Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Good Filipino Restaurants in the City?

Good Filipino Restaurants in the City?
That is, besides my own cooking, of course...

But seriously, I have been here in SF for about 10 years now and have made my way through many a Filipino restaurant in and around the City. Typically, I would say that I go to a Filipino restaurant with family whenever they are in town visiting, because it's just easier to feed a huge clan of us and that way we can focus on one another and catch up.
Naturally and most times, it is better to have it home-made than anywhere else.
Luckily for my friends, they have me to provide that.
Although, there are times that I crave some Dishes that are easier to order in a restaurant than to make. My mom is a great cook, and growing up, she could make pretty much anything, like Kare Kare, Dinuguan, Lumpiang Shanghai & even my fave, Lechon Kawali, all of which I am still working to add to my repertoire.
Lechon Kawali, is one that I am not supposed to eat too much of, because, in effect it is Pork Belly, which has been boiled and then Deep-Fried. It's what you call a true 'heart attack special' and I Love it. Bad Raptor...
Aside: Funny thing about Lechon Kawali is that, as an adult (very recently... *smirk*) I was having dinner at Rubicon and ordered the Pork Belly appetizer, and I came to the realization that I was having an updated version of something very traditional in my culture. Cool, huh?

Anyhow, getting back to my point, until recently, one Filipino restaurant was just like all of the others and the bulk of them are all in Daly City (Little Manila) and beyond.

Let me break it down a bit...
Well, there's always good ol' Goldilock's Bakery & Restaurant for the 'beginners & newbies', with its various locations in Daly City, East Bay and one in the Outer Mission right down the street from me. Although, most Filipinos would scoff, it's good for people that have never tried Filipino food, because it's turo-turo style. Turo-turo is derived from the Tagalog verb turo which means "to point." Turo-turo is a slang expression for fast food restaurants where customers point at the dishes they want to order. I'd say this is a quick and easy way to taste your way through a variety of dishes and besides, you get to see what you're getting.

Recently, a number of new & perhaps one would even say trendier restaurants have popped up.
There's Patio FIlipino and Tribu Grill in San Bruno which we have been frequenting a lot lately.
They both have a Rice dish called Bagoong Fried Rice which is probably not for everyone, but Filipinos are liking this updated style of FIlipino Food.
Both are good, but still, they are a car ride away. There is also a new place in San Mateo called Bistro Luneta that I've been wanting to try, which has been toted by Michael Bauer of the SF Chronicle, as 'a modern take on traditional Filipino fare... offering modern interpretations of traditional flavors... that have broadened the appeal of the cuisine.' Nice.
And looking at the menu and preps, I would have to agree so far, but it has yet to pass the Raptor test... Upscale Filipino food? Interesting. Very interesting. I am definitely curious.
This place gets a 'We shall see..' I promise to report back, if and when I do go, no doubt.
And again, back to my point, it is still a trek like the other places. Otherwise, I would've tried it, like yesterday...

In the City...
For as long as I've lived here, there weren't very many places to speak of.
Let's see... There's Irma's Pampanga.... And.... Umm... Uhhh.... Did I mention Irmas's Pampanga? hahaha...
And by all means, if you are reading this and know of any that I may have missed, please let me know...
But lately, there have been a few places popping up in the City, and I can't tell you how excited that makes me! Mind you, I have yet to try these places, but this is a very exciting thing for me & my peoples.
To name the few, or should I say all, because 'a few' is all there is in reality:
There's a fast food/take out place in my Hood on Mission & 23rd-ish called Kababayan (meaning 'countrymen' or in slang 'Mah Peoples') and then there's Zebulon in the SOMA district which is said to be in an industrial, lounge-like atmosphere with DJs & live music. Their food is more Asian fusion with some Filipino dishes like Lumpia & Adobo mixed in...
The latest Filipino restaurant to open is Palencia in the Castro on 17th & Noe, and this is one that I am truly excited to try. My friend G called me from there recently and said that it was packed with non-Filipino folks and they, the token 'Filipinos' were seated by the window. Funny, very funny. No offense taken, really. She said the menu was very traditional with all Filipino dishes.
All I gotta say is 'Props' to Palencia for pulling that off. Now I gotta make my way over there real soon, so that I can be down too... Can't wait.

UPDATE 10/10/07: Went to Palencia last night and I have to tell you, this place is really impressive. The Decor is beautifully done in old colonial style with dark mahogany wood floors. Burnt orange accent walls, dark wood shutters and elegant basket weave lighting. I also have to mention the old school seashell or capiz chandeliers in the front window area, which are reminiscent of the 80's & 90's in most Filipino homes and maybe even now still. And the most nostalgic part of all for me is the wall-sized black & white family photo in the back.

