Category Archives: Filipino

Bubblicitea, Albuquerque

Bubblicitea Cafe
2325 San Pedro Dr NE Ste 1D
Albuquerque, NM 87110

When you think of food in Albuquerque, Filipino food is certainly not near the top of the list. That’s exactly why I was pleasantly surprised to discover Bubblicitea on my last trip to the Land of Enchantment. By happenstance I was checking out Tsai’s Chinese Bistro in the same shopping plaza, but they were closed for a family emergency at the time. As I was leaving the parking lot, I noticed a bubble tea place and thought I might pop in to get some milk tea. However, when I looked closer at the posters on the storefront windows I noticed that the place wasn’t just a typical boba shop, but a place selling Filipino baked goods. I was elated, especially since Filipino food was one of the foods I missed when I lived in Albuquerque.

That night I bought some pan de sal (Filipino style bread rolls) and vowed to come back for lunch later in the week. Fast forward to Saturday, a friend agreed to try the place and off we went for a quick Saturday lunch at Bubblicitea. When we arrived, we looked at the dozen or so food items, trying to determine with ones we wanted to eat the most. In the end we chose the following:

Chicken Adobo at Bubblicitea

Chicken Adobo at Bubblicitea

  • Chicken Adobo – The chicken was tender with a nice balance of soy sauce and vinegar, with neither overpowering the other. While bay leaves were also used, my only gripe is that their could have been more spices in the marinade. However, it was a good version of chicken adobo all in all.
Pancit Malabon at Bubblicitea

Pancit Malabon at Bubblicitea

  • Pancit Malabon – This is the first time I had this style of pancit which is native to the city of Malabon, in the northern coastal part of the Manila metropolitan area. The annatto gives the dish a distinct orange hue while the fish sauce and shrimp make the seafood taste prominent, in a fresh (not fishy) manner. The thicker noodles help absorb all the fat and oil of the dish and it was a delight to taste this style of pancit in comparison to the more simple (but still tasty) pancit bihon.
Pork Sisig at Bubblicitea

Pork Sisig at Bubblicitea

  • Pork Sisig – I loved this version of pork sisig. Like any good sisig dish I’ve had, the pork is crispy from the sizzling plate but still tender. The egg and thin slices of peppers helped round out the dish.
  • Halo Halo – Lastly, but certainly not least, we had the halo halo. As with most halo halos, there were a range of sweet treats that were mixed in this, from the ube ice cream to the bits of toffee to the sweet red beans. My only qualm is that perhaps there should have been more condensed milk to mix with the shaved ice, but all in all it was a sweet ending to the meal.

Given the relatively little number of Filipinos in Albuquerque, it was great to see a place like Bubblicitea serve some really tasty Filipino food that would match the quality of many places in Daly City and San Diego. While I do wish they served more items, it’s logical to have a limited number of things given the small kitchen and clientele (as of now). However, it’s certainly a place that all New Mexicans should go to for a taste of Filipino food!

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No Car? Not a Problem – BART Pt.1

It’s no secret that the best Asian food in the United States, regardless of cuisine, is almost always in suburban areas that are only in reach with an automobile. Westminster, the San Gabriel Valley, Annandale, Milpitas; these are places that do not conjure up plentiful options of reliable and efficient mass transportation, especially be rail, even if they may have some of the best Vietnamese, Chinese, Korean, or Filipino food you’ve ever had. However, that’s not to say that there is no good Asian food within walking distance of mass transit lines. After all, anyone who knows where good Chinese food is in New York City can direct you to take the 7 line all the way down to Main Street, where the sight and smell of food from all regions of China can overwhelm the senses.

Therefore, I challenged myself this Autumn to eat Asian food that is only accessible to mass transportation. In particular, I decided to take an adventure and go to every station along the Richmond-Millbrae Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) line, only eating at Asian food establishments within 15 minutes walking distance. This is part one of my travel-eating challenge, and for those who use BART to travel, I hope this can serve as a guide of where to go and what to eat even when you find yourself stranded in Daly City.

BART Map (Richmond-Millbrae line in Red), courtesy of Bay Area Rapid Transit

BART Map (Richmond-Millbrae line in Red), courtesy of Bay Area Rapid Transit

Peninsula

Part 1 of this series focuses on the cities on the San Francisco Peninsula south of the city and county of San Francisco. There are 5 stations on the Peninsula on the Richmond-Millbrae line: Millbrae, San Bruno, South San Francisco, Colma, and Daly City (San Francisco Airport is another peninsula stop, but on the San Francisco Airport-Pittsburg/Bay Point Line). I chose to start here first because it was the part of the line I was least familiar with and it meant that I could finish the series in the East Bay, where I live.

