Bussing the outdoor tables at the restaurant Little Asia at the Piazza at Taguig City’s McKinley Hill, nodding hello to a friend, and engaging in small talk to its patrons is the restaurant owner himself, Charlemagne Lim.
[related|post]He is suave with the diners, not mindful of the prying eyes of the wait staff and managers of surrounding restaurants, while his restaurant staff works in perfect timing—a wait staff immediately escorts you to your seat upon entering the door, menus are handed out, your selections taken, and your dishes are served within the promised time.
The restaurant is at par with those created by top restaurateurs who have had years of experience, and not by someone who miserably failed in his first venture into the food and beverage industry. Yes, Lim did fail but that was one moment that changed his life and gave birth to Little Asia.
In early 2000, when the economy was starting to recover from the 1997-1998 financial crisis, Lim thought that it was an opportune time for him to enter the food and beverage market by selling imported liquor.
And so he opened CCL Liquor Outlet. A neophyte in retail, Lim chose a location at the basement of a building. Blame it on bad Feng Shui, bad location, or his youth (being only 24 years old then), the store closed down by early 2001. Lim did not only lose his investments, he also lost his self-esteem.
It was a blow that got Lim depressed. “In the last few days of [the liquor store’s operations], I would tell friends and customers who would visit that I was opening a restaurant that’s why I was closing. I did not want them to think na nalulugi, pero lugi talaga.”
With the store closing just a few months past, Lim stood up and brushed the dust off his clothes and decided to redeem himself. “When I decided to start business again, I decided to do it right this time,” he says.
In April 2001, Lim hired a chef whom he asked to create several dishes, which he and his family would taste and critique. For the next eight months, the dishes were tweaked, corrected, revised until Lim was satisfied with how they tasted. Armed with an arsenal of original and tested dishes, in December 2001, Lim opened the first outlet of Little Asia on Tomas Morato Avenue in Quezon City.