The Food: Chef Danelle Lucero creates authentic Filipino Dishes with a healthier twist. Filipino Food is typically not known for its healthiness, what with all of the Pork and Deep-Fried Dishes, but Chef Danelle has somehow successfully pulled it off. Everything on the Menu is served Family-Style and all of the Dishes are traditional Filipino Fare and from what we had, it was all delicious.

The Breakdown: We started with the Fresh Lumpia with Prawns and a Garlicky Sauce, which was light and yummy. We then had the Pancit Bihon, also well-done. For our Entrees, we had the Guinitaang Kalabasa at Hipon (Kabocha Squash and Shrimp simmered in Coconut Milk) and the Sisig Na Bangus (Flaked Marinated Milkfish with Cherry Tomato, Jalapeno Pepper and Red Onion Salsa) which was to Die For! All I can say is, you have to try it, it was 'that' good...
For Dessert, we had the Turon (Philippine Saba Bananas layered with Jackfruit wrapped in a Crispy Crepe) and instead of Vanilla Bean Ice Cream we substituted Coconut. Awesome!
Mind you, this place is an upscale Filipino restaurant, and may not appeal to the older Filipino generation, but let me tell you, as a dining experience, it is 'Well Worth It'...
Trust me. As you have read above, San Francisco was seriously lacking in Filipino restaurants within the City limits, and Palencia is all that I could have hoped for and more.
All in all, the entire Dining Experience was Top-Rate and I Highly Recommend that you go...
The Raptor & Food Maven has spoken.

SF Gate's Bargain Bites 2007

Ok Peoples, for those of you that are into the ol' Bang for the Buck deal, SF Gate's 2007 Bargain Bites is out... They added 60 new places to their usual 100 or so, so there's a lil' somethin' somethin' for everyone, I am sure.
I, myself, have tried at least 10 of the ones in San Francisco. I know that doesn't sound like much, but I counted and there are only 48 in San Francisco, the rest are spread throughout the rest of the Bay Area. This just goes to show you that I really need to try to get out of the City some time as there is more Good Food to be found out there. For one thing, it's difficult as I do not have a car and secondly, there's just SO much here in the City that the rest of the Bay Area gets pushed down the list. Whatever the case, it's a pretty good dilemma to be in, wouldn't you say?

Some of the ones that I have tried and will mention because they are some of my faves are:

  • Yummy Yummy - I used to go there pretty often and even got to know the owner, Wilson quite well. This place is probably my favorite mid-range Vietnamese place, for its friendly service and Great Vietnamese Food. They passed the Raptor Vietnamese Restaurant test because they have rice paper spring rolls versus ones made with the Chinese Egg Roll Wrapper. The Pho is good, but most memorable was that Wilson would break out fotos of new dishes and we always would try at least one of them. Two of my favorite apps were the Grilled Clams and the Beef Carpaccio. Two words. (as corny as it is) Yummy. Yummy.
  • Burma Superstar - This place is great! Although it may be tough to get in for dinner at times, you can always put your name on the list, leave your cell# and then head down the street for a drink or a beer. Once you're in, you definitely should try their famed Tea Leaf Salad, different but seriously delicious. My one go-to dish is their Nan Pia Dok (Coconut Chicken Rice Noodle Curry). Seriously good.
  • Good Luck Dim Sum - For cheap, out-the-door dim sum on Clement, you really can't beat this place.

I'd say there are about 8 or so that are on Raptor 'Must Try' List. Here are a few:

  • Zebulon - I can't believe that I have yet to try this place. Bad Philly-Pina! I am sure I will be there soon. I am all about supporting my fellow Filipino restaurant owners & chefs that are friends as well. i.e. Chef Thomas at Les Amis, recently, Galvin at Deep Sushi.
  • Jake's Steaks - Again bad Philly-Pina (emphasis on the Philly this time). Have yet to try this place although, I been called a traitor for loving the Cheesesteak Shop on Divis. Everywhere else that I've tried so far are a bunch of 'posers'. Word.
  • Old Jerusalem - Always on the lookout for good Middle Eastern and this place is on my way home from BART, so it's sure to happen some time soon, right?
  • Yamo - Hole in the wall Burmese in the Mission? Gonna hafta give that one a try.

So there you have it. The Raptor's favorite Bargain Bites. I am sure that I have a bunch more to add that probably aren't even on the SF Gate List and perhaps, I will try to update this post with them. *sigh* That will hafta come at a later date...

So much Food, so Little Time!