Flipping Out Over Filipino Food at Akulturado: A Modern Filipino Pop-up Series

Somehow I stumbled onto this group called Luz Kitchen (pronounced “looz”) who are a group of cooks and chefs who put on Filipino-themed pop-ups, doing a modern take on Filipino cuisine. I haven’t had a ton of experience with Filipino cuisine, but I see it becoming a larger part of the landscape here. Take the area around Joyce Station as an example, and also pockets along Fraser St. Of the little that I’ve tried, I absolutely LOVE crispy pata (deep fried pork hock):

Who doesn’t love tender, flavourful pork meat with glass-like, shattering skin? I even took some crispy pata and shoved it into a banh mi once:

My other favourite Filipino experience is the bbq pork “Big Plate” from JJ’s Trucketeria:

JJ’s Instagram feed is also hilarious, with tons of photos of his butt-naked son. I’ve also enjoyed eating this pork during the rare times that the truck is at 33 Acres Brewing (full post about that here).

From those few times eating Filipino food, a couple things stand out: they let the ingredients speak for themselves (not a lot of spices, herbs, or seasonings), and they love acid (in the form of vinegar, like in the salad dressing-like vinegar dipping sauce above). But I wondered if there was more to Filipino cuisine than that. Have I only scratched the surface?

So I was intrigued when I saw Luz Kitchen putting on these modern Filipino dinners (YouTube videos here and here). We’ve all seen the Anthony Bourdain No Reservations episode on the Philippines (Season 6 Episode 7). We know Filipino cuisine is under-represented and just waiting to blow up big. So we decided to see just what is possible with Filipino flavours in a modern context.

Luz Kitchen just started up their pop-up dinners in September. One of their previous dinners was focused on regional dishes from across the Philippines:

I think that’s kinda incredible to put that on cuz we’re *just* getting used to the idea of specific, regional cooking as opposed to generic umbrellas like “mexican”, “italian”, “chinese”, “thai”, etc. Taking Chinese as an example, we’re getting spoiled for choice now that we can get unique Shanghainese, Cantonese, Hunanese, etc cuisine. But we’re only beginning to recognize regional Vietnamese cuisine (eg. Mr. Red Cafe, Hoi An Cafe) and regional Thai (Longtail Kitchen, Maenam, Kin Kao). I’d love to see more development of regional Mexican and Italian food here. Also, the focus on region and origin handily sidesteps the controversial topic of “authenticity”. Take ramen for example. There’s incredible variation in ramen styles throughout Japan that we don’t see a lot of here. Each city/area has their own style of ramen (see this Lucky Peach article). Differences in ramen become points to compare, contrast, and appreciate. The question of authenticity becomes a question of execution and your world of food becomes that much wider because you’re not hung up on this one singular notion of authenticity. Shit, I did not mean to get so heavy and long-winded about this, but I thought the idea of a regional Filipino cuisine touched off an important idea that’s relevant to our food scene in multi-cultural Vancouver. Bottom line: does it taste good? Will it enrich me?

Now, onto the actual dinner!

It was an appropriately holiday-themed dinner. And sold out too! Only $45 for 7 courses — that’s just underpriced!

DSCF3404

The dinner was held at the rent-a-restaurant space in the historic Arundel Mansion in New West.

DSCF3405

Built in 1910, it’s got that heritage building feel and is a bit creepy at night. Not sure about this “Classic Hats for the Traveller” thing. I guess this space used to be a hat store.

DSCF3421

The menu. Each course had a sub-theme, but it was written in Tagalog so we needed help translating. The good thing was that they introduced each course with an explanation/PowerPoint presentation 😀

DSCF3445

Wanna be a good food blogger? You should take notes!

DSCF3474

A couple no-shows. I had to look at this wasted opportunity all night. Sigh. I hope they had a good reason to back out. Losers.

DSCF3425

My favourite thing about pop-ups is being able to bring my own beer to pair with the food (assuming that the event is BYOB). Since I didn’t know the menu ahead of time, I brought along a selection of styles. I started off with a Driftwood Gose-uh, which had a mixture of citrus tartness, slight saltiness (as is the style), and a hint of spice. I loved this beer with my pho nachos a few months ago, but as the meal progressed I realized that this wouldn’t cut it, pairing-wise. Each course had an element of sweetness, and the gose made for a bit of a wonky pairing. Gose goes great (lol) with salty, cheesy, meaty nachos, but not so well with tonight’s food. I capped it and put it back in my bag.

DSCF3442

Introducing the first course, which was themed “Parol” or “lantern”.

DSCF3452

Bibingka (Rice Cake) – rice cake blini, bone marrow & salted (duck) egg puree, toasted coconut soil, and microgreens. The chewy rice cake was steamed in a lotus leaf “cup”.

DSCF3457

Great start to the meal and encapsulates the sweet/savoury nature of the cuisine. The bone marrow & salted egg puree was crying out to be licked and savoured.

DSCF3461

Since the gose wasn’t working out, I pulled out a Dale’s Pale Ale by Oskar Blues. A fruity pale ale that hits that sweet spot in terms of balance and drinkability. FYI the glass says “North Vancouver Detachment”.

