I second the vote for the sweet potato fries. Best version of this dish I've ever had. Rest of the dishes are mostly good and worth the money, but the sweet potato fries simply rock. A note on the cocktail menu: they have a good selection of specialty drinks, but depending on who's making your drink, the execution can be uneven. Several times I've been unable to finish my drink because there was waaaaay to much simple syrup in it, simply teeth-achingly sweet.
We ordered the sizzling sisig at Poleng last Saturday and thought it was one of the best dishes on the menu. Opt to have them add liver, egg, and chicharon for the full "original" sisig experience. It was full combination of pork face and pork shoulder which brought out a balance of chewy and crisp together.
re: Robert Lauriston
I went with a larger group about a month and a half ago and got to sample the sweet potato fries with banana ketchup, adobo wings, samosas, kalbi short ribs, lumpia, sisig, and broken coconut rice. I would recommend the adobo wings (fabulously sticky, sweet, and savory) and the samosas (of the filo variety, nicely spiced potato filling, very good sweet tamarind dipping sauce). The lumpia were good, not amazing. The short ribs, while tasty, were very thin and dry - more jerky-like than anything. Unfortunately, I don't know enough about sisig to be able to recommend it.
I'm planning on going back with a smaller group because I think some of the dishes we had may have suffered because the kitchen had so much to send out at once. Service was very, very good.
re: Robert Lauriston
From the SJ Mercury News article on secret menus... some of these sound really, really good:
"Executive chef Tim Luym, who is of Filipino heritage, offers a variety of offal and traditional Filipino dishes if you know to ask your waiter about them. Luym doesn't list them on the regular menu because he fears he might scare off less adventurous palates. Depending on the day, those dishes may include skewered chicken gizzards grilled with Philippine sea salt and lime ($3), super crispy Yakitori-style chicken-skin skewers ($3), kare kare (Filipino oxtail stew with shrimp paste and peanut butter, $11), and sizzling sisig (crispy diced pieces of pig's head with Philippine calamansi lime, $9). "
1751 Fulton Street, San Francisco, CA 94117
Went for a first visit last night - was pleasantly surprised (should at least partly attribute our success to advice from this board - we avoided the potstickers, the papaya salad, and the eggplant tower).
Sweet potato fries with banana ketchup - these were great - we had to order a second portion because everyone loved them so much. I don't like the flavor of cooked bananas , but everyone else loved the ketchup;
Long beans with belacan - these were tender, slightly shriveled, savory and salty.
Beef tenderloin salpicao with marrow - flavorful cubes of beef over greens (similar to shaking beef), topped with fried onion threads, accompanied by a marrow bone and a stack of toast.
Lumpia - good, plump little spring rolls stuffed with shrimp and pork, and no discernible veg filler, as far as I could tell. Fried well.
Poke - large-ish diced raw tuna, seasoned with sesame oil and chilis, topped with seaweed and tobiko.
Crispy adobo wings - these surprised me the most - they sounded boring and I wouldn't have ordered them had there not been multiple positive reports - they're really light in color, there's no way you would look at them and think "adobo", but I guess all the components of an adobo sauce are in the glaze. They were really tasty. This kitchen fries well.
Coconut bread pudding - it's a small portion (no Tartine Bakery behemoth bowls of bread pudding here), and more bread than custard, which I actually appreciated - it was a lot lighter than most bread puddings
Coconut tapioca - much lighter than the coconut tapioca I make - definitely a high water to milk ratio (I use a lot of milk, and it comes out almost like coconut dulce de leche) - I liked that there was sesame both in the tapioca (no whole seeds - it had a greyish tinge - powdered black sesame? black sesame milk?) and whole seeds sprinkled on top.
Miso-marinated black cod - their version of the ubiquitous Nobu dish was flavorful but a little overcooked - still good, though. Served with knots of something I couldn't identify on the side - something pickled/fermented that counteracted the sweet fattiness of the black cod well.
Tea curry - the tea was roobios, which seems to be on its way to becoming the hot ingredient of 2007 - I appreciated the smokiness in the curry, but felt it could have used some more heat, and more depth.
Lemongrass satay - this was tasty enough, but a little one dimensional - I couldn't taste much spice.
Coconut rice - much more subtle coconut flavor than the one at Tamarine. I'm not sure I could have identified the pandan rice from a bowl of plain rice.
Chicken in pandan leaves (a special) - the chicken was bland and did not pick up any discernible flavor from the pandan leaves.
Roti - tough and greasy.
Drinks were really good - I'm a sucker for drinks with cucumber, and for drinks with chili pepper - the Po-my Leng has both - plus mint, green tea, and vodka.
Service was friendly but spotty (and got notably worse as the restaurant transitioned into a lounge at 10 pm). The most glaring mistake was when our table was cleared and dessert was brought out, but no silverware. We sat there for a few minutes, waiting for our server to come back, and when it became clear that he wasn't coming back, we had to flag down another server to bring us silverware. Other issues... although we ordered several bowls of rice in the beginning, they all came towards the end, with the curry... an order of tea never came (at least it didn't show up on the bill )... our server didn't mention that a small bowl of tapioca pudding came with the coconut bread pudding, so we ended up with multiple bowls of tapioca pudding (fortunately we liked it).
Until 10 pm, the noise level is manageable, and we were able to converse comfortably. At 10 pm, the music gets cranked way up.
Cheap ($2/hour) parking is available in the garage across the street.
Summary: good option for people looking for a fun place with good food that's not too expensive (with 1-2 drinks per person, plus an automatically added 20% service charge, came out to about $50 pp). It fills the same niche as Straits Cafe and Three Seasons (Palo Alto) but has better food and is less expensive (note: I've never been to the original Straits).
Don't get the papaya salad -- it's all wrong. The miso-marinated fish is good, and the fried chicken drumsticks are tasty. Last time I had the green beans, they were undercooked and underseasoned, and I love green beans.
I've been to Poleng twice -- once in March and once last year, and I liked it a whole lot better the first time.
Just in case anybody wonders whether restaurants read Chowhound, I ate dinner at Poleng last night, and saw the owner (at least I think he was the owner), checking this post out on his laptop.
As to what to eat, the lumpia was good and the coconut bread pudding rocked. I've never seen a restaurant serve roti prata without the curry dipping sauce, but they do here.