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In search of Filipino cuisine in PHX and valley cities

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In search of good Filipino food in PHX and valley cities
Why, oh why, did Shirley sell Lumpia Factory to another Filipino
couple?? I considered her Lumpia Factory, originally a catering business she
and a partner hatched up, to be the best of all Filipino restaurants in
Chandler, bec. she was very conscientious about serving healthy
versions of Philippine dishes-she even offered brown rice to me, even though
it wasn't on the menu. Now, all of the restaurants and cafes to be
found here serve greasy buffet-style dishes (except for one, Barrio Fiesta-
a national chain back home). While she had a buffet line outfitted at
the front of the cafe, she only used it on the weekends during brunch
hours (the heat lamps require a lot of fat to be mixed in the food so
that they won't dry out as the day gets longer). While the new owners do
serve some tasty selections, I find that almost all are quite greasy.
To their defense, I also consider the following locations to serve
greasy foods:

Lumpia Factory (SWC Alma School/Elliot, in the Mervyn's shopping
plaza)- this cafe, while stark in decor, used to be inviting enough when
Shirley ran it. With the new owners adding racks of rental and retail CDs,
DVDs, and karaoke selections, this cafe is now quite cramped and lacks
warmth and is just downright off-putting. I very much dislike the fact
that EVERYTIME I go there to eat on-site, I am ambushed by male
strangers wanting to chat. Instead of having to be rude and asking them to
leave me be, I elect to just stay away altogether... Check out their
giniling (stir-fry), ginataan (dessert) and ginatang gulay (veggies cooked
in coconut curry) if they're fresh. The rest of their offerings are too
greasy. FYI, Shirley used to bake fantastic pan de sal and bag them so
that you may take them home (breakfast rolls), but the new owners do
not even offer this popular breakfast/any-time bread item.

Jeepney Bistro (Alma School between Knox and Ray, on the left-hand side
as you travel north on Alma)- most dishes are served on the
buffet-line, quite greasy. Some dishes are made-to-order, like the pancit
(noodle) dishes, but not all varieties are offered everyday. I preferred
Shirley's take on pancit- more flavorful and less grease than that served
here in JB. I must try the other pancit versions soon, if I'm lucky
enough to visit on the days they offer them. If you're lucky enough to find
their large-sized turon cooked fresh (they turn soggy after awhile),
try them; otherwise, head over to Why Cook? You can even call and order
them in advance, as they take some time to fry, so that they are ready
to enjoy when you arrive!

Why Cook? (SWC Guadalupe/Dobson)-also a bakery... GREAT pan de sal!!
Check out their made-to-order peanut butter turon... turon is plantain
and jackfruit wrapped in phyllo pastry or wonton wrapper, deep-fried, and
sometimes coated with caramelized sugar or rolled in sugar. Another
sweet to try is their suman (rice cake rolled, wrapped in banana leaves,
steamed, and then served with sides of coconut-sugar mix and grated
coconut and/or coconut sauce/jam. Food is nothing to write home about...
certainly not my home. Try as I might, I have not been able to persuade
my mother into opening a restaurant with me-she is an excellent cook! I
don't blame her, as it is very uncomfortable to cook next to a hot
stove here in the desert.

Ana's Cafe (NWC Alma School/Chandler Blvd)- the only two things going
for this cafe are the ambiance (the co-owner's husband runs a hotel in
California and has put his stamp on the cafe's decor) and the generous
serving of halo-halo, (a dessert consisting of sweet beans, tapioca
pearls/soba, coconut, and sometimes custard and purple taro/ube halaya
topped with shaved ice, vanilla ice cream, and cream). I would stay away from the seafood selections in the buffet-line, especially if it's late in the day... I cannot recommend ANY entree dishes here... all I've tried left me wanting for a lot more :(

Barrio Fiesta (SEC Alma School/Elliot)- their signature entree is
crispy pata (roasted or deep-fried pork, with skin!), and you will find it
excellent here served with a side of garlic-infused rice vinegar. I
didn't care for their kare-kare, another signature dish. I remember a night
when I ordered Bicol express (a spicy coconut-curry dish Bicol, a
region in the Philippines, is famous for; Bicol is known for its hot-spicy
dishes) and being disappointed bec. the dish was not spicy at all! When
we expressed our disappointment to the manager, we were told that we
have to request the dish be prepared spicy next time... what the
he**??). What ultimately turned me off from frequenting this establishment is
the terrible service. I used to cut them some slack when they first
opened, chalking up the lackluster service due to growing pains. But after
a few months, the same servers still did not know what ingredients
could be found in the dishes (which never change)-something I must inquire
about as I have food allergies to watch out for. Food allergies aside,
I sometimes inquire the staff what some of the exquisite and
delightfully-scented dishes are that pass by my table, but I cannot get the info
bec. the staff, who have been there for many, many months, cannot name
them by sight- they have to fall back on reading the table receipts to
see what were ordered... very poor form. I've also had servers
disappear for 15, 30 minutes at a time, come to find out that they've left the
premises and must be called back in to finish their service! Also,
some of the ingredients used are canned (oysters, for one), so I suggest
you stay away from the oyster dishes. Don't waste your money on their
desserts, either. Highway robbery for something that is not homemade
(very small serving of halo-halo, another dessert that features canned
items... you're better off ordering it at Ana's Cafe, which serves the
ingredients also from jars, but at least gives you a generous portion--I'd
say at least twice, if not triple the size these other cafes offer for
slightly higher prices).. OVERALL, all three or four visits have been
disappointing (crispy pata being a standout, and even that dish I cannot
order all the time bec. of the transfat and sat fat due to the extreme
high heat at which the pork dish must be prepared at).

I once made the long drive over to Dunlap (and 35th?), which took me 45
minutes or more, to a tiny Filipino grocery store that has a small
section devoted to buffet-line meals, only to be very disappointed in the
food selection and quality I found there. I understand that I may have
gone to the wrong restaurant/grocery store as suggested by a coworker,
but after her visit to Jeepney Bistro, which was, at the time, the best
place to have Filipino fare in Chandler, I was told not to bother
looking for the said establishment.

Is Ciuded de Manila still in operation? If yes, where is it located?

If any of you can recommend some good Filipino eats here in the valley,
by all means, I am all ears!!

Thank you!!

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  1. ciaogirl posted about the new 'Little Manila' at 99th Ave & McDowell; you could try that one and report back -- !

    1. Great post! I think I will be venturing to many of these places soon, many are close to my house and work - as I really miss my dad's cooking since my parents retired and moved back to the Phillippines. Thanks again SLJ!!

      1 Reply
      1. re: ggdinero

        You're welcome, and please report back your opinions!! I just may have to visit these places to see if they've updated their selections.