April 16, 2015

Casual Filipino eats

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This morning my friend Susan Jung from the South China Morning Post put up a link to her review of Lab Eat, a new Filipino restaurant and bar.  She had raved about the place a few days ago, telling us it was the best Filipino food she's ever had.  Well, since I was looking for ideas on where to eat tonight in that general vicinity, I decided to go check it out for myself.  Purely coincidentally, my dining companion knows one of the partners who invested in the restaurant.

Filipino cuisine is one that I am completely unfamiliar with.  I haven't had the slightest urge to hit a Filipino restaurant in the last 20 years that I've been in Hong Kong, and my one and only trip to the islands was more than 25 years ago.  So yeah, this would be a little eye-opener for me.

The fact that there were only two of us severely limited the number of dishes we could try, but I was really looking forward to this experience.  Since neither of us know much of anything about Filipino cuisine, we both looked to our friends for suggestions - me picking dishes from Susan's review, and my dining companion from her Filipino friends.

We started with cocktails, and I ordered my current favorite - negroni.  This was OK, but I've really been spoiled by the ONegroni that I get at On Dining Kitchen and Bar.

Kinilaw na tanigue - this was described as "Filipino ceviche", which is kinda accurate.  The cubes of Pacific mackerel are mixed with vinegar and diced onions, chili peppers, ginger, and what seemed to be green bell peppers.  Lots of crunch here, and while the zesty acidity was expected, the strong kick from ginger was not.  My first bite included little bits of bird's eye chili that I didn't pick out...

Sinigang na hipon - described as "tom yum without the spice", this big bowl of sour vegetable soup came with our choice of protein - shrimp.  Morning glory, eggplant, radish, and tomato were all thrown into the mix.  To be honest I liked this MUCH better than your average tom yum kung... because I can't take both the acidity and the spice.  With I could have drunk a few more bowls of this.

Crispy pata - despite Susan thinking this "wasn't very exciting", we just couldn't resist crispy pork knuckles.  No, not in a million years!  It's true that the meat was a little too dry and hard, but that skin!  And the collagen!  Deep-fried garlic on top?!  I was such a happy camper...

Garlic rice - had some of this to go with the dishes.  Nice.

Not bad at all for a casual meal.  Maybe Filipino cuisine isn't seen as one of Asia's more exciting offerings, hence the general low-level of awareness of the dishes.  The fact that dishes had to be described to us using ceviche and tom yum as frames of reference underscores this point.  But I liked what I had, and I only wish there were more mouths (and stomachs) around tonight so we could have tried more dishes.

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