I made my second trip to Kuya Juan Restaurant last weekend which gave me one of the biggest surprises of being in a Muslim country — that there is lechon baboy (roasted pork) in the lunch buffet. Mr. Porky is normally a star of the feasts and other celebrations in Philippines. Not to mention the infamous remark made by Anthony Bourdain that the best roasted pork is from the Philippines.
Kuya Juan as the name of the restaurant pertains to ‘big/ elder brother’ (kuya) and ‘Juan Dela Cruz’ (one of the common names in the Philippines). It is no surprise that the interiors are inspired by Philippine culture. For example, one of the pantings shows bayanihan (spirit of cooperation) which is one of the strengths of the communities in different provinces in the Philippines in the old days. Nowadays, bayanihan as a concept covers teamwork, working towards the same goal(s) as it is very rare to see people lifting houses these days as demonstrated in the photo. Apart from the paintings, the capiz-made chandeliers and light holders, in my opinion, are well-placed.
There is also a band that plays every night from 9:00 PM which I had a glimpse of at my first visit — that was when we did a farewell to a Malaysian-Australian colleague, who absolutely loved the dishes and vowed to search for bagoong (shrimp paste) in Australia. I wish he had seen the roasted pork.
The restaurant is also licensed to serve alcohol. You can just imagine how the Government policies are being tailored in consideration of the fact that most of the residents in the UAE are expats. In our most recent visit though we have seen a man (alone), wearing the national dress of UAE enjoying a couple of glasses of wine and the dishes (that I hope are not pork). My orientation though from Muslim colleagues is that it is also haram for them to use utensils which are used for anything pork-related. I assume that the restaurant has clear guests policies and explicitly reiterates those to ‘any-diner-who-obviously-should-not-be-there’.
The restaurant will be jampacked tomorrow as they are offering a breakfast buffet with a real-time screening of the so-called ‘Fight of the Century’ between Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather. Screening starts at 6:00 AM.
Kuya Juan Restaurant is at the Al Ain Palace Hotel (near Le Meridien Hotel). Landline: +971 2 6794777.