Six of us made it to Cotati for the inaugural North Bay Chowdown at La Parilla, a restaurant none of us had ever tried before. La Parilla serves both Mexican and Filipino food. Melanie W. called beforehand to pre-order an all-Filipino food menu.
The owners are from the Philippines and opened a Mexican restaurant thinking that no-one would want Filipino cooking. Although we didn’t try any of their Mexican fare, the eight dishes we tried all had a homey goodness to them. All were served family style with white rice.
First out on the table was pinakbet, a mélange of cut-up okra, bitter melon, long beans (the skinniest, tenderest examples we’d ever seen) eggplant and sweet potato in a tomato-based sauce, assuredly laced with fish sauce. The overall effect was sweet-bitter-salty and warmed up our tastebuds for plate #2, ginataang langka, which many of us found to be a top contender for best dish of the evening.
The ginataang langka was braised jackfruit in coconut milk. The jackfruit tasted like artichoke hearts crossed with hearts of palm (thanks, Alex and Stephanie for the accurate description). The soft vegetal taste of the jackfruit and the sweetness of the coconut milk were nicely offset by slices of green jalapeno and bits of pork that were a lovely, bright shade of rosy pink. At first I thought they were bits of Chinese barbecued pork (cha siu) but no. The pork got its color from having been sautéed in shrimp paste. It tasted very much to me like a comfort dish, i.e. one I could eat a lot of.
Next came callos, a dish whose Spanish heritage was very evident. La Parilla’s callos combines tripe, bacon, chorizo, garbanzo beans, red bell pepper, and pork knuckle with tendon. This dish was gone almost immediately, with Alex exclaiming that this was the best tripe he had ever eaten and Kat citing it as her favorite for its flavors being clear and “unmushy.” Bryan loved how the tripe was “enlivened” by the bacon. I’m not particularly found of tripe, or perhaps I should say I have had one too many badly prepared tripe dishes, but I must say this one was really good and I would have eaten more had the opposite end of the table not been hogging it!
Another table favorite was the kare-kare, an oxtail and peanut stew/soup. The broth was a rich tasting but light mouth-feel peanut soup. The pieces of oxtail, tripe, eggplant, kabocha squash, and bok choy each paired differently with the peanut soup. To me, the squash seemed sweeter and the oxtail beefier when eaten with the broth.
Those were the table favorites. We also had another meat broth soup that was brightened with the sourness of citrus (lime or lemon but we didn’t think tamarind) and contained chunks of meaty pork ribs, tomatoes, eggplant, taro, and some water spinach (ong choy). The lumpia were proclaimed “cute” by someone at the table. They were indeed petite with a smooth ground meat filling (the owner grinds her own). The pork adobo was a bit unmemorable, only slightly vinegar-y. Nonetheless it was tender and tasty, and we ate it all. Perhaps the least successful dish was the rice noodle dish, pancit. It was tossed with bits of shredded pork, carrots, cabbage, and diced celery. There wasn’t much flavor to it other than “salty.” For dessert we had flan, a very dense, almost cake-like sort (rather than the slippery, silky kind) that reminded Melanie more of scrambled eggs than flan.
We all enjoyed our meal and, after having been away from the community of ‘hounds for a while, I really enjoyed sharing it with fellow North Bay Chowhounds. We’d like to go back to try the deep fried pork belly and the sissig. And we hear they do a roast suckling pig on special order!
La Parilla Restaurant and Catering
8492 Gravenstein Hwy
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