Millbrae

Dim Sum at Hong Kong Flower Lounge

Dim Sum at Hong Kong Flower Lounge

The start/end of the line in Millbrae brings a plethora of options. Millbrae has been a leading center of Chinese food in the Bay Area for a while, so it’s no surprise that there are dozens of Asian options to walk to from the station. One of the closest Asian restaurants to the station also happens to be one of the oldest: Hong Kong Flower Lounge where they serve good dim sum at lunch. Of the several dim sum/seafood palaces I’ve been to in Millbrae, Hong Kong Flower Lounge is probably my favorite.

Further up north on El Camino Real you can walk to Hot Pot Garden, which does all you can eat Cantonese hot pot, and Ben Tre, which does decent Vietnamese food at reasonably Bay Area prices. For dessert you can head to Honey Berry where you can have a light and fluffy roti bun. To note, all these restaurants are within just a 5 minute walk from the station.

If you want to head a little further out you can go to “downtown Millbrae” along Broadway. There you can find The Third Eye, an Indian and Himalayan restaurant with great reviews and Broadway Bistro, a Hong Kong style cafe that leans more toward Chinese style western cuisine with a number of steak and pork chop dinners to chose from. If for some reason none of these options tickles your fancy you can just walk to Safeway, where they have a dedicated produce section to Chinese vegetables like Chinese Broccoli and mustard greens. The dedicated section for Chinese greens is the surest sign of how Asian Millbrae is, and given the plethora of options you’ll never go hungry around this BART station.

Just 6 of the MANY Asian options around Millbrae!

Just 6 of the MANY Asian options around Millbrae!

San Bruno

Spam Masubi & Loco Moco at Jake's Hawaiian BBQ

Spam Masubi & Loco Moco at Jake’s Hawaiian BBQ

Of course, not all BART stops are created equal, especially in the more suburban areas. The next station up the line brings us to San Bruno, where there is no Asian food in walking distance aside from the options available at the Tanforan Mall, which has an entrance right in front of the BART station.

Now, just because it is a mall doesn’t necessarily mean it has bad Asian food. Yes, the mall has its Panda Express and Sarku Japan, serving all the Orange Chinese and Teriyaki Beef you can order. However, their is also a Jake’s Hawaiian BBQ in the mall, where I had a great spam masubi and a loco moco that made me feel like I was in Hawaii for a split second. At the same mall food court is probably the only BART accessible Jolibee where you can order Filipino fried chicken, sweet spaghetti, or pancit palabok for pennies on the dollar. It’s certainly not the best fast food, but it’s definitely different than all the other options you have there. If you want a more refined, sit down experience, however, you can go up the escalator to Saigon Cuisine which serves decent Vietnamese food.

South San Francisco

Pancit Bihon and Kare Kare at Max's of Manila

Pancit Bihon and Kare Kare at Max’s of Manila

Even though San Bruno may not have the best Asian options by BART, at least it has options. At South San Francisco you only have one: Max’s of Manila, which is a seemingly long 12 minute walk alongside the cars zipping down El Camino Real at 45+ miles per hour.

Max’s may be the only option, but it is a good one in my opinion. While I did not have their popular fried chicken, I did like their pancit bihon and kare kare, which has decently, but not overwhelmingly, fatty oxtail. If I had more money and more stomach room I would have tried the crispy pata or bangus, but I suppose this means I need to take another trip to South San Francisco soon!

Colma

While the sole option in South San Francisco is a good one, I can’t say the same about any of the options I tried in Colma. Disappointment was around every corner, from the Hawaiian Drive in that sold spam masubi with concerningly thick and gelatinous sauce to the OK Pho which served phở and egg rolls that were literally just “okay”. They were both lacking in much flavor or presence. 

However, I will say that I never did try Pampangas, the take out Filipino place near Hawaiian Drive In that unfortunately was only cash only. the food certainly smelled and looked delicious, and was the only Asian restaurant in the area that had something resembling a line.

Daly City

Mohinga and Rainbow Salad at Little Yangon

Mohinga and Rainbow Salad at Little Yangon

Colma may have a dearth of good options, but that certainly is not so for the last stop in the peninsula (and the end of the line during nights and Sundays). Daly City not only has a number of different options, but all of them are reasonably good as well.

My friend and I first stopped for lunch at Little Yangon, a Burmese place with good mohinga, a tasty but different rainbow salad (compared to other Burmese restaurants in the area) that had warm noodles and a nice, tangy sauce, and a refreshing faluda for dessert. Service was a bit slow, however, so be sure to be extra patient in the restaurant.

Given that Daly City has a large Filipino population, naturally you can find good Filipino food around with Maynila probably being the closest place to the station. While it’s bare bones, Maynila does decent lumpiang shanghai and chicken skewers, even if they are not to the level of Fil-Am cuisine (which is further afield and not as accessible).

For a mid-afternoon dessert my friend and I got some shaved snow with delicious “popping boba” at FrosTea. Like other modern boba shops, it had some board games for people to play, which was a nice way to end a round of eating and the first part of my Asian restaurant adventures on BART.

