Something is in the air. Call it a culinary zeitgeist or a restaurant movement veering in a decidedly Pinoy direction—or perhaps it’s simply the aroma of freshly fried lumpia wafting in from the kitchen that I’m smelling. Whatever it is, Filipino food is having a moment.
Diners who follow the national restaurant scene likely know of Paul Qui, the James Beard Award-winning chef behind Qui restaurant. Qui got a lot of people’s attention when he opened his sleek Austin dining hall, serving things like artfully plated dinuguan, a Filipino pork blood stew. Other metropolises from the Bay Area to New York are witnessing similar patterns. Even The Washington Post has noticed the burgeoning trend.
Here in Los Angeles, our Filipino food options have been, with a handful of exceptions, relegated to the turo-turo or point-point steam table restaurants such as Pinoy-Pinay. And, if memory serves, Yi Cuisine in Beverly Grove was the only high-end Filipino establishment L.A. has ever had.
Of course, there are rare sleeper hits like Oi Asian Fusion in Canoga Park, a spare, casual Filipino fusion dining spot, cooking adobo pork bowls and pork belly tacos cradled in a slice of raw jicama. Oi keeps its head down while the demand for its food goes up. Within one year of opening Oi’s original eight-seat location in Reseda, the operation moved to a space with quadruple the dining room in an artsier ‘hood, where they manage to pack them in on a regular basis.
Mark Manguera, the silent co-founding partner of the Kogi empire who happens to be Filipino, has big plans to establish Filipino food into the mainstream. He’s working with heavy hitters—from suppliers to chefs—in the community and attracting real estate moguls far and wide to back his still under-wraps venture.
If all this news has piqued your curiosity for Pinoy cooking, the month of May has plenty of opportunities to try Filipino cuisine in various forms, including a Roy Choi POT-promoted pop-up and a fine dining affair in Culver City. Check out the Filipino food action:
LASA is a Filipino food pop-up that started in April and goes until October. Happening every final Friday of the month at Elysian, a private event venue and occasional public restaurant, LASA means “taste” in Tagalog and is a pop-up headed by chef brothers Chad and Chase Valencia. The chefs promise to bring “new wave Filipino cuisine” to L.A. Anticipate dishes include a bulalo-braised short rib in bone marrow broth and San Miguel steamed Manila clams.
POT welcomes a Food & Sh*t pop-up, where Seattle-based chefs Geo Quibuyen and Chera Amlag will showcase homestyle Filipino grub, like kinilaw na pusit or grilled squid and sinigang broth, a marinated ribeye stew with noodles and tamarind. The pop-up’s famous ube (purple yam) cheesecake is the planned dessert. All eats come with dinner music furnished by guest DJs and rappers, rounding out the very Roy Choi vibe.
At the opposite end of the dining spectrum, The Point in Culver City will be hosting a one-night-only dinner called Cali-Pino, which will feature a refined approach to Filipino cuisine while combining a farmer’s market-driven and sustainable philosophy that’s true to California cooking. Chef Mayet Cristobal puts salted duck egg together with chilled iceberg and other fresh produce for her “Flip Wedge.” Soy-glazed onion and wilted Bloomsdale spinach go into her beef short rib adobo.
Beyond all the cuisine elevating and plate spinning, LASA’s Chad Valencia puts it best about his heritage’s cuisine potential for prime time.
“The time is now. It didn’t happen in our parents’ and grandparents’ generation because they had to leave the Philippines and adapt to a new country. It’s the opposite for us. We are proud Filipino-Americans who want to share Filipino culture through our food,” he says.
Will Filipino cuisine be the flavor of L.A.‘s future? Taste and find out.
Food & Sh*t at POT, The Line Hotel, 3515 Wilshire Blvd. Event takes place Saturday May 23 and Sunday May 24, 5 pm – 11 pm. Performance begins around 7 pm.
LASA at Elysian, 2806 Clearwater St., Los Angeles, 323-522-6625. Next dinner is on Friday May 29 at 6:30 pm and every last Friday of the month until October 30.
Cali-Pino at The Point, 8522 National Blvd. Ste. 100, Culver City. One-Night Only Dinner takes place on May 30, 7 pm.