DSCF3465

Second course, themed “Simbang Gabi” (midnight mass): Hamon at Keso de Bola – Lumpiang hamon (ham spring roll), keso de bola (some kind of Dutch cheese), brussel sprout leaves, and pineapple sauce. That mix of salty ham and sweet pineapple again shows the Filipino love for mixing sweet and savoury, and is a classic flavour combination. The addition of brussel sprouts says holiday eating, but the addition of cheese made it even more intriguing and special for me because I’ve never had a meat spring roll with cheese before.

DSCF3477
Check out that creepy-ass porcelain doll behind the bar!! Ugh. Do not like.

Introducing the third course, “Monito Monita” (gift exchange).

DSCF3485

Ube (purple yam/purple potato) – Cream of purple potato soup with otap and more purple potato. Otap is a sweet cracker that’s apparently a specialty of Cebu island in the Philippines. Here, the otap was made super thin and crispy. Not sure what the microgreens were. The soup was smooth and creamy, nicely balanced and made regular old potato soups boring in comparison. It was also a bit gooey (just a slight hint), but I mean it in the best way possible. Think of grated mountain yam (Japanese yamaimo) or the mucus-like quality of okra. I found that touch of gooeyness to be a good quality.

mouthfeel
From Bob’s Burgers “Best Burger” episode (Season 5 Episode 5).

DSCF3488

In preparation for the next course, I pulled out a Duchesse de Bourgogne, a Flemish red ale. A personal favourite. Lots of flavours to chew on. Tartness, bit of funk, oak, preserved dark fruits. I thought it’d pair well with the next salad course.

DSCF3496

Fourth course: Castanas at Salabat (Chestnuts and ginger tea?) – Chestnut (roasted & ground), apple, pear, microgreens, ginger vinaigrette. Great palate-cleanser course, with the ubiquitous sweet elements playing off the roasted chestnuts, crispy microgreens and ginger. Little sips of Duchesse de Bourgogne made it a fun moment for me. The theme for this course was “Panuluyan” (“asking for lodgings”).

DSCF3500

Fifth course: Arroz Valenciana (Filipino paella) – Pork belly, scallops, shrimp, green peas, carrots, raisins (not sure exactly where the raisins were in this dish), and an interesting rice cake made from glutinous rice formed into a patty and fried. The theme was “Noche Buena” (Christmas Eve), and dishes like roasted pig and arroz valenciana are a big part of a traditional Filipino Christmas.

DSCF3508

Cross-section of the glutinous rice. I think the green sauce was green pea puree. This was a really fun and tasty dish. Pairing up the proteins with the chewy and crispy rice really hit the spot. My favourite part was the orange sauce which provided a nice hit of acid to balance out the meaty, fatty pork belly. A nice take on paella!

DSCF3522

Sixth course: Relleno (I think it means “rolled”) – Turkey breast inasal (grilled?), turkey leg relleno (those sausage-like slices), rutabaga, and rutabaga gnocchi. This is where I had to undo my belt a bit. The skin on that turkey was fantastic — no visible fat, thin and crispy, almost delicate. The meat was reasonably moist and the fantastic gravy was rich, smooth, and not in any way salty. The relleno pieces were enjoyable too, tasting like a chunky turkey sausage. I haven’t had rutabaga in ages and that twang or aromatic stink that they have was delicious. 🙂 I enjoyed the crispy parts of the rutabaga gnocchi even though the gnocchi itself wasn’t as light and pillowy as some people might prefer.

DSCF3532

Yes, I brought a total of four beers that night to cover all the bases. North Coast Old Rasputin, a Russian Imperial Stout. Big roasty chocolate and coffee in this one.

DSCF3534

Last course being introduced, “Dia Delos Tres Reyes” (Three Kings).

DSCF3536

Tsokolate de Batirol (Hot Chocolate?) – Chocolate three ways: flourless chocolate cake, chocolate mousse, and chocolate meringue. I think the microgreens were amaranth, and the chocolate meringue was crumbled into a dust.

DSCF3543

Pairing the dessert with the Old Rasputin brought out a pleasant dryness in the beer. Bittersweet heaven.

DSCF3550

There was a surprise at the end! Parting gift of a crusty and soft sriracha bun with a container of dulce de leche with bacon chunks! I dug into it the morning after:

DSCF3570_1

I could smell a hint of sriracha and taste just a gentle current of it in the bun. The dulce de leche was like condensed milk with a smoky, salty bacon hit. Like Filipino food as a whole, this whole dinner took elements and flavours we knew but combined them in novel ways. I really hope this turns into something bigger for the Luz Kitchen crew. I’m sure they’ll continue these pop-up dinners in 2016. Keep an eye on their Instagram or Facebook for more info.


That’s it for me for 2015. I’ll be in Calgary for the remainder of this year and hopefully bring you a tasty Calgary trip report in early 2016! Have a happy holidays and thanks so much for reading this blog! Beers on me!

2 thoughts on “Flipping Out Over Filipino Food at Akulturado: A Modern Filipino Pop-up Series”

Leave a Reply