A’postrophe: A Modern Filipino Supper Club with Chef Charles Olalia
In the past few years, the modern Filipino food movement has really taken off in cities like New York. I touched on it briefly when the New York based Maharlika popped up last year in Los Angele’s Koreatown. And also when I visited Purple Yam in Brooklyn. But I haven’t really seen this push towards making Filipino food as familiar as Thai or Korean food in the cosmopolitan city of Angels. The closest to modern Filipino food may be the modest Oi Asian Fusion in Canoga Park and the now defunct Manilla Machine food truck. Otherwise, I generally have the loved but heavy versions of lechon, adobo, pancit and the like.
A’postrophe Supper Club led by Chef Charles Olalia (formerly of Patina, mar’sel) has been quietly feeding people the last few months his vision of the future of Filipino food. With a refined sensibility, bar food like sisig becomes delicate bundles. And his desserts are just as imaginative. I enjoy supper clubs enormously for the intimate style of dining. Yes, you’re sitting with strangers sometimes but you leave as friends, having bonded over the food and possibly wine.
The advantage of private supper clubs is the ability to bring your own wine. We picked up a couple of bottles at Buzz, a wine and beer shop in Downtown Los Angeles. I had explained to the shop clerk it’s not the typical Filipino food he was thinking of when he initially presented us with wines meant to alleviate grease and cut through his remembered dealings of heavy handed spice. We ended up far superior pairings once he understood this was fine dining- but in a private home.
After our cute amuse bouche, we delved into the modern Filipino menu starting with the crispy dilis (anchovies). We built wraps out of seaweed, lettuce or crackers (sometimes all of it at once) with savory bits dilis. I rather have this as a snack at the movies than popcorn. It was so full of umami.
Generally I prefer noodles over rice and rice over bread. But this pan del sal was delicious with homemade jams and curd.
The alimango (crab) arroz caldo (rice porridge) was one of my favorite dishes of the night. I have very specific and loving memories of porridge. This was Chef Charles’ decadent version with meaty bits of crab. I loved every bite and scraped the bowl clean.
During dinner, Chef Charles talked about opening up a restaurant in DTLA fairly soon. If reports are to be believed, Rice Bar might even be open by Monday. He has partnered with restauranteur Santos Uy (Papilles, Mignon) to bring rice bowls for lunch and eventually breakfast. Located on 7th near Olive, the shop will serve Filipino food heirloom rice and such as Chef Charles’ longanisa, a sweet and spicy sausage . I had a taste of this at the supper club creating my own rice bowl of sorts with delicious Cordillera garlic rice and pickled papaya. The papaya salad is not crunchy like Thai papaya salad. Instead, it was closer to German sauerkraut in texture (though not taste!).
I was stuffed by couldn’t pass up the beautiful Angus ribeye. The Bisteg Tagalog was grilled and served with soy onions and a garlic and butter sauce. I was too shy to take leftovers from a supper club but I dreamed of this steak afterwards.
For a sweet end, we had the iced buko. The young coconut popsicle was served with a few sweetened red beans.
Modern Filipino food has found a foothold in LA. Let’s hope it finds its way to a nightlife scene as well. Kalamansi cocktails, anyone?
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© The Minty 2015