Filipino restaurant Kasarap BCN is Barcelona’s #1 hotspot for authentic and delicious Filipino food.
Coming to Kasarap restaurant in Barcelona brings out a nostalgic feeling of home. Its high ceiling baring the rafters and the beams easily reminds its Pinoy guests of the typical house interiors back home. While the presence of a lizard sticking to the galvanised zinc or a moth circling around a lightbulb hanging from one of the beams might add more novelty to the place, Kasarap´s interior definitely gives both its Pinoy and non-Pinoy guests a glimpse of the Philippines. Not to be missed is the small sari-sari store laden with Pinoy chichirias which guests love to take a selfie with.
Kasarap’s young Batangas-born owners, Arianne Kali Bahala (30) and Rutshel Panopio (35), never imagined that one day they would be running a business, lest a thriving Filipino restaurant in the Catalonian capital. They had been contented working as waiters at Loidi de Berasategui for years that starting a business never crossed their minds. After all, they were enjoying an ideal timetable, pleasant workmates and a fair employer.
Their lives took a sudden turn when Loidi de Berasategui folded up in the late 2018. They took some days off, packed their bags and went on a road trip to the north of Spain where they feasted on Galician cuisine.
Not only did the road trip give them the chance to enjoy their much needed break together, it also offered them the time to figure out what to do next. Coming back to Barcelona, they were now both unemployed. And looking for a job was the logical thing to do. But then, the idea of a restaurant just came about.
The making of Kasarap
After weighing all the pros and cons of putting up a business, Arianne and Rutshel pooled their statutory termination payment to serve as their capital for their new venture. Applying for a bank loan was out of the question. Instead, they turned to their family members for assistance.
With 80,000 euros as initial capital, they were ready to bankroll their project. Finding the place was not that difficult. Since he still had a lot of time in his hands, Rutshel, while playing pokemon, walked around the city to scout for a place.
Arianne gushes about how they found the place on 141 Consel de Cent street.
“It was love at first sight! It used to be a shoe warehouse. It was bright with a high ceiling.”
The following months saw the couple applying for permits, signing documents, and renovating their restaurant. Two months later, Kasarap officially became a legal entity. After ironing out the kinks and glitches from their soft opening, Kasarap opened its doors on 21 March 2019. The name Kasarap comes from casa with a K (Spanish for house) and sarap, of course, means delicious.
Both Arianne and Rutshel came to Spain when they were 15 but on different occasions. Arianne dreamt of becoming a flight attendant but changed her mind and took up Culinary Arts. Rutshel, on the other hand, started working in a restaurant right after finishing high school. Their paths crossed while working as waiters at Loidi de Berasategui. They officially became a couple in 2014.
Arianne and Rutshel have always wanted their restaurant to be Pinoy na Pinoy. From its interior design to the food, they invested time and effort to offer authenticity and quality. The “unfinished ceiling” and the sari-sari store are just several of the details. They hope to bring Filipino food closer to the Spanish people, making it known and familiar, at least, in this part of the country.
As expected, when news about the opening of the newest Pinoy restaurant in town spread throughout the Filipino community, our kababayans came in droves to try what Kasarap had to offer. Arianne and Rutshel were overwhelmed by the positive feedbacks they received not only from Filipino clients but non-Pinoys as well.
As the restaurant sits on the residential part of the city and a bit far from Raval, where the bulk of Filipinos live, Kasarap attracted Spanish locals living within the area. In a short time, Kasarap was able to establish a wide clientele. Even the vertical search engine TripAdvisor, the online restaurant booking system El Tenedor and Time Out Magazine have given Kasarap rave reviews and high ratings. Ariana and Rutshel couldn’t be prouder.
Due to budget constraints, the couple decided not to hire helpers. While both of them handle the purchasing and inventory duties, Arianne mans the tables and the till. She also does the admin works and marketing on social media. Arianne´s mother, Helen, is the chief cook while Rutshel is the kitchen assistant. Arianne´s uncle, Saturnino, is in charge of the grill. It took Rutshel a while to adjust to his new role as it was his first time to work in the kitchen after having been waiting tables for 16 years.
“We also work as a team. We respect each other´s decision. Whenever we don´t agree on something, we see to it that we meet halfway. We are never afraid if this didn’t work because we could always go back to be employees again,” confides Rutshel.
When it comes to their menu, they want to diversify and offer a more attractive range of choices. Among their Pinoyclients, the pork barbecue remains the bestseller followed by kaldereta. With Spanish customers, okoy and kinilaw na tuna are the most requested. Arianne and Rutshel also love to explore new things to pique their customers´ interest. Just recently, taho has become the new addition to their list of traditional desserts. From June to October, their halo-halo is the undisputed star.
Caught in the middle of the pandemic
After a year, Arianne and Rutshel were able to recoup enough amount to pay back the money they borrowed from their family members. Everything seemed to be going perfectly well when suddenly, the COVID-19 pandemic broke out. Kasarap had to close its doors on its first year anniversary, which fell on the first days of the first national lockdown. For months, Kasarap wasn´t earning a cent.
In June 2020, the government allowed restaurants to open only for take-aways. With an average of 15 orders a day, Kasarap was getting by.
“Despite everything, we always believe that babawi kami. Actually, we felt lucky to have this restaurant during the pandemic. We didn´t lose our jobs or be on the dole. We are very grateful,” shares Arianne.
As new entrepreneurs, Arianne and Rutshel realized that “kaya pala nila”. Even if they don´t have business background nor previous business trainings, they were able to manage their business well.
Going on three
At the moment, there are no plans of branching out as they want to focus their energy and time on their young restaurant. To date, Kasarap holds a 5-star rating on Trip advisor with satisfied clients leaving encouragingly positive comments. Arianne and Rutshel have also decided to hire three employees.
It has almost been three years now since Arianne and Rutshel ventured and took the risk. Despite facing the greatest challenge brought by the pandemic, Kasarap continues to grow smoothly and steadily. As it turns three in the coming months, they hope to celebrate this important day with a bang, surrounded by loyal friends and clients who have stuck with them as they sailed through the rough waves of the pandemic.
Kasarap BCN is located at Consell de Cent, 141 Barcelona. Reserve via +34 634 88 56 93 or visit their Facebook page.
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Nats Sisma Villaluna has been serving the Filipino community in Spain for more than 12 years. His volunteer works include teaching Spanish to Filipinos, and as artistic director of the Coro Kudyapi, a group of musically inclined young Filipinos in Barcelona. His passion to serve the Filipino community now extends to other countries in his role as Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of the new The Filipino, expat magazine.
Pepe Chavez is from Baler, Aurora and is currently one of Barcelona’s most sought-after professional photographers. He goes fishing and plays billiards in his free time. He is totally obsessed with aquariums.