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Investing during the pandemic: Boracay’s Spicebird reopens in a new location at D’Mall

By Tanya Lara Published Nov 10, 2021 7:35 pm

There’s a sauce on the menu of Spicebird restaurant that’s called Hotbird and described as “Burns like seeing your ex with someone else.”

On the scale of spiciness, it’s medium; on the scale of wit, it’s LOL.

Hotbird is one of four sauces that accompanies the grilled dishes at Spicebird; the others are Piri Piri (moderate), Garlic & Lime (“when you love flavor more than you like friends”), and Curry Curry (“a hint of Japanese curry that will make you go ‘Oh, Senpai!’ or ‘Oh, Master’).

Falafel bites and Piri Piri Falafel Wrap.

Before the pandemic, the sauces were set on the table, but due to health protocols they’re now served to individual customers and you can ask for more than one.

Spicebird has moved to a new, bigger location at Boracay’s D’Mall, near the beach. It first opened in 2015 and was temporarily at Rockwell’s The Grid Food Market during the March lockdown this year, 

Piri Piri Fried Chicken

Its location before, in one of the smaller corridors of D’Mall, led it to be called one of the island’s best-kept secrets (almost literally) because while everyone loved it, they couldn’t exactly tell you where it was except to say it was beside another restaurant that you also could not tell exactly where.

Now they’re right on the main street of D’Mall, close to the beach. “We’ve always wanted to find a new location for Spicebird so that we could expand our menu,” says owner Nowie Potenciano. “That’s why we were so glad to move to a new spot that’s bigger. Because we have more space now, we were able to add three different kinds of crab dishes, more seafood options such as oysters and scallops, and more Piri-Piri dishes like our Piri-Piri Fried Chicken.”

Designed by Nowie and his wife Odette Potenciano, Spicebird’s newly built space has more tables for outdoor seating. It’s a bright area with contemporary and comfortable rattan chairs from Pampanga that give it a relaxed, island vibe.

Must-try dishes at Spicebird are the Grilled Piri Piri Chicken, Piri Piri Pork, combination of both, Fried Chicken, and homemade Merguez Sausage (Moroccan style). They come with spice rice, side salad, corn, and milky roll.

Piri Piri Crab

When Spicebird reopened, I had the Piri Piri Pork for two consecutive days for lunch. Like White Beach on a perfect day, the piri piri dishes will bring happiness to your heart. Even if you’re on a no-carbs diet, you won’t be able to resist the spice rice—just by itself or with the sauces. Or the milky rolls.

Piri Piri Scallops.

The rolls are baked fresh every day on the premises. “We came up with the milky roll six years ago when we first opened Spicebird. We thought our sauces were so good, we needed to find a way for diners to sop it all up!”

Also fresh every day are the seafood offerings: mud crab and scallops cooked in Spicebird’s signature piri piri sauce; Aklan oysters served fresh or grilled; shrimp with spice rice; and shrimp and garlic pasta.

Fresh Aklan Oysters. 

“We’re looking to expand our menu even further. For one, we enjoyed working with local seafood so much, we’re planning to do something fun and delicious with diwal or razor clams next,” Nowie says.

For appetizers (or a snack), you won’t go wrong with the chicken skin and chicken wings, or the falafel bites.  

When Boracay went on lockdown in August, no dine-in was allowed and all establishment closed by 4 p.m. Spicebird at its old location was my lifesaver as it continued takeout and delivery services. I would always order their sandwiches, Grilled Piri Piri Chicken (chicken thigh on brioche bun with garlic yogurt sauce and pickled onion) and Chicken Cubano that comes with two kinds of cheese and pressed in crisp bread.

Spicebird owners Nowie and Odette Potenciano: “I guess you can’t be an entrepreneur without some amount of optimism.”
...and their lovable shiba inu Mari at D’Mall.

Investing during the pandemic is a risky move, but the Potencianos remained undaunted and in fact added more food concepts to their existing The Sunny Side Café, Coco Mama and Spicebird.

They opened Supermagic Burgers in Mach and The Sunny Side Pizza in September at Hue Hotel and Resort on the Main Road. (The Sunny Side Café is back at its original beachfront location at Sands Hotel in Station 3.)

“I guess you can’t be an entrepreneur without some amount of optimism.”

Rattan furniture from Pampanga.

Nowie says, “We’ve seen lives upended all along the food supply chain and in hospitality in the past two years. We can’t rely on anyone else but ourselves. Filipinos must support Filipinos. That means buying from local farmers, producers, and visiting local destinations as much as we can. If you’re planning a holiday when travel restrictions are lifted, please make your first trips local. Philippine tourism can really use the boost.”

It was the same kind of courage they had when they restaurateurs in 2014 with The Sunny Side Café. Odette left her job as brand manager at Rustan’s and Nowie, who was a Unilever man for 10 years and a regional brand manager when he left, joined her three years later.

Spicebird’s Grilled Piri Piri Chicken. 

Nowie says, “As restrictions relax, we’re looking forward to working with local brands and we already have exciting tie-up with premium rum Don Papa coming up. Boracay is almost 100% vaccinated so we’re hoping that we’ll be able to freely welcome more local tourists and international visitors alike soon. Recovery is taking a little longer than expected, but we’re hoping this really is the light at the end of the tunnel.”