Shaved Snow at FrosTea

Shaved Snow at FrosTea

Filipino Food in DC

Over the past few years there has been one metro area where Filipino food has sky rocketed in popularity: Washington, DC. DC is odd in a way because it’s an area of the country not known to have a high concentration of Filipino families. While the latest census figures do say that there are 70,000 people in the DC area that have some Filipino ancestry, there is not a single specific are where they concentrate and that number pales in comparison to other metro areas like San Diego, which has 170,000 Filipinos. Yet, despite this, there are now about a half a dozen Filipino restaurants in DC and and number continues to rapidly grow.

These developments, of course, gave me a wonderful opportunity to see how Filipino food is like in DC during my travels there this past Labor Day week. Since I only had a limited number of meals, however, I only got to try 2 of the restaurants with different friends.

Bistro 7107
513 23rd Street S
Arlington, VA 22202

The first one I tried was Bistro 7107 in Crystal City. I met two of my friends there, neither or whom really had experience eating Filipino food, to see how it was like. After an exhausting day in 93 degree heat, I drank a glass of water and immediately browsed through it’s decent sized menu. We deliberated for a couple of minutes and ordered the following:

Lumpiang Shanghai at Bistro 7107

Lumpiang Shanghai at Bistro 7107

  • Lumpiang Shanghai – These classic Filipino egg rolls were artfully cut and still tasty. I liked the very meaty filling that had a nice amount of mung bean noodles. The skin was fried nicely as well and I was half tempted to order another one.
  • Dinuguan – Admittedly, dinuguan is not one of my favorite Filipino dishes, but I did like this version. The pork belly was almost as crispy as lechon and worked well with the flavor of the sauce. I still wasn’t a fan of the sauces consistency though, which is mainly due to the consistency of the pig blood
  • Kare Kare – The oxtail marinated well in a very peanuty stew, probably the most peanuty kare kare sauce I’ve had. Regardless, aside from one very fatty piece of oxtail, the dish was really nice with tender meat and bok choy to help cleanse the palate.
Pancit Bihon at Bistro 7107

Pancit Bihon at Bistro 7107

  • Pancit Bihon – While this is a fairly simple dish, my friends and I really loved it. The mung bean noodles were stir fried and seasoned well with the minced pork and vegetables. It definitely wasn’t my favorite version of the dish but pretty solid to satisfy my cravings of this basic dish.
Mechado at Bistro 7107

Mechado at Bistro 7107

  • Mechado – The short ribs were marinated with a slightly sweet, but really delicious red wine and soy based sauce. The meat was pretty good, though the portions a little small.

All in all, I liked the food here. I would say my favorites were the mechado and the pancit bihon, but next time I will try to order the bangus and see how it is instead of the dinuguan or kare kare. The decor and service were pretty nice and friendly too, even though the prices were a little higher than what I would expect.

Fairfax Inn Restaurant
2946 Sleepy Hollow Road
Falls Church, VA 22044

The next day I went with a Filipina friend of mine to eat at the Fairfax Inn, a restaurant tucked in the corner of a small office area just off of 7 corners. The restaurant seemed to be a classic American diner in its former life, but is now more happily transitioned as a Filipino restaurant. After my friend and I sat down at a table, we ordered a few dishes for an early dinner:

Lechon at Fairfax Inn

Lechon at Fairfax Inn

  • Lechon – The fried pork belly was one thing my friend specifically ordered and it did not disappoint. The pork was crunchy but with a nice little chew. The sauce they served to dip it in was very nice as well.
  • Palabok – I liked the mung bean noodles that absorbed the shrimp sauce of the palabok well. The ground pork was nice as well. I did think it was a plainer palabok than I have eaten before, but the flavors were really nice, especially considering how rare it is to find this dish even with DC’s Filipino food boom.
  • Pork Adobo – The pork was very nice and tender, absorbing the adobo sauce really well. I liked the sauce overall, with a nice balance of saltiness with the sourness of the vinegar. However, if you are more used to a sour adobo, this dish will probably be okay, but not wowing.
Halo Halo at Fairfax Inn

Halo Halo at Fairfax Inn

  • Halo Halo – For a treat, we ordered halo halo, which my friend loved. The ube ice cream was really nice and it blended really well with the condensed milk and shaved ice below. The fruit, jelly, and sweet red beans at the bottom were very nice as well. It was a very refreshing way to end dinner on a day the thermometers outside hit the mid-90s.

All in all, I liked Fairfax Inn and the very mom and pop vibe of the restaurant. I would definitely order the lechon and the halo halo again. The one downside, however, is that the restaurant closes at 6PM so you have to go there during lunch or eat a very early dinner as my friend and I did.

Overall I was pretty impressed with the two Filipino restaurants I ate at. While I couldn’t say they both were of the quality that would remind me of friends’ parties as a child or my sister-in-laws’ holiday feasts, I was very impressed by the range of Filipino food that was on the menu given the relatively small amount of Filipinos in DC and the lack of resources compared to large cities in California. I definitely feel excited to taste more Filipino food in DC when I go back and to see how the scene grows and changes as it becomes popular.