Sunday, July 24, 2016

A Filipino Feast in Hong Kong

Most of the restaurant promotion emails fell directly to my Trash folder but this one caught my attention. It’s a 2-night-only Filipino Feast pop-up event brought to Hong Kong by Cheryl, a well-known social media personality based in Manila. And we managed to get a small group of friends and booked a table for the second and final night. I must say I knew little about Filipino cuisine but with a couple Filipino "food experts" at the table, we were in for a fun evening of sharing good food and good conversation.

The pop-up event took over 42nd Davis, a corner restaurant in the ever-buzzing Kennedy Town owned by 2 Filipino chefs, who participated in the cooking for our special menu too. The place was more a bar than restaurant, so admittedly it was kinda too cozy for comfort for the evening we were there, with almost 40 people cramped in a rather tight dining space, but I quite liked our high table set right between the front window and the bar. Yes I liked it because we had the entire table by ourselves instead of having to sit at essentially the long table for the rest of the people.

The special menu worked almost like a cooking contest (but it’s not), with various chefs taking turns in bringing their dishes to each of the table, some based on traditional recipes and ingredients and some making twist and turns for a touch of fusion. Not knowing what to expect and what the original version of the dishes looked or tasted like, I thought most of the dishes presented were very enjoyable, but there were a few that particularly stood out, despite my friend was mumbling about the dishes not the most representative of the typical Filipino cuisine.

Well my favorite of the evening was the beef tapa served with pickled radish “atchara” and a fried quail egg on top – it was colourful, punchy and delicious, combining the rich minced beef with the tangy slice of radish with a red tint (from the beetroot juice added to the pickling liquid), topped with a cute little quail egg fried sunny-side up. Reminded me of Basque pintxos with the presentation and the bold flavors, and it’s easily the crowd's favorite.

I also thought the grilled squid (Inihaw na Pusit) with tomato mango salsa and toyomansi (soy sauce with calamansi juice) was a perfect dish to have in the summer. The combination of ingredients was almost cliché (simply can't go wrong with anything mango salsa, to be honest), but I thought I just became the newest fan for the toyamansi sauce – it’s umami-heavenly with just the right kick from the calamansi juice.

I was repeatedly warned by some friends who went on the previous night and also by the host as we settled down that we must save room for the rice and the lechon, or suckling pig. And I thought both rice dishes were excellent, especially the truffle rice stuffed and cooked inside the pig cavity, taking in all the jus and meaty flavors, combining with the rich truffles aroma. To be honest, I personally preferred the Cantonese way of roasting suckling pig, but it was still delicious with super tender meat. We were all like 200% full after finishing all the savory courses, then came the equally spectacular dessert, called "Super Suman" with steamed sticky rice served with scores of sweet Filipino goodies.

I was also impressed with the drinks served along our meal, in a way even more so than the dishes. With ingredients like calamansi liqueur, mango rum, lemon juice, pineapple syrup, salabat and herbs, mixed up by Joe our bartender for the evening for a couple different drinks, they were tasty and refreshing, and I couldn’t help finishing one after another, then asked for more. The last drink was a simpler one but just as good, with coffee liqueur mixing with rum, served on the rock with a small piece of leche flan.

I thought it’s a good 4 hours well-spent, not only with excellent food and drinks, but just being able to share the table with everyone loving food and fill the room in a relaxed vibe on a random weeknight. Congratulations Cheryl for successfully pulling the event together, and for the introduction of Filipino cuisine to this town. With a significant Pinoy population, I am surprised there’s such less representation of Filipino food in the local dining scene, but hopefully that's going to change gradually, with this feast being the first of many that I could enjoy.

More pictures inside my Flickr album:

When? July 14 2016
Where? 42nd Davis, Ground Floor, 32-42 Davis Street, Kennedy Town, Hong Kong
Menu Highlights? Organic Beef Tapa, Pickled Radish “Atchara” and Quail Egg, Pepita’s Kitchen Signature Lechon with Truffle Rice
(Cross Cultures by Cheryl Tiu)
(Cheryl's site)

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