In the Winter Wonderland that is Uptown Waterloo in January, Loloan Lobby Bar sits as a tropical oasis from across the ocean for locals to enjoy.
The restaurant opened a few years ago and has become the crown jewel of Princess Street. Loloan specializes in serving a fusion of flavors from multiple countries in Asia, from Thailand to the Philippines, Vietnam and beyond. The primary partners behind the restaurant include general manager Renee Lees and Josh Koehler.
At the heart of this restaurant is head chef and pâtissier, Sean Rae Pambid. Pambid is Filipino and has worked in a kitchen since he was a child.
“I was born and raised in a small town called Bayombong in the Province of Nueva Vizcaya up in the mountains of the northern Island of the Philippines,” Pambid said.
“I was raised by a single mom, so I had to grow up a little quicker and I started cooking for my family at the age of eight. My grandma was the one who taught me how to cook though. We had a vegetable garden and used to raise our own poultry to eat,” he said.
Loloan Lobby Bar’s cocktail and dinner menu gives diners the opportunity to explore South East Asia like never before. As head chef, Pambid reinvents comforting flavours and brings them into a new light.
Aside from the delicious savory and sweet creations and cocktails, there is a sense of home served alongside these meals.
Chef Pambid treats traditional Filipino dishes such as chicken adobo, balot and kanin dish with such care and thoughtfulness, it invites those unfamiliar to be curious. Pambid’s passion for food is accompanied by a strong drive to pursue his goals.
“Using most of my mom’s life savings, I packed my bags and left the country for the first time. I trained at the Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island in Florida for a year, mostly in banquets and pastry,” Pambid said.
“After that, I went back home to the Philippines, spent a few months there before leaving for Canada to pursue my graduate studies in Hospitality and Business at Conestoga College.”
“All my passion comes from art and the process of being able to express my emotions in a more creative medium,” Pambid said. “Drawing, painting, sculpting, anything [where] I can use my hands and mind without boundaries.”
Pambid draws diners in by putting an innovative spin on classic dishes. For the dedicated chef, the job is all about balancing innovation with a respect for tradition.
“It is unfortunate that I was only able to appreciate my own culture and my part of the world when I moved continents. Being able to showcase a little bit of home to the people here means the world to me,” Pambid said.
“Filipino food is quite obscure though, we have so many influences from Spain, to the United States and China because of trade and colonization.”
Dishes that bring ingredients from Singapore, Indonesia and the Philippines were featured in Loloan’s recent New Year’s Eve box for two. A peach smoked cornish hen with kecap manis glaze features familiar flavours from all three countries while using locally sourced ingredients.
“When I made the Filipino tasting menu I tried my best to base my dishes on the most native and uncommon ones that I ate growing up to give a different perspective on Asian food,” Pambid said. “I based a lot of the menu on my ethnolinguistic groups (Ilocano and Pangasinense) traditional dishes.”
Pambid’s love of visual art is recognizable in his many delicious creations. He draws on his appreciation of fine art to create stunning meal presentations. As the head pastry chef for Loloan, he showcases his eye for aesthetics in all of their carefully crafted desserts. For example, in celebration of the winter time, Pambid designed a choux au craquelin, Szechuan peppercorn pastry cream, and mango coulis in the shape of a snowman.
Loloan’s interior is accented by an eclectic mix of art deco opulence alongside South East Asian décor. The restaurant doubles as a place for diners and staff to appreciate art in all forms.
Although Chef Pambid and the rest of the smartly dressed staff are waiting in the wings until restrictions are lifted, the impact of their work can still be felt. Loloan has become a reminder of home for people of South East Asian descent, and offers a coconut branch to the unfamiliar.