After reading a couple of rave reviews by Abby/pleasurepalate, I decided to check out this Filipino restaurant in Glassell Park/Eagle Rock with a group. Turns out it's just down the block from Polka, a cozy little Polish place that also has great homey food for cheap.
I've read about crispy pata, deep-fried pork knuckle, in other reviews of Filipino restaurants, but this was my first time trying it. A huge, golden lump of crisp-fried pork landed before us. Pork knuckle? The exposed bits of bone looked more like dinosaur claws. But the meat... omg. The pork itself is a lot like carnitas, someone else pointed out, but the fried fat/skin puts it over the top. Fortunately, it's served with vinegar and soy sauce so you can cut the fattiness a bit by dipping. I'm not ordinarily a big fried-foods person (everything in moderation... usually), but I could not stay away from this stuff. An hour or so later, I was in a bit of a pig-fat daze.
My husband insisted on getting the meat platter, which to my eye was a fairly banal assortment of pan-Asian bbq: kalbi, chicken teriyaki, baby back ribs and grilled pork. So it turned out to be, but it was pretty good. I had just a piece of kalbi, saving myself for the other dishes. I was impressed by the grilled eggplant that came with it: a single long one, split down the middle. I guess it was grilled also, but whereas *my* grilled/roasted eggplants end up shriveled within their wrinkly skin, this one was plump and yet perfectly cooked and creamy inside. Amazing.
Lumpiang Shanghai - these are like mini egg rolls, with the thinner wontonlike skin. Filled with pork and fried, they were just irresistible - miles better than the tasteless nubbins by the same name at Asian Noodles.
Bicol Express was recommended by Abby/pleasurepalate - seafood sauteed in coconut milk. Really tasty, although I didn't think the seafood was amazing. It wasn't rubbery, nor off - nothing scary - but it didn't impress me in and of itself. The sauce did, though. Mmmmm.
Mixed adobo (chicken and pork), though, was kind of disappointing. I've actually never had adobo other than the one time I made it myself from a recipe - delicious, but I have no idea how it stacked up against the real thing! This adobo tasted okay, but the meats definitely needed to be more tender, more fall-off-the-bone-ish. Our friend whose mom is Filipina agreed that his mom's is way better (though otherwise he gave the food a 9 out of 10).
Also had Pinakbet, sauteed assorted vegetables in anchovy paste. I actually don't remember what the veggies were except okra, which a couple people commented they liked better than the usual okra. I found this dish a bit too fishy. Well, anchovy paste. Duh.
To go with everything we had garlic fried rice. What genius mad scientist in the kitchen came up with this? I loved, loved, loved it - could've been a meal on its own.
I thought we ordered a lot, but we actually ate most of it while still having some leftovers.
I'm really excited about this place, which is just a short hop up the 2 from my place. The menu is long and there's plenty more I want to try, especially pancit bihon, rice noodles sauteed with pork and shrimp; ginger-based mussel soup; green papaya and chicken ginger stew; grilled milkfish; pork in a "zesty dark sauce" (dinuguan) and more.
And contrary to my impression of Filipino food as meat-centric, there are about 10 vegetable dishes.
Almost everything is under $10, although the meat plate extravaganza is $25. The rest of the entrees average $7-$8, soups and appetizers start at $5. They take credit cards.
4126 N. Verdugo Rd. (exit Verdugo from the 2, go in the opposite direction from Occidental College)