Gold Tray Manila serves very satisfying homey Filipino food, says Alice Patis. It’s a tiny little store and bakery, jam-packed with pre-packaged snacks from the Philippines, and shrink-wrapped bakery items like kutsinta, sapin-sapin, cassava cakes, and bibingka.

There’s also a little steam table, with solid Filipino fare. For $4.99 you get two items and rice. Bangus–fried milkfish–is a Filipino standard; Gold Tray’s version has some serious lip-smacking, salty goodness. It may not be fresh from the fryer, but it’s still got some crispiness to it. Most importantly, it’s served boneless–very important for this bony little fish. Mussels in broth are really good, too–mussels are plump and unsmelly, and the broth is deep and slightly sweet. It’s flavored just from the sauteed mussels and veggies–no stock, no MSG–with a bit of a bite from some ginger and black pepper.

Halo halo is huge, with the highest ratio of solids to liquids she’s seen in a halo halo. There’s a great variety of solids too, pinipig (puffed rice) predominating, but with lots of beans, jellies, coconut cubes, ground mung bean, taro hunks, soft jackfruit shreds, and other unidentifiable but yummy stuff. It’s totally worth the $3.99.

Tuesdays and Thursdays they have an all-you-can-eat buffet for $5.99, and a greater selection from the steam table.

Elsewhere: four Filipino chowhounds descended on Ihaw Ihaw after a recent heavenly experience at Tribu. Verdict: they universally choose Tribu as the superior Filipino restaurant overall. However: Ihaw Ihaw does have super pinakbet (vegetable stew with shrimp paste). pilinut would return just for pinakbet and some rice.

Several Chowhounds love Kuya’s. itadakiMAN is a regular; his favorites there are hitong kano (deep-fried catfish), inihaw no baboy (grilled pork chops), adobo rice, salpicao, and, of course, crispy pata. There are also great pork sinigang, miki nihon, sisig, and halo halo. Great service and great prices, says SFcaterer.

Gold Tray Manila [South Bay]
5320 Monterey Hwy., near Ocean Palace restaurant, San Jose

Ihaw Ihaw [Peninsula]
a.k.a. San Bruno Ihaw
422 San Mateo Ave., San Bruno

Tribu Grill [Peninsula]
235 El Camino Real, San Bruno

Kuya’s [Peninsula]
460 San Mateo Drive, San Bruno

Board Links: Crispy Pata, etc.—Ihaw Ihaw vs. Tribu
Gold Tray Manila – solid homey filipino food in San Jose

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