The cuisine of The Philippines is not something I have had a lot of experience with. At company potlucks and parties I’ve attended, I’ve tried the fried lumpias (spring rolls) and chicken adobo (stew) that my Filipino coworkers would bring. I’ve had lechon (roast pig) and pancit (stir-fried rice noodles) at birthday parties for my kids’ second cousins—my wife’s cousin’s wife (if you follow) is from The Philippines.
I’ve been trying to sample more Filipino food beyond the above staples. I enjoyed The Park’s Finest‘s coconut beef and cornbread bibingka (rice flour cake) at Plate by Plate 2014, and the same bibingka with pulled pork at this year’s event, but I’ve yet to hit their shop in Echo Park. I’ve gone to Dollar Hits for skewers of isaw (intestines) and other Filipino street foods. It’s definitely a cuisine I want to get to know better.
Earlier this summer, I was invited to preview Ricebar, a new Filipino restaurant packed into a tiny space (single-digit seats, counter-only). The result of a partnership with chef Charles Olalia (Patina, Terranea) and restaurateur Santos Uy (Papilles, Mignon), Ricebar specializes in rice bowls.
The menu consists of a a selection of ulam (flavors) paired with one of five varieties of heirloom rice grown in The Philippines, though customers can select their own combinations. A pancit dish and a mushroom “tamale” (made with rice, not corn) round out the menu. I got to try many of the dishes during the preview.
Bistek Tagalog: The onions in this dish was infused with a lot of flavor, but the rest of the dish was somewhat bland. My friend Remil commented after that my dish seemed to be missing the sauce/gravy that he’s had on it.
Mushroom Tamale: This was not the most photogenic dish and was much tastier than it looks on Instagram. It’s very similar to lo mai gai, those lotus leaf bundles stuffed with sticky rice that you might find at dim sum restaurants. Probably the only vegetarian dish, if you’re the kind of vegetarian that eats eggs, as it does contain salted duck egg.
Pancit Luglog: I really enjoyed this non-grain dish, which was made with a thicker, udon-like rice noodle, rather than the more ubiquitous thin rice vermicelli found in pancit bihon. It’s surprising how different the dish is with the thicker noodles. It’s also saucier, with the orange color courtesy of annatto seeds.
Pork Longganisa: My favorite of the night, the sausage, made in-house by hand (I saw the prep cook dicing fat back to go into the filling) was sweet and fatty. The egg had crispy edges around the white with a thick medium-soft yolk. The shredded, pickled papaya on top reminded me of takuan (Japanese pickled radish). I could eat this bowl every day!
Ricebar also serves an assortment of drinks, including some Filipino sodas, and house-made crispy rice treats in flavors such as chocolate and pandan. For now, Ricebar is a weekday-only, lunch-to-early-dinner affair, open only Monday through Friday from 11am to 5pm. Hopefully they’ll expand their hours soon!
For more from my meal at Ricebar, check out the #offaloricebar hashtag on Instagram.
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419 West 7th Street
Los Angeles, CA 90014
213-807-5341 (for text orders)