Having grown up in between Silver Lake/Echo Park where half my street was Cuban and the other Pilipino, I've been fortunate to enjoy the homemade cuisines of both countries. Even though Historic Philipino District is there now, more for political reasons (guess we Cubans couldn't get it together to create a Little Havana district), there are very few choices for pilipino food in the neighborhood. Besides, I'm of the opinion that these two cuisines are best made with grandmotherly love. So the CH excitement about Barrio Fiesta opening up led me and my coworker (another native LA'er raised around Pilipino and Armenian food) to go there for lunch on Friday.
Here's the rundown, food first:
Pusit (fried calamari) with a vinegar/citrus/garlic dipping sauce - hands down the best, fresh out of the fryer, most tender calamari I've ever had! This alone is worth the trip! And if you're immature enough like my friend and me, we giggled each time we or the waiter said it.
Kare Kare - beef/oxtail/eggplant/bok choi in peanut sauce. Had never heard of it before until some glowing reviews here. Frankly, not the most interesting peanut sauce, but the eggplant is soooo soft/tender/melt in your mouth, that those few bites were the best in the dish.
Adobo (mixed with pork and chicken) - big, BIG disappointment here. The sauce, which is what makes the dish, lacked the vinegar tartness, hint of garlic, and black pepper. Lots of fat on the pork, and the hacked chicken parts had lots of bits of bones/etc that required care in eating. I even took the leftovers home to eat two days later, hoping the flavors would develop. No such luck. I'll have to call up my reina friend down the street to have him cook it for me again.
Pancit Bohian (rice vermicelli with pork/chicken) - not bad, not great. There's something really yummy when the noodles come out perfectly part crunchy/part chewy. Their version felt more like chow mein.
Service: Very attentive, they ask you up front if you’re familiar with their food, followed up nicely with refilled water glasses. And they’re more than happy to say “Pusit” as many times as you ask (tee hee).
Setting: Three large rooms, horrible fluorescent lighting, cloth napkins and table clothes were a nice touch. The stains on the table cloth felt just right for that home cooked feeling (I’m not joking, but in another setting, I’d be furious).
Will not rush back until I get that hankering for lumpia or pusit, then again, the reina down the street can cook it up for me.