Marvin Agustin’s Cochi restaurant and Happy Living Wines present a special dinner on Feb. 22

‘Savor and Sip’ features cochinillo and Spanish dishes paired with wines from Spain.

There is something quite admirable about the process of transforming one’s trauma into something that has purpose. Such is the case of the newest jewel in the crown of restaurateur Marvin Augustin. Called Cochi (short for Cochinillo), the restaurant specializes in cochinillo and dishes around it.

Let me explain. At the height of the pandemic, one of the hardest hit industries was the food and beverage business. No one was eating out and Marvin— a partner in three restaurant groups that have several outlets around Meto Manila—was actually seriously considering throwing in the towel.  

However, his thirst for knowledge kicked in and he decided to learn more and improve himself. In 2021, Marvin expanded his wings and acquired new skills like baking. 

“I learned how to bake in my kitchen because I just needed something to challenge myself. I’m kiti-kiti eh. I’m very restless, I like moving and doing something. I like being at home when there’s no pressure to be there, but being stuck at home was not a pleasant experience,” he says.

Cochi owner and restaurateur Marvin Agustin
Cochi owner and restaurateur Marvin Agustin (second from left) with chef and sommelier Grec Freixa of Grup Oliveda, Julian Gagliardi of Happy Living Wines, and chef and Cochi partner Angelo Comsti. Photo by Tanya Lara

He learned how to bake banana bread, carrot cake, and ensaymada from a family recipe. “I would bake in my small oven almost every day, and I began to get a lot of orders, but it was never meant to be a small business.”

Soon enough, Marvin became a top influencer among a sea of people in lockdown baking at home and sharing photos on social media. “From a small oven baking long hours, I decided to get a bigger, industrial oven and put it in my garage. What used to be baking every day became three times a week. I didn’t know what to do with the oven. I thought, why not roast a small pig?”

Marvin knew a supplier and had a pig delivered that same day the idea got into his head. “They delivered the pig, taught me how to butterfly it, how to put in spices and roast it. Sobrang ganda nung oven, the cochinillo came out like something that you’d want to make your friends try.”

Savor & Sip at Cochi
Savor & Sip is a one-night-only food and wine pairing dinner at Cochi on Thursday, February 22, in BGC. Photo from Cochi’s Instagram page

“I wanted to check kung binobola ko lang sarili ko, so I roasted two and asked two of my friends if they wanted to buy. They bought at cost and they loved it.” 

After that, his entrepreneurial spirit kicked in. Naturally, he wanted to share this with everyone and started accepting orders online for delivery. As luck would have it, things did not go as planned. He missed a couple of orders during the Christmas season and was crucified on the internet by everyone. I read some comments that accused him of “ruining Christmas.” The kind of hate and vitriol that Marvin received was traumatizing. I mean, the guy wasn’t able to deliver your baby lechon—he did not commit murder! Long story short, we all survived and so did Marvin.

When the economy opened again, Marvin launched Cochi Plates at Uptown Mall in BGC. At P300 per plate, the price and concept were inspired by Marvin’s experience as a budget-conscious NYU student eating at Chipotle.

Just last year, Cochi opened a beautiful restaurant at the ground floor of Verve Residences in BGC. Marvin says that of all his restaurants, this is the closest to his heart. This is the kind of food that he likes to cook and eat. 

Cochi by Marvin Agustin is located at Tower 2 of Vivere Residences in BGC
Cochi by Marvin Agustin is located at Tower 2 of Vivere Residences in BGC. Photo by Tanya Lara
Marvin Agustin's Cochi
Marvin learned to bake and roast cochinillo in his home kitchen during the pandemic. Photo from Cochi’s Facebook page

We certainly ate very well that evening when Cochi and Happy Living gave us a preview of their special food and wine pairing dinner on Thursday, February 22.

If you love lechon, Cochi is the place for you. If love lechon and wine, Savor & Sip is the dinner for you. 

We started with the Chorizo Croquetas matched with Ullones Rose 2022, a sweet and savory combination that really opened up our palates. My personal favorite was the second course, Mussels con Chorizo with Pandesal. I enjoyed the balance of flavors plus the joy of dipping the hot pandesal (made by Marvin’s sister) in the creamy sauce.

The Pollo de Ajo with roasted vegetables came next. This was paired with Masia Oliveda Negre Jove. The chicken was moist and very tasty, though I wish the vegetables were better roasted as some came out quite wilted and sad.

Mussels con Chorizo with Pandesal
Mussels con Chorizo with Pandesal paired with Garoina Chardonnay 2022

The piece de resistance was the cochinillo of course, which was brought out from the kitchen to the dining area with much deserved fanfare and drama. Marvin himself presented the baby pig and carved it using a plate to demonstrate how tender and soft the cochinillo was.

The luscious pork was served with an amazing red wine called Ulls Negres. It was rich, dark and captivating. The perfectly roasted cochinillo was paired with a lovely paella—but I could just have eaten the pork on its own.

The cochinillo came with three beautiful sauces. The first was made from camias with the sour fruit made into a yummy sweet jam; the second from a middle eastern ingredient called tum; and the last sauce was a bright and punchy chili concoction.  He instructed us to mix all the sauces together and we all came out better because of it. I loved the sauces as they really made the pork sing!

Chef and sommelier Grec Freixa of Grup Oliveda at Cochi
Chef and sommelier Grec Freixa of Grup Oliveda grew up in his family’s vineyard and winery. His wines are distributed in the Philippines by Happy Living. Photo by Tanya Lara

The meal ended with churros and chocolate sauce. I was so full by then that Marvin had me take it home to try.

I really enjoyed my experience at Cochi and I love the story behind it. I also appreciate a good success story like Marvin’s who has been in the food and beverage industry since he was 14 years old. I mean, he has literally done it all—from being a waiter, a cook, even a Shakey’s mascot—to get to where he is now.

Arguably one of the most successful restaurant entrepreneurs in the country, Marvin teaches us that you can truly rise above all adversity if your intention is pure and you put in the hard work.

Cochi is located at the ground floor of Verve Residences Tower 2, 27th St. corner 9th Avenue. Call 0935 210 1341 for reservations.

The new lifestyle.