to get as many people to come out as possible!”
Since tickets to Oxtail’s first pop-up dinner this Sunday were part of their Indiegogo crowdfund rewards, tickets for the dinner are sold out. They are accepting a waitlist, however, by email -- oxtail [dot] chicago [at] gmail [dot] com. Patrons can choose from a four-course meal for $35 or a ten-course repast for $100. Courses include Lumpia two ways - Shiitaki Shanghai and Sariwa; Longganisa Sliders; Dinuguan Paella; Poached Salmon Sinigang; Spring Vegetable Pancit; Pork Belly Adobo; Oxtail Almond Kare Kare; Coconut Leche Flan with Ube Cream and Mango Cream Halo Halo.