Hello Sari-Sari Store LA!

Hello Sari-Sari Store LA!

Sari-sari stores are very common in the Philippines. They are small convenience stores that can be found in many neighborhoods. Along the top of the sari-sari stores are displays of various products such as candy, soda and beauty products.

Walking into downtown Los Angeles’ Grand Central Market, I spot Sari-Sari Store. Just like in the Philippines there are several displays of common household products and consumables. Unlike the sari-sari stores in the Philippines, however, these products are not for sale. Instead what is for sale is a variety of rice bowls and that is because Sari-Sari Store at Grand Central Market is not a small market but instead a wonderful restaurant.

img_2067

Sari-Sari Store is a Filipino rice bowl stall conceptualized by Chef Margarita Manzke with business partner and husband Walter Manzke. If Chef Margarita Manzke and Walter Manzke sound familiar that is because they are the brains behind two other wonderful Los Angeles based restaurants, Republique and Petty Cash. They also are the owners of Philippines based bakery, Wildflour.

The idea behind Sari-Sari Store mainly came from Chef Margarita Manzke who was born and raised in the Philippines. She was exposed to the restaurant life early as her parents owned White Rock Resort, a hotel and restaurant just outside Manila.  Chef Marge wanted to bring to this Sari-Sari Store restaurant something “small, colorful, and casual” just like the real sari-sari stores. Every thing from the restaurant’s look to the menu is inspired by Chef Marge’s Filipino heritage.

The word “sari-sari” in the Filipino language, Tagalog essentially means “variety” and a variety is indeed found in the menu here. There is a variety of different Silog bowls; with silog meaning “singang” (garlic rice) + “itlog” (egg). The rice bowls offered included Filipino comfort food such as Arroz Caldo (rice porridge) and Filipino favorites like Lechon Kawali (crispy pork belly). They occasionally have specials as well such as Bistek Tagalog; the classic beef steak dish.

The day I went, I was fortunate to find one of my favorite Filipino dishes as one of the specials of the day. This was the Beef Tapa.

img_2043

Sari-Sari Store’s Beef Tapa bowl had marinated short ribs, garlic rice and pickled Fresno chiles. Served with the garlicky fried rice and sunny side up eggs, this beef tapa truly made my day. It was tender and full of flavor.  The tapa was marinated, to perfection, with just the right combination of soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, garlic, and pepper.

The other rice bowl that hit our table that day was one of the more traditional dishes folks associate with the Philippines; adobo.

img_2044

Sari-Sari Store’s take on adobo is a Adobo Fried Rice bowl. It has Mary’s organic chicken, garlic rice, pickled chiles and fried egg. The chicken at Republique is one of the most popular dishes and it was nice to see it incorporated here Filipino style.

Now speaking of Republique; at that restaurant Chef Marge’s speciality is the pastries. It is therefore not surprising  that Sari-Sari Store’s menu has some amazing desserts. She has not one but two regular sweets on the menu via the halo-halo and buko pie. I could not pass up on trying the buko pie as it is one of Los Angeles’ times top rated desserts.

It is no wonder Jonathan Gold of Los Angeles Times loves this dessert. It is truly one of the best pies I’ve had.  The buko pie consists of coconut, coconut and more coconut. Fittingly so as “Buko” means “young coconut” in Tagalog. All of this meaty coconut is mixed into wonderfully soft custard that is on top of Chef Marge’s famous pie crust. (It’s the same pie crust that is typically only found at Republique!). I’m still drooling as I think about this dessert. My only regret is I only bought one slice! Hehe.
Sari-Sari Store at Grand Central Market is not a convenience store. It is instead a lovely Filipino stall where you can have some hearty and delicious Filipino rice bowls and the best buko pie in town!
For more smiles, please see my Yelp review on Sari-Sari Store
Hello Bad Saint!

Hello Bad Saint!

The rain is starting to pour down hard in downtown DC but there’s already a line forming at 3226 11th St and the restaurant isn’t even open yet. The line grows longer by the minute till it reaches the corner and maybe even past the corner.

This is a typical scene that is in front of Bad Saint almost every night. Bad Saint is a very popular Filipino restaurant in Northwest Washington DC. Since it’s opening in 2015, folks from all over DC and beyond have lined up for hours to get in. The place is walk ins only and does not take reservations. There are only 24 seats inside. Being named on Bon Appetit magazine’s #2 New Restaurant in America, a seat is a most coveted spot for many.

I came to Bad Saint on a windy, rainy day in May. It was an hour before opening. The lady in front of me smiled when I said I was from California and she mentioned I came on a good day because the line wasn’t around the corner YET. I along, with the couple behind me eagerly counted the folks in front of us to see if we would make a cut in the first seating. Whew! It looked like we did but barely.

When 5:30pm hit, it still took a couple of minutes before they let folks in. I suddenly spotted a bunch of folks get out of a car and head towards the restaurant. It turns out they paid someone to stand in line for them. (Yes, you did read that right. I said “paid” and that is how crazy it is that people want to get in here). Despite the big new group, I likely was still able to make it through in the first seating. Thank goodness!

