Sunday, August 3, 2008
Filipino Comfort Food
I don't know much about Filipino food, but the few times that I have had it, I didn't love it. I know now that it was probably because the restaurants weren't great. I found one that I liked -- Barrio Fiesta in Eagle Rock -- and I'm told Cerritos has even better ones.
Eagle Rock has a sizable Filipino population but I wouldn't have known about Barrio had it not been for a fellow foodie and Eagle Rock resident. From the outside, Barrio looks like a Mexican restaurant but step in and you will be treated to a veritable Filipino feast (like its name that means Party Town), complete with fresh lumpias and the most comforting chicken adobo.
My favorite was the chicken adobo, bone-in pieces of chicken slow-cooked to perfection in a marinade of dark cane vinegar, soy sauce, garlic and black peppercorn, among other goodies. The meat was tender with just the right acidity to balance out the saltiness. I liked the hard-boiled quail egg touch, although some of my fellow diners were grossed out by the mini eggs (their loss!). There were little treats that popped out as you lifted a chicken leg or wing from the hearty marinade/sauce. Fluffy white rice was the perfect accompaniment to neutralize this dish. It helped that the rice came in the cutest steel containers and tasted freshly made.
Just like the Sariwang lumpia. While I never shy away from deep fried foods, I liked this fresh version of lumpia better. The word, "fresh," may be a misnomer here, since it's not exactly raw like with the fresh Vietnamese rolls. Rather, it's like a thicker crepe stuffed with pork strips, minced heart of palm and other things that are all wrapped in a lettuce leaf. The crepe is then doused with a slightly sweet and caramel-like sauce made from garlic, starch and stock and sprinkled with crushed peanuts.
Another excellent dish was the chicken soup, called Tinolang manok. The stock had an exquisitely deep flavor and had an interesting mix of spinach and green papaya in it, which probably contributed to the fresh after-taste of the heart-warming soup. I can tell when good quality, fresh chicken was used from the lack of an unpleasant gamey taste or freezer smell.
The Guisadong Betchuelas (first photo), or sauteed green beans with pork and shrimp, was good - almost like a curry dish for its spice-tinged juices and melded together very well with the vegetables. My least favorite was Sotanghon guisado, a glass noodle dish with chicken, cabbage and other vegetables. I found it a tad bland and the noodles were dry and tangled.
I washed it all down with a refreshing Kalamansi, a Filipino lime drink made from a citrus fruit (I predict a summer cocktail using Kalamansi may well become the next drink du jour - maybe it already has). I was worried it'd be too sweet (from my previous Filipino dessert encounters) but the drink was just right.
All in all, a good meal (and learning experience for this Filipino food novice). Good service. Easy parking. What more could you ask for? Barrio was formerly in Glendale and moved to this location about a year and a half ago. Live music/performances on weekends. Not sure if this is for everybody, but karaoke is also available.
4420 Eagle Rock Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90041