Filipino restaurant in Singapore cooks everything with pugon oven

·3 min read
sisig Philippines-born chef Kurt Sombero is bringing the traditional Filipino pugon style of cooking to Singapore with the opening of Kubo Woodfired Kitchen, a restaurant that's centered around a pugon oven. (Photos: Emmanuel San Andres)
Philippines-born chef Kurt Sombero is bringing the traditional Filipino pugon style of cooking to Singapore with his restaurant, Kubo Woodfired Kitchen. (Photos: Emmanuel San Andres)

The pugon is a traditional wood-fired oven or stove found in many Filipino kitchens.

Now, a Philippines-born chef is bringing this traditional Filipino style of cooking to Singapore with the opening of Kubo, a restaurant on Robertson Quay that's centered around a pugon oven.

Kurt Sombero, 35, who grew up in Mindanao, came to Singapore eight years ago "with basically nothing", he told CNA Lifestyle. But since then, he has served as head chef at an outlet of American barbecue restaurant Meatsmith as well as worked at the Michelin-starred Burnt Ends, yet another barbecue restaurant.

Philippines-born chef Kurt Sombero is bringing the traditional Filipino pugon style of cooking to Singapore with the opening of Kubo Woodfired Kitchen, a restaurant that's centered around a pugon oven. (Photo: Philippines Embassy in Singapore)
Chef Kurt Sombero and his wife Sheine Ebora-Sombero in front of a wall painting at Kubo which illustrates the inspiration and origin of the chef's culture and love for wood-fire cooking. (Photo: Philippines Embassy in Singapore)

At Kubo, which he set up together with his partner Tora Widjaja of the Tipsy Collective restaurant group, Sombero's applying his barbecuing experience and knowledge – but this time, he's infusing his food with deep Filipino roots.

Pugon dishes

Kubo serves Pinoy-inspired cuisine in a fine dining style. Dishes on offer include quail adobo, lechon, sisig, inasal chicken, and house-aged duck.

Sombero's love for cooking was inspired by helping his grandmother in the kitchen when he was young. She cooked with a pugon oven – so it's no wonder that he has made the pugon the heart of his own restaurant's kitchen.

Sombero had a custom-made brick pugon built for Kubo. All the dishes at Kubo will be made via the pugon's wood fire – there's a cast iron stovetop, a rotisserie, an elevation grill, and a custom smoker connected to the pugon.

Philippines-born chef Kurt Sombero is bringing the traditional Filipino pugon style of cooking to Singapore with the opening of Kubo Woodfired Kitchen, a restaurant that's centered around a pugon oven. (Photo: Emmanuel San Andres)
The custom-made pugon oven and stove. (Photo: Emmanuel San Andres)
Quail adobo at Kubo. Philippines-born chef Kurt Sombero is bringing the traditional Filipino pugon style of cooking to Singapore with the opening of Kubo Woodfired Kitchen, a restaurant that's centered around a pugon oven.
Quail adobo. (Photo: Kubo)
Philippines-born chef Kurt Sombero is bringing the traditional Filipino pugon style of cooking to Singapore with the opening of Kubo Woodfired Kitchen, a restaurant that's centered around a pugon oven. (Photo: Emmanuel San Andres)
Sisig. (Photo: Emmanuel San Andres)
Philippines-born chef Kurt Sombero is bringing the traditional Filipino pugon style of cooking to Singapore with the opening of Kubo Woodfired Kitchen, a restaurant that's centered around a pugon oven. (Photo: Emmanuel San Andres)
Home-made cassava chips. (Photo: Emmanuel San Andres)
Philippines-born chef Kurt Sombero is bringing the traditional Filipino pugon style of cooking to Singapore with the opening of Kubo Woodfired Kitchen, a restaurant that's centered around a pugon oven. (Photo: Emmanuel San Andres)
Honeycomb tripe (piniritong twalya). (Photo: Emmanuel San Andres)
Philippines-born chef Kurt Sombero is bringing the traditional Filipino pugon style of cooking to Singapore with the opening of Kubo Woodfired Kitchen, a restaurant that's centered around a pugon oven. (Photo: Emmanuel San Andres)
Live-caught fish (isda sa pugon). (Photo: Emmanuel San Andres)
Philippines-born chef Kurt Sombero is bringing the traditional Filipino pugon style of cooking to Singapore with the opening of Kubo Woodfired Kitchen, a restaurant that's centered around a pugon oven. (Photo: Emmanuel San Andres)
Rice cooked in bamboo over coals (sinaing sa kawayan). (Photo: Emmanuel San Andres)
Philippines-born chef Kurt Sombero is bringing the traditional Filipino pugon style of cooking to Singapore with the opening of Kubo Woodfired Kitchen, a restaurant that's centered around a pugon oven. (Photo: Emmanuel San Andres)
Halo-halo made with home-made purple yam (ube) sorbetes, coconut and meringue. (Photo: Emmanuel San Andres)
Philippines-born chef Kurt Sombero is bringing the traditional Filipino pugon style of cooking to Singapore with the opening of Kubo Woodfired Kitchen, a restaurant that's centered around a pugon oven. (Photo: Emmanuel San Andres)
Rice cake (bibingka). (Photo: Emmanuel San Andres)
Philippines-born chef Kurt Sombero is bringing the traditional Filipino pugon style of cooking to Singapore with the opening of Kubo Woodfired Kitchen, a restaurant that's centered around a pugon oven. (Photo: Emmanuel San Andres)
Smoked Davao 70% chocolate ganache (tsokolate) with Milo and olive oil caviar. (Photo: Emmanuel San Andres)

In keeping with being an emblem of Filipino heritage, the restaurant's name itself refers to bahay kubo, the traditional Filipino houses on stilts built with nipa thatching. Sombero himself grew up in a kubo in Mindanao.

A perfect example of Sombero's interpretation of Filipino cuisine is Kubo's quail adobo, he told CNA Lifestyle. "Adobo is usually pork. But, since a much earlier time, we as a culture in the Philippines have had quail also – we asar it, which means barbecue. Here at Kubo, we take that idea and marry it with a contemporary cooking approach. Adobo is usually braised. Here, we marinate the quail, smoke it, finish it on our elevation grill, and then serve it with mashed potato with garlic confit."

(L-R) Staff from the Philippines Embassy in Singapore, Cultural Officer Ms. Rosellie L. Bantay, Third Secretary and Vice Consul Joy Anne B. Lai, First Secretary and Consul Joyleen E. Santos, Political and Public Diplomacy Assistant Ms. Ivanah Karla F. Vicencio-Luz, and Third Secretary and Vice Consul Renee Gaylee M. Chua at Kubo Woodfired Kitchen in Singapore. (Photo: Philippines Embassy in Singapore)
(L-R) Staff from the Philippines Embassy in Singapore, Cultural Officer Ms. Rosellie L. Bantay, Third Secretary and Vice Consul Joy Anne B. Lai, First Secretary and Consul Joyleen E. Santos, Political and Public Diplomacy Assistant Ms. Ivanah Karla F. Vicencio-Luz, and Third Secretary and Vice Consul Renee Gaylee M. Chua at Kubo. (Photo: Philippines Embassy in Singapore)

Staff from the Philippines Embassy in Singapore supported the Filipino restaurant by visiting and dining at Kubo.

Chef Kurt's wife, Sheine Ebora-Sombero, shared with embassy officials the interior design of the restaurant, which showcases Philippine-made furniture, decor, and textiles. She also said that Kubo's aim is to make their kababayans in Singapore proud and to promote Filipino food, culture and heritage to Filipinos and foreigners alike.

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