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Last fall was my introduction to the cooking of Chef Francis Ang and his new venture, Pinoy Heritage. Some may recall his work as the talented pastry chef at Fifth Floor Restaurant and Dirty Habit. Blown away by his Filipino-inflected tasting menu at a https://Eatfeastly.com/pinoyheritage/ pop-up (more about that to come), Ang can hold his own on the savory side as well. When I had a chance to chat with him and his wife Dian, they encouraged me to try their more casual pop-up series featuring street food and grilling at local watering holes.
So on a rare sunny afternoon in December, we gathered on the welcoming patio at newish Anina in Hayes Valley for some fruity, tropical cocktails and Chef Ang's cooking. The bar does not offer table service. One orders, pays and waits at the counter for drinks, and another person is needed to hold onto the table.
Grilled octopus, $12, was a assemblage of bright colors and varied textures provided by charred octopus tentacles with lengths of slender sweet-sour eggplant that looked surprisingly similar. The segments of crisp persimmon and pieces of orange-fleshed sweet potato made a second fool-the-eye pairing. Juicy and candy-sweet end-of-season tomatoes from the farmers market and peppery greens highlighted colors and flavor contrast. A fun and delicious puzzle.
Liempo steamed bun, $5, came two to an order. The airy buns were stuffed with a thick slab of marinated pork belly accented with sweet and sour pickled cucumber atchara and micro greens. Fried chicken wings, $10, featured beautiful crust with a sticky calamansi lime and fish sauce glaze, but the flesh was just a bit dry.
Vegetable lumpia taco, $6, might have been the biggest surprise of all, as we had no idea what to expect from the name of the dish. The bubbled, crackly taco shell was a fried-to-order lumpia wrapper. The vegetarian filling tossed together raw and deep-fried crunchy bits of cabbage, scallions, cauliflower, carrot and Asian pear with fermented condiments for sweet-savory flavor bursts. Our vegetarian friend was delighted with this dish, as was I.
Pork and shrimp dumplings, $12, was our favorite in a field of strong contenders. Delicate wontons served in aromatic bone broth were topped with the sweetest ridgeback shrimp, crispy garlic, shaved radishes, cauliflower, green onions, and daikon sprouts. We ordered a second round.
Camote que, $5, was comped by the chef for dessert. Skewers of mocha, purple Okinawan sweet potato and pineapple seared on the grill and punched up with yuzu turned out to be drab in appearance and on the palate unlike every other thing we tried. Or maybe we were too full by this point in the evening.
As far as Anina's drink offerings, the cocktails were not only pretty but managed to deliver complexity and savory-bitter elements to keep the fruity side in check. Punch bowls to be shared by a group are a specialty here that several parties seemed to be enjoying to excess. Two of my male companions mentioned that inebriated women were too hands-y and aggressive while they waited for our order at the bar. Feature or a drawback is in the eye of the beholder.
We managed to try all but the fried rice on the day's menu. All in all, a very satisfying outing for the food, libations and venue. Today's pop-up in progress at Anina continues until 7pm.
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