Walking in, the restaurant is dimly lit. Most of the seats consist of stools along counters, and there are only two tables that accommodate parties up to four. When I was given the menu, I was surprised to see the menu was small. It turns out they don’t have a permanent menu but instead a menu that changes constantly.  The menu consists of 3 portions: Gulay (vegetables and salads), Isda at Iba Pa (fish and more) and Carne (meat).

Braving the rain I decided to make the most of my visit by trying a variety of their dishes. From the Gulay section, I chose to get Adobong Dilaw. From the Carne section, I chose to get Adobong Puti and Pancit na Hipon.

Before the main orders came out, the folks at Bad Saint, gave complimentary green mangoes and bagoong (shrimp paste).

img_0099

I thought this starter was a nice way of introducing Filipino food to folks. The pungent and salty fermented shrimp paste along with the sour unripe mango is a very familiar Filipino side dish.

Soon after this, the two adobo dishes came out. Up first was the Adobong Dilaw (yellow adobo).

img_0100

Dilaw means “yellow” in Tagalog and this indeed was a yellow colored dish thanks to turmeric. Mixed in turmeric sauce was cauliflower and kabocha sauce. It had a curry like flavor to it and was unlike any Filipino dish I have ever tried. It was unique and delicious.  This dish was perfect along with their complimentary purple rice. I loved the turmeric sauce all over the rice. Tasting this, I knew already it was worth coming here.

The Adobong Puti (white adobo) was up next to hit the taste buds.

img_0101

This dish was more of a traditional Filipino tasting dish. It had chicken, pork belly ramps along with cane vinegar.  With its savory sauce of vinegar, garlic and soy sauce, adobo truly is a dish that has put the Philippines mark in international cuisine and Bad Saint knows its adobo.

The third course of the night consisted of Pancit Na Hipon (shrimp noodles).

img_0102

Bad Saint’s Pancit Na Hipon had glass noodles, pork belly and shrimp. I loved the long silky noodles that was mixed in with pork belly and shrimp along with peanuts. It had a bit of spice to it. The spice kick hits your palate instantly but is very delicious.

Last but not least, was dessert. Bad Saint doesn’t have a dessert menu but they do offer a complimentary dessert in the form of fried suman (rice cake).

img_0103

Their suman reminded of another Filipino dessert, turon (banana egg roll). This treat was a caramélized baked mini plantain with rice.

I was very happy to land a coveted seat inside the small restaurant that rainy night. The dishes at Bad Saint are excellent and it makes my heart truly happy to see a Filipino restaurant doing so well. It’s especially special to see it doing amazing at the nation’s capital. Thanks to Bad Saint for putting Filpino food in the forefront of the food industry. The long lines people see every night (even on rainy days, like the night I went), there truly is a good reason for it. 😉

For more smiles, please see my Yelp review on Bad Saint.

Hello Silog!

Hello Silog!

Silog is a traditional Filipino breakfast. Silog means the meal has sinangag (fried rice) and itlog (eggs), hence sinangag + itlog = silog.

A silog meal has always been my favorite type of breakfast and thus I was thrilled to find a restaurant in Harbor City, California specializing in this Filipino breakfast delight. How appropriate that the restaurant’s name is Silog.

img_0038

This Harbor City restaurant specializes in different types of silog. They have tapa (ribeye), longanisa (Filipino sausage), tocino (cured pork), sisig (braised pork belly), adobo chicken, adobo pork ribs, pares (beef brisket), spam and salmon.

The main entrees here come with a small side salad.

img_0039

The salad actually is a wonderful starter. It’s very refreshing and light spinach salad that is topped off with tomatoes, mango and vinaigrette dressing. I love the addition of mango. It brings a nice, sweet kick to this salad.

In addition to the salad, each entree comes  with garlic rice and soft boiled egg.

The soft boiled egg here is perfection. Silog does soft boiled egg right! The white is firm and the inside has the runny yellow yolk that you will sure to love over the garlic rice.

Yes, garlic rice plus egg plus your choice of meat is sure to give make you smile here at Silog!

My favorite silog is their Tapa.

img_0040

Here at Silog, their Tapa comes in the form of thin cut ribeye steak that is marinated in garlic and lime. It’s very flavorful.  This dish will tantalize your taste buds for sure.

Another excellent silog dish is their Adobo Ribs.

img_0041

It’s pork ribs braised in garlic, soy, vinegar and spices. I like this silog dish because it’s something different. It’s not your traditional Silog meat and so I find a Filipino fusion dish. It’s unique and tasty.

Aside from silog dishes, they also some amazing appetizer dishes like lumpia, spicy garlic adobo chicken wings and sisig.

The sisig here is a little bit different from your typical sisig.

img_0751

The sisig here is braised pork belly and shoulder shredded in fine pieces and topped with chicharon and garlic creme aioli drizzle. Once again not necessarily the traditional Filipino dish but yet very delicious.

Silog is a great Filipino restaurant to find not only silog dishes but other Filipino dishes with a twist. 😉