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Maximal Concepts’ Xuan Mu on Mott 32 as a global powerhouse with posh branches in Las Vegas, Singapore, Thailand, and now, Cebu.

Tall, sophisticated, and with features that wouldn’t be out of place in any one of Wong Kar Wai’s films, Xuan Mu cuts an impressive figure. The 47-year-old restaurateur is clad in a sharp, but casual suit, as he greets distinguished guests with a disarming smile at Mott 32’s inauguration at the Nustar Resort and Casino. The award-winning Cantonese marvel is one of the many distinctive brands under Maximal Concepts, a boutique F&B company established in Hong Kong 10 years ago, of which Mu is Founder and Group Managing Director.

Maximal Concepts’ Founder and Group Managing Director Xuan Mu

New Frontiers

With the country’s growing epicurean scene and the curious palate of Filipinos, it was only a matter of time before yet another establishment of caliber opened on our shores. And Mu couldn’t be more thrilled that a favorite vacation and scuba-diving spot of his has become home to one of their brands. “Cebu is a truly beautiful island [surrounded by] an amazing ocean. The people are friendly and welcoming, making it a perfect destination on its own. It makes perfect sense for us to be here,” he shares with Lifestyle Asia.

He remembers however, that the project, like many of the world’s great things, took time to bring to fruition, and credits the passion of Nustar’s Frederick Go as being instrumental to their collaboration’s success. “Frederick has a high appreciation of Chinese food and is of the opinion that Mott 32 is the best Chinese restaurant in the world, and had to have it in his new development.”

That development is of course the aforementioned Nustar Resort, a sprawling 9-hectare luxury development replete with ocean views, and is set to house 5-star hotels, well-appointed leisure and gaming areas, and the finest in international cuisine in Cebu’s South Road Properties.

As a brand, Mott 32 has become a global powerhouse, with its flagship in Hong Kong’s Central district, and equally posh branches in Las Vegas, Singapore, Thailand and of course now, Cebu. Mu also reveals that there will be other spots in the lineup, in places like Toronto, Venice, Sydney, and Dubai come November. “It should be an exciting few years for Mott 32,” he shares.

Culinary Virtuosity

There’s a certain poetry to their fare, which has been plated to artistic proportions; an ode to Eastern sensibilities and modernity through every bite of food or sip of their elegant tipples. Take for example Mott 32’s famed Applewood Roasted Peking Duck, which boasts a cooking process so epic (at 42 days old the ducks are air dried for 48 hours and gently roasted for just under an hour) that it sounds like it came straight out of Chinese folklore. Then there’s the best char siu you’ll ever taste, as well as an impressive and inventive dim sum selection. The restaurant’s cocktails are yet another example of ingenuity, with essences of ginger and Asian teas percolating with Western spirits and bitters into mixological masterpieces.

It is this desire for innovation and excellence amidst tradition that has made Mott 32 truly unforgettable, and a force to be reckoned with in the competitive global culinary scene. It is a beautiful amalgamation that also extends to Mott 32’s sumptuous interiors, which stays true to its brand DNA whilst honoring the uniqueness of its locations. To wit, the spot in Cebu deftly combines signature elements like ornate Oriental lattices and Chinoiserie, with solihiya chairs and wooden furniture crafted by local artisans.

It also pays homage to the genteel coastal living the Queen City of the South is famous for, with the sprawling views of the ocean and pockets of greenery dotting the opulence.

A family man, Mu appreciates the importance of food in bringing people together and looks forward to traveling with his wife and children, to visit and eat at his restaurants and others around the world.

A Culinary History

Dining at Mott 32, one is reminded of the influence of the Chinese diaspora, and how it has become interwoven with the history of many civilizations. The name of the restaurant itself

was inspired by the 1890s-era convenience store in New York’s Chinatown at 32 Mott Street, an iconic location that became a haven for immigrants of the time.

That same notion of synergy between cultures is one that holds true today, as Mu shares Maximal Concepts’ plans to bring the Mott 32 experience to more people. “We hope that the expansion will satisfy our local customers worldwide and catch a new clientele as well. I would like Mott 32 to appeal to different generations, and ultimately be a brand that will be here for many generations to come.”

Mu also notes that Maximal Concepts has under its helm other iconic brands that they are also keen on taking international. There’s The Aubrey, a Japanese izakaya themed spot, Limewood, which boasts a casual tropical vibe, Sip Song, a beachy Thai-inspired bar, and John Anthony, a nostalgic and posh diner named after the first Chinese man to be naturalized as a British citizen in 1805.

Looking Ahead

Being a family man, Mu appreciates the importance of food in bringing people together, and exposing them to new things. Even a decade from now, he envisions he would still be traveling, “to visit and eat at my restaurants (and others), around the world with my wife and children.”

Hopefully, Mu’s sojourns eventually bring him to Manila, as the capital would surely benefit from his unique take on luxury and gastronomy. In the meantime, however, Cebu is at least not that far away.

Photos by Mark Alvarez.