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.

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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.

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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.

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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
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Hello Full House BBQ Vegas!

I’ve always been a fan of Full House. I mean I grew up with DJ, Stephanie and Michelle….oh wait not that Full House ;). Hehe, with a similar name to my favorite TV show when I was a kid, you may say I’m a bit bias to loving Full House BBQ in Vegas but I actually quite a fan of this Filipino restaurant with no association to the sitcom.

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I had the pleasure of dining here recently and truly loved each and every dish that I tried. The menu is large and they offer classic Filipino dishes as well as fusion ones.

For my trip here, the first dish that we tried was their Fire Roasted Crispy Pork belly.

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At Full House, they offer 1 pound of this Lechon Belly! It’s a classic favorite and they offer plenty.

Next dish was another crispy plate via the Sisig Milkfish.

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Full House offers several sisig sizzling plates. They have sisig pork belly, beef sirloin, chicken, and milkfish. Each dish comes with red, green peppers, onions, lime, soy, mayonnaise and fresh egg.

We also were served another sizzling dish via their beef sirloin.

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This pinoy bistek was my personal favorite of the whole trip. It consisted of board cracked peppercorn, onions and calamnsi soy glaze. I loved the sauce and it went well with the white rice. It was so savory.

For our soup, we tried their “sinigang” tamarind sour soup.

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This soup comes with choice or pork ribs or pompano fish and a blend of vegetables. The broth of this hotpot was so hearty. It had the perfect hint of sourness and made for a great soup.

Last but not least, we got to try their famous Flaming Halo Halo.

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This halo halo dish was lit! Literally lit! As Uncle Jesse of Full House (the TV sitcom) would say, “Have Mercy!” This halo halo was hot! It was served with a live flame. It was not only unique but delicious as well. It had classic toppings of ube ice cream, jackfruit, leche flan.    It was a gigantic dish of deliciousness.

My trip to Full House was one of my favorite dining outings while I was in Vegas. Maraming Salamat Full House!

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Now Full House is once again a favorite except this time instead of a tv show, it is restaurant. 🙂

For smiles, please see my Yelp review on Full House BBQ Vegas.

Hello Bao Down San Francisco!

Filipino cuisine is making its way to the top of the tastebuds of many foodies. This Hello Kitty Foodie is constantly in awe of all the amazing Pinoy offerings that are popping up every where! On my recent trip to San Francisco, I had the chance to checkout a newly opened gastropub specializing in Asian fusion food with touches of Hawaiian, Thai and Filipino flavors.

Located on Bush Street, next to  Executive Hotel Vintage Court is Bao Down.  It is the former location of Masa’s and All Spice and now is home to this Pan Asian Fusion food restaurant. This is Bao Down’s owners Greg Edwards and Marvin Agustin’s first US location. The original Bao Down is in Vancouver, Canada.

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Walking in, I was instantly mesmerized with the colorful and bright murals that are on Bao Down’s walls. I learned these colored murals were painted by Japanese-Canadian street artist Taka Sudo. He had also created similar murals for Bao Down’s Vancouver locations.

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Just as creative as the murals is Bao Down’s menu offerings.  It’s a traditional Asian food with a bit of pizazz and each dish has unique and flavorful ingredients.

I started off my meal here with one of their steamed baos. This place after all is called Bao Down and it seemed only appropriate that I try one of their signature bao dishes. I chose to try the Big Bang bao.

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The Big Bang bao consists of lechon kawali, carrots, daikon and Filipino sweet and sour sauce. Upon first bite, I could understand it’s name right away. It indeed made quite a bang for my tastebuds. From the soft outside bun to the crunchy lechon inside, it was amazingly delicious. The Filipino sweet and sour sauce brought out so much flavorful to this tender bao.

Up next, I tried one of their popular small plates, the West Coast Lumpia.

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Lumpia is one of my favorite Filipino dishes ever and thus I was quite intrigued to see Bao Down’s take. The West Coast Lumpia was filled with chicken, water chestnut, pickled vegetable and crispy noodles. I love how this starter was served piping hot. It was fried to perfect golden brown. The thin, crisp outside gave a nice crackling crunch at every bite.

