Bistro Luneta, San Mateo - my take
I must admit, it was a bit hard to wrap my head around the concept of "Filipino fusion" cuisine. The classics that I had grown up with and loved, tweaked as... fusion? I went in to dinner with my family slightly skeptical. I read the Chowhound posting and was forewarned by my uncle about what to expect. On a Sunday at 7pm, it was pretty empty - maybe 3 other parties besides us. I was disappointed to learn they don't have iced tea as a beverage. Moving right along, we ordered: Filipino Salad (grilled eggplant, okra, egg, tomato & onion with "shrimp paste"), Bangus Maki, Crispy Chicken, Crispy Pata (on the menu as "Pork Trotter", Salpicao (beef sauteed w/garlic), Inihaw na Pusit (grilled squid) and the special of the night, Kare Kare. The crispy pata was excellent. My husband loved the Bangus Maki. The Crispy Chicken and Salpicao were just so-so. Mixed feelings on the Kare Kare: my parents generation and older didn't like it. It was Fusion with a capital "F". A single large beef rib trimmed so it looked sort of like a standing rib roast, with slices of eggplant underneath, and the peanut sauce drizzled artistically around the border of the plate. The meat was not stewed as traditionally, but rather done in the oven. The older generation missed the traditional oxtail part of the stew, and missed the "stew" and saucy part of it all together. I would skip the Churros y Chocolate for dessert. They tasted like the frozen kind you buy at Costco & microwave at home. Doesn't hold a candle to Dulcinea's version in Manila. Service was just abysmal. One of my pet peeves is when the waiter pretty much has you bus your own table by constantly asking you to pass empty plates and serving dishes, instead of clearing them himself. This happened all night long. Overall I'd have to agree with the previous post - the food was good, different, and definitely worth a try. My parents said overall they preferred Tribu, but stressed it was not the same. I'll have to try it for myself to compare. I still love Gerry's Grill, which my parents consider "slightly fusion-y" but I don't... generation gap! Thanks to everybody that posted previously, this really helped to set my expectations.
615 East 3rd Avenue
San Mateo, CA
So I went a couple of weeks ago for colleagues' birthday lunch. I liked the brightness of the space and they handled our large group fairly well in terms of timing of the dishes coming out. But I have to say I was not very fond of my food. I had the "Kardilyo" which was described on the menu as "seared black cod with onion, tomato, and egg salsa". Well, it came in a clay pot. The fish was steamed not seared and too done for my taste (bit rubbery). The sauce was this weird cross between egg flower soup and tomato and onion saute. The flavour was rather bland. I had this over the garlic rice which tasted like burnt pieces of garlic on brown rice. I have no idea what this dish is supposed to be like but I felt like I was eating it mostly because I was hungry.
That reminds me - the garlic rice was very poorly done and exactly as you describe above. "Sinangag" or garlic fried rice is one of my favorite comfort foods of all time. Again I would recommend Gerry's Grill for the "correct" version of this, and at half the price of Luneta's too!
As an event planner by trade, I recently did a Baptism for a lovely Fillipino family. I have to say, I never knew that such delicious food went beyond Pansit, and lumpia. I quickly became informed on the many delicious dishes of this culture, and the meaning behind the food. And how much work and pride goes into the preparation.
The kare kare, the goat caldareta, the casaba cake, pan de luce, and much more, we had a ton of food. But now, I can understand why "fusion" would be difficult.
From what I observed these are traditional dishes that are meant for special occassions to show love. My caterer in Tracy, is so busy she can't keep up with all the business for our large Filipino community and now I know why. JUST GREAT FOOD!
Tropical Cusine has wonderful food and service.