Ateh’s Kitchen: My First Steps into Filipino Flavors
It is with a little bit of embarrassment that I confess I had never had a Filipino meal before in my life.
I don’t know how or why, but I come before you with my arms down and my palms out seeking forgiveness because, God damn, it is good stuff; I mean it’s really tasty food.
If you are like me, a virgin to Filipino food’s mouthwatering delights, you should not wait another day to treat yourself to some of these awesome dishes, as they are definitely arousing.
I wondered, what are their national dishes? What are the day-to-day cravings and comforts of the Filipino people?
What to hell does Pacquiao really want to eat after training all day anyway?
All worthy questions.
So I decided to find myself a well-regarded Filipino restaurant and discover what I had been missing out on.
Note: Due to the graphic pleasure of this FlavorBoner, you might want to check your local listings for your nearby Filipino restaurant before reading. I can assure you, if you live in Los Angeles, it is worth the drive to Van Nuys to experience Ateh’s Kitchen for yourself as they fucking rock.
First off… I love discovering places that are easily missed. It makes me feel special. Like I have a superpower. A mutant gene that gives me the nose of a blood hound; tracking down righteous smells and bitchin’ flavors.
ATEH’S KITCHEN is a small, unassuming, rather plain looking restaurant with only a banner above its doors to identify it. The owners, the kitchen and wait staff are all Filipino. It has the feeling of family – you are guests in their home, and believe me they are excited to see you and impress you with their food.
This being my first time at Ateh’s Kitchen I chose three dishes that I had identified before arrival as Filipino classics.
First Course: Chicken Adobo.
Served on the bone, the dark chicken meat is simmered in soy sauce and vinegar. It’s sour and it’s salty with a hint of sweet coming from the poultry. It’s a great little dish to get you started. It comes with rice, pickled papaya and three bite size egg rolls (Lumpiang Gulay) made with minced ground pork, celery, carrot and egg, deep fried, of course, in wonton wrapper.
Note: It is an entree but I would order as an appetizer.
Second Course: Chicken Bihon Guisado.
This is a stir-fried rice noodle dish with sliced fishballs, seasoned chicken, Chinese chorizo (Tsorisong Macau) and mixed vegetables. The rice noodle is thrown in a hot oil coated skillet, the meat and vegetables are sautéed in garlic, onions, celery and soy sauce. When done it is topped off with a sprinkling of lemon juice and fish sauce; giving it that added Asian flavor.
This really rang my bell and put the jam in my jellyroll.
Third (and final) Course: Sisiglog.
On the menu the dish is described as finely chopped pork meat with onions and bell peppers, but that description doesn’t even scratch the surface of what this dish is and how amazing it tastes.
First off, the “pork meat” (marinated in lemon juice and vinegar) is pork stomach, nose, cheek, or tongue. It really depends on where you go, but it’s not the cuts of pork that we in the US traditionally go for. They probably omitted that piece of information so as not to turn off the average Western consumer, but that is how this dish is prepared.
This is poor peoples’ food, dear readers. People making the most flavorful dishes they can with what they can get their hands on, and the result is crunchy, salty, fatty, porky morsels of amazingness!
The dish is served sizzling hot with a fried egg and a scoop of rice. Because of the heat of the cast iron plate on which the meal is served the bottom of the rice has a soccarat crunch to it; the oils and fats of the dish soaked deeply in.
This is one of several “Sizzling Platters” that Ateh’s Kitchen offers and prides themselves on, and they should.
They should be proud of everything they do because they are representing the foods and flavors of their homeland, and they do a wonderful job. I will be returning and working my way through the rest of their menu.
Ateh’s Kitchen: Labis na igalang.
Honorable Mention: Sarsi. A root beer flavored soda from the Philippines. I enjoyed it immensely.