For my main entree, I chose the beef rib kare kare.

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Kare Kare, similar to lumpia, is one of my all time favorite Filipino dishes. I have to say though that Bao Down’s Kare Kare makes it to the top of the most unique Filipino Kare Kare dishes I have ever tried. Their version consists of 36oz angus beef short rib, crispy garlic annatto-peanut sauce, crispy shanghai bok chow and XXXO sauce.  The angus beef short rib was gigantic and serving wise this could be good for four people! It was also super tender and one flick of a fork, the meat would come off the bone. The beef short rib was definitely a winner but one of the things I absolutely loved about this dish was the crispy shanghai bok choy! I was such a fan of their tempura bok choy. The buttery batter went well with the other savory sauces of this dish. This Hello Kitty Foodie bows down to this dish from Bao Down. 😉

With the rise in popularity of Filipino food in the United States, it is not surprising to see a place like Bao Down in San Francisco. I am happy to see them offering Filipino dishes with a special fusion flair. With their creative dishes and unique take, Bao Down takes Filipino cuisine to a whole new level.

For more smiles, please see my Yelp Review on Bao Down.

 

Hello Cafe 86!

Pink is my favorite color however I feel like purple is starting to make its way into my heart lately. Yes, that color purple sure is making an impact….thanks to ube!

Ube is the Tagalog word for purple yam and it’s the new “IT” dessert. It’s been making waves all over social media. From ube donuts to ube ice cream, the Filipino fave dessert has become a favorite for many foodies.

For some excellent ube treats, one should definitely check out Cafe 86. This cute Filipino cafe first opened up in Chino Hills, California and soon after opened up locations in Pasadena and Artesia, California. From the moment you walk into their cute cafe, one is sure to say “Oh my Ube.” This place truly is ube heaven.

A fan favorite  for many is the Ube Leche Flan Cupcake.

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The base of the cupcake is purple ube beauty made out of Cafe 86’s housemade ube halaya and then the top of the cupcake is the creamy Filipino dessert leche plan. The ube base and the leche plan topping is truly a match made in heaven. With this dessert you have a soft moist cake and a creamy sweet topping. Every bite is simply delightful.

Another awesome ube dessert is their ube cake truffles.  At first glance,  these truffles look like simple chocolate balls but don’t fooled because there is truly an amazing surprise waiting for you inside.

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It will truly be love at first bite of these Ube Truffles. Inside is a lovely purple colored moist cake made out of…..you guessed it ube! When I visited Cafe 86, I honestly thought nothing could be as amazing as the Ube Leche Flan Cupcake but their Ube Truffles sure is just as wonderful. It has the nice rich touch of chocolate on the outside. The inside is the soft ube cake. It is one of my favorites at Cafe 86.

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There is even more ube delight to be found in their Ube Monster ice cream sandwich.

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It’s Cookie Monster turned Ube Monster with this dessert! It’s a ube ice cream sandwich with two soft chocolate cookies filled with ube ice cream. It truly a “monster” dessert. It’s “monster” gigantic cookies. It’s filled with “monster” loads of creamy ube ice cream. You’re sure to go “monster” ube crazy with this one. 🙂

The Ube menu goes on and on at Cafe 86. Their specials change daily. Sometimes there are Ube Crinkle Cookies, Ube Crack Cheesecake, Ube Butter Bars or even Ube Vegan Bundt Cake. It’s not just about ube at Cafe 86 however. They have lots of other dessert delights like Halo-Halo Bread Pudding, Skyflake cookies and Churochi; a Cafe 86 special dessert of churro and mochi combined. In addition to desserts, Cafe 86 has various iced teas like Hibiscus Calamansi and Peach Mango,  milk teas like Thai Tea milk tea and Sea Salt Black Tea, Milk Shakes and Slush like Caramel Milk Slush and different lattes, espressos and loose leaf teas.

Yes, pink may be my favorite color but purple truly has made its way into this Hello Kitty Foodies heart. Oh my ube, I am a ube fan and Cafe 86 has a lot to do why I am. 😉

For more smiles, please see my Yelp review on Cafe 86.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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. 😉