The Philippines encompasses more than 7,000 islands and multiple ethnic groups. The country's been colonized, occupied and camped upon by a slew of nations, including China, Spain, Japan and the U.S., and shaped by peoples that drifted to the islands from the South Pacific, Arabia and elsewhere in Asia. Combine these influences and give the cooks ingredients available in a tropical paradise, and the result is a cuisine as complex as the jungle, as colorful as a coral reef and full of surprises.
I fancy myself a connoisseur of oxtail, and so the kare-kare ($9.75) immediately caught my attention. Oxtails, the meaty skeletal tail stubs of cows, are stewed soft and come served with loads of bright green string beans and bok choy-like Chinese greens. It’s all smothered in a brown peanut gravy that reminded me of Thanksgiving. The meat was pure succulent succulosity, falling from its bones with greasy surrender.
Filipino Kitchen doesn’t serve coffee or hot tea, which struck me as exotic. And speaking of beverages, the coconuts there are the most expensive I’ve seen in town ($4.50), as well as the most consistently awesome: Each specimen we tried was full of perfectly rich, sweet and buttery water.
There's one dish I have to wave you away from: It’s called palabok. I could tell something was off as soon as the waitress set it on our table. I took a small nibble of noodle out of duty and cared to proceed no further. Round, thick noodles were undercooked yet soggy, coated with a weird yellow sauce and topped with sliced boiled egg. There was pork, of course, and shrimp mixed in.
Still, I’m glad that palabok is on the menu because I respect a place more if it pushes my boundaries. On that note, some day I might go in for a bowl of the pig blood soup. I’ll definitely make it back there for another kare-kare.