Occupation: Nursing Student
Favorite Restaurant: Patio Filipino
Reviewed Patio Filipino: Saturday, February 20, 2010
"What’s for dinner?" It’s a common question everybody asks, and while most people rarely admit as much, they’re likely not thinking of Filipino. While the limited amount of restaurants available to the Bay Area has defined the cuisine to one type of experience, what Patio Filipino does is amazing. Through a complex array of distinct flavors, it’s the food that not only fulfills, but also showcases the country’s rich colonial history.
Accompanied by my sisters and my aunt, who was visiting from the Philippines, I couldn’t imagine bringing a better person to help measure the quality of our meal. Coming in without a dinner reservation, we were able to get a table in about fifteen minutes. During that time, what struck us immediately was how it wasn’t your typical Filipino restaurant. "No steam table? Where was the long line of customers holding their trays and to-go boxes?" In its place, we found a refreshingly modern, yet classic dining room that reflected elements of the country’s colonial days. In addition to the décor, what we also found was an inviting atmosphere with families, private functions, and a staff that welcomed us in. A good first impression, no doubt.
When most people think of culture, one element where it is normally reflected is in the food. Growing up in this environment, I’d like to think I have a more discerning palate and with it, a more conspicuous attitude. And so our adventure began by ordering the lumpianitas (lumpia for short) for appetizers. Served crisp with a side of sweet chili sauce, the pork was sautéed to perfection and provided a nice warm-up to the rest of our meal. Having grown up eating many Filipino staples, we decided to spoil ourselves and order dishes we’d commonly find reserved for special family occasions. A good decision it turned out. First up, was the crispy binagoongan, which is pork, served crisp, laid out on a bed of grilled eggplant, diced with fresh mangoes, juicy tomatoes, and sprinkled with green onions. As it turns out, it's a Patio Filipino specialty. Next up, a personal favorite of mine, pinakbet. This dish has a variety of vegetables, including sautéed eggplant, okra, bitter melon, and string beans, sautéed with pork and shrimp in shrimp paste. Hmmm… the thought of it already sends me back to old childhood memories. Thanks Patio! And like any Filipino meal, steamed rice is a necessity. We paired that up with another Filipino classic, kare kare, a vegetarian stew that’s sautéed in peanut sauce and served with a side of shrimp paste.
With a diverse menu and a colorful array of flavors, it’s easy to see why many people flock to Patio Filipino. By staying true to its roots, what you’ll find is not only classic Filipino Spanish cuisine, but such a distinct hospitality you’d think you were in Manila. So when a person does wonder, "What’s for dinner?" I’m recommending, "Patio Filipino."
Occupation: Freelance Fashion Writer
Location: San Francisco
Favorite Restaurant: Lahore Karahi
Reviewed Patio Filipino: Tuesday, February 16, 2010
If you ask people what Filipino cuisine is, most will have no idea. And as a half-Filipina woman, I am embarrassed to say that I know no more than most! So, I was excited to try this restaurant, which just happens to be down the street from a good friend’s house in San Bruno. This strip of El Camino Real, at first, seems a little non-descript, but some of the best food can be found inside the most humble of exteriors.
Patio Filipino seems to lend itself to large groups and families. The night that we went, there was only one other party in the restaurant, but it was early in the week and I imagine that the weekend nights draw the crowds. The inside is casually elegant – comfortable enough to wear jeans, but nice enough for a special occasion celebration.
All of the dishes really lend themselves to sharing, as they are generously portioned and served family-style. We started with the lumpianitas and the glazed calamares fritos. Lumpianitas are small fried spring rolls filled with pork -- we were expecting to get four or five, and there were about twelve on the plate! They were crisp and good. The glazed calamares fritos were excellent -- tender pieces of calamari very, very lightly fried with a sweet/spicy honey-chile sauce, which made for a wonderful tangy flavor.
For our main courses, we had the carne a la cubana, chicken and pork adobo, and sizzling sigsig. The carne a la cubana had some flavors that were definitely reminiscent of South America -- ground beef sautéed with garbanzos, carrots, potatoes, peas, and raisins, almost what you might expect to find on the inside of an empanada. The fried eggs on top were a nice accompaniment, making a kind of sauce when you broke the yoke into the dish. The chicken and pork adobo was traditional and good with tender meat, and a lighter vinegar-soy sauce, which was good over the garlic rice that we got as a side dish. The sizzling sigsig was my favorite entrée; the ingredients were simple (pork, garlic, onion, jalapeño pepper, and egg), but the preparation was unique, with the pork being cooked until almost crispy, making the dish not mushy at all, despite its appearance, and full of interesting texture. The garlic rice could almost stand out as its own dish -- full of toasted garlic bits and onions, it was very flavorful. All three of us were really pleased with all of the dishes, and were pleasantly full afterwards.
