Earlier this year a restaurant in the recently opened SM Jazz Mall in Makati put a new spin to the usual Filipino staple of fried chicken and rice. This experiment turned out to be successful enough to warrant two more branches. The restaurant in question is ZABO Chicken, which isn’t playing by the rules of the typical Filipino fast food restaurant, and thus carries a potential to alienate all but the more discerning diners with a penchant for global tastes. Still, it’s been gathering some buzz recently that we decided to give the restaurant’s SM North Edsa branch a try one rainy afternoon. Despite its set-up, ZABO doesn’t consider itself as fast food. It’s hard to disagree, when the whole place has a decidedly more upscale vibe than a fast food restaurant, and its location at the SM Sky Garden, along with its bright interiors, provide a cozy feeling. Nonetheless, it’s more inviting and affordable than a casual dining establishment. The food themselves are not your usual fast food fare either. ZABO prides itself for serving healthy alternatives to the usual fried chicken-and-rice combo. Here, the chicken is roasted, and it brings a nice Mediterranean (actually, more like Middle Eastern or even Indian) flavor. While it tastes great, a Quarter Roast Chicken – the restaurant’s pièce de résistance – costs PHP 165, so it can be a bit heavy on the wallet, especially if you’re dining solo and on a tight budget. You can save a lot by dining with someone or with a small group, as a half-chicken (good for two people) sets you back by PHP 240 and a whole piece (good for four), PHP 420.

Quarter Roast Chicken w/ Rice (PHP 165)
Quarter Roast Chicken w/ Rice (PHP 165)

The great news is the rice buffet. For an additional PHP 29, you get unlimited rice refills, which is especially sulit if you’re famished. For the same order, you can choose among the six variants – ZABO chicken rice, ZABO spicy chicken rice, plain steamed rice, brown rice, carrot rice, and garlic rice. Which means for PHP 29, you get to try all – if you can.

Zabo Spicy Chicken Rice (PHP 29 for unlimited rice)

Another alternative would be try any of the rice bowls (PHP 99 – PHP 165), though we’re not sure if the unlimited rice is available for those. Or have any of the wraps (PHP 120 – PHP 165), which are basically rice meals stuffed in rolled pita.

Zabo Chicken Wrap (PHP 145)
Zabo Chicken Wrap (PHP 145)

You could try the Popcorn Chicken (PHP 75), served with tonkatsu sauce, then order unlimited rice along with it.

Zabo Popcorn Chicken (PHP 75)
Zabo Popcorn Chicken (PHP 75)

What ZABO Chicken does, it does well. The restaurant is adamant on providing diners a different and healthy alternative to the usual fast food fare, and the framed images on its walls only highlight this mission. True, it’s a risky move in a city that loves its Pinoy-style fried chicken. But if we’re to believe the rumors that more branches are in the pipeline, then the gamble is clearly paying off.

ZABO Chicken
Jazz Residences, Jupiter St.
Makati City
(other branches in SM North Edsa and SM BF Parañaque)
(02) 842 0513
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2 thoughts

  1. Just tried Zabo over at the SM BF branch in Paranaque. Definitely gives you more value for money than most chicken-centric fast food/ casual dining outlets. Zabo also has the added charm of delivering healthier food that is neither bland nor boring; in fact, everything I ate from the chicken to the falafels and the rice was consistently fresh and delicious!

    1. I would agree. I hope it catches on with more diners, though. I often pass by the branch at SM North and it seems it’s not doing as good as adjacent dining establishments.

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