There are things you taste and you suddenly know all your life you've been missing them. Middle eastern food is as welcoming and comforting as your grandmother's embrace. Thai food instantly unlocks a couple of extra flavor receptors you never knew you hadn't been using all these years. The instant "yum" tells you that from the first bite, fish sauce and coconut milk and lemongrass and peppers must be part of your life from now on.
And then there are the "hmm" cuisines, the ones that it's hard to get a handle on, see the appeal of. That you find yourself on the outside of, looking in. I have that reaction to African food, I must admit. Some things are good, some not, but it's never quite given me the concise flavor hook that says, this is what African food IS, gotta have THIS every month or so.
I have had Filipino a couple of times and been distinctly underwhelmed, but the places where I had it were kind of old school and greasy (one was, in fact, an old school Chinese restaurant which had, over time, Filipinized parts of its menu). So when I saw a new place coming into existence on Western just north of Irving Park, I thought, maybe here will be the newer, more authentic place that finally makes Filipino work for me.
I popped in to Kawali at Kaldero today. A brightly colored place with a steam table line and the requisite TV blaring satellite TV from the home country. For $4.50 I could have rice and two dishes, so I picked some candy-colored pork and, as a safe choice, chicken and pineapple.
I should know by now that it's the unsafe choice that usually wins out. The candy-colored pork was not, as I feared, greasy or shoe leathery, it had the taste, more or less, of the pork in a pork bun, and no doubt is very close to that. The chicken tasted like stewed chicken, very mild watery gravy that only tasted like pineapple when you ate a piece of pineapple in it, intensified by at least 2x it might have been savory and delectable, but it wasn't there yet.
Desserts looked good but I didn't have one. Other things did not look noticeably better, but maybe something is. For myself, the mystery continues.