Because the food was a little on the heavy/oily side, we found that beer was the best accompaniment. They offer San Miguel, regular or light, which is a golden, medium-weight beer.
We were really too full for dessert, but I insisted on trying the buko con seta. It looked very festive served in a young coconut, with two big scoops of ice cream peeking out. The ice cream was very dense, rich and tasty. It tasted a little like caramel, but not quite as sweet. Underneath was a kind of coconut jelly, about the consistency of an opaque Jell-O, with beans mixed in. This is where my dining companions and I parted company. They did not like this part of the dish and dubbed it "Brain Flan," as it looked like I was scooping brain matter out of a skull! This didn’t sway me, as I loved the cool gel mixed with the creamy ice cream and the occasional surprise of some red and yellow beans on my spoon. Bring on the Brain Flan, I say!
I would definitely go back to Patio Filipino with a group of friends, preferably garlic and pork-loving ones. It’s a place where you can share a variety of dishes at a reasonable price, and enjoy something out of the ordinary right in your own backyard. For me, it was fun to connect to my roots through food, and I am inspired to try more of the cuisine, especially the lechon, pancit and the crispy pata.
Occupation: Financial Advisor
Location: Santa Clara
Favorite Restaurant: Sam's Grill and Seafood Restaurant
Reviewed Patio Filipino: Sunday, February 14, 2010
I visited Patio Filipino with my wife and a couple from the Peninsula we have known for many years.
This is an interesting place, offering a combination of Filipino and Spanish cuisine. The restaurant features a large number of what we understood to be basic, popular dishes of the Phillipines, but they also have Spanish dishes like paella and grilled marinated meats. There are also fake paintings of flamenco dancers on the walls, and the sound system was playing bossa nova from Brazil all evening, so we got a real cultural stew.
So -- on to the food.
For appetizers we ordered calamare fritos with a sweet and sour sauce and one of their specialties, crispy pata, a deep-fried shank of pork. While the crisp skin of the shank was tasty, I got a few bites of the fat underneath, which had sort of a disgusting rotten meat flavor -- not my favorite taste. Our guests, who didn’t get the fat, enjoyed the skin and meat of the shank. The calamare was typical of what you can get in almost any Bay Area restaurant, so nothing special going on yet.
For entrees we ordered beef rib-eye tapa, a mound of marinated and grilled paper-thin beef with a delicious peppery sauce. Everyone enjoyed the beef prepared this way. We also had a large platter of paella, which is the first dish listed under "Specialties of the House." The paella included shrimp, calamari, chicken, mussels, and Portuguese sausage mixed into saffron rice. I prefer my paella consistency a little on the loose side, but this version was as tight as oatmeal and had an old and tired flavor, as if it had been around for a while or perhaps made the day before. As with the calamare, there was nothing special going on with the paella -- pretty much the same as you can get in many Bay Area restaurants.
The accompanying vegetable dish of ginataang sitaw at kalabasa, however, was a revelation. The platter was full of green beans, squash, chicken, and shrimp, all tossed in a coconut milk sauce -- it was the highlight of my evening. It was a wonderful combination of flavors that were perfectly cooked together.
Beverage service does not seem to be a priority here. My wife’s beer was served room temperature, and our guests could not drink their wine, which was served warm and was non-descript. (There's a choice of red or white, and neither taste very good). However, there was nothing wrong with my Diet Coke, so I had no complaints. The servers were very nice when they came to check on us, which was not very often. Note to the restaurant: You could probably sell more wine if it tasted good, and most beer is enhanced by being chilled!
The desserts were the most flavorful and consistent items on the menu, and it appeared that someone had put a lot of thought into them. We ordered the Mango Supremo, a lovely light cake with vanilla ice cream and mango sauce. The banana fritters were like spring rolls stuffed with banana and chocolate and served with ice cream on the side with drizzles of chocolate syrup. It was a very special dessert. We also enjoyed the traditional buko con seta, a real coconut filled with pistachio ice cream, marinated shredded coconut, and white beans(?) Actually, the combination worked. I just wish the chef could put the same creativity and care into the rest of the menu as he puts into the desserts.
A note on the ambiance: we were the only non-Filipinos in the restaurant. Most of the tables were filled with families enjoying many platters and bowls of food, and I wished I could have sat with them and learned about the food from experts.
Would I go back? Only with a Filipino friend, who thoroughly understands the menu and knows what we should order.