Inaugural NorBay Chowdown: La Parilla, Cotati
Six of us made it to Cotati for the inaugural North Bay Chowdown at La Parilla, a restaurant none of us had ever tried before. La Parilla serves both Mexican and Filipino food. Melanie W. called beforehand to pre-order an all-Filipino food menu.
The owners are from the Philippines and opened a Mexican restaurant thinking that no-one would want Filipino cooking. Although we didn’t try any of their Mexican fare, the eight dishes we tried all had a homey goodness to them. All were served family style with white rice.
First out on the table was pinakbet, a mélange of cut-up okra, bitter melon, long beans (the skinniest, tenderest examples we’d ever seen) eggplant and sweet potato in a tomato-based sauce, assuredly laced with fish sauce. The overall effect was sweet-bitter-salty and warmed up our tastebuds for plate #2, ginataang langka, which many of us found to be a top contender for best dish of the evening.
The ginataang langka was braised jackfruit in coconut milk. The jackfruit tasted like artichoke hearts crossed with hearts of palm (thanks, Alex and Stephanie for the accurate description). The soft vegetal taste of the jackfruit and the sweetness of the coconut milk were nicely offset by slices of green jalapeno and bits of pork that were a lovely, bright shade of rosy pink. At first I thought they were bits of Chinese barbecued pork (cha siu) but no. The pork got its color from having been sautéed in shrimp paste. It tasted very much to me like a comfort dish, i.e. one I could eat a lot of.
Next came callos, a dish whose Spanish heritage was very evident. La Parilla’s callos combines tripe, bacon, chorizo, garbanzo beans, red bell pepper, and pork knuckle with tendon. This dish was gone almost immediately, with Alex exclaiming that this was the best tripe he had ever eaten and Kat citing it as her favorite for its flavors being clear and “unmushy.” Bryan loved how the tripe was “enlivened” by the bacon. I’m not particularly found of tripe, or perhaps I should say I have had one too many badly prepared tripe dishes, but I must say this one was really good and I would have eaten more had the opposite end of the table not been hogging it!
Another table favorite was the kare-kare, an oxtail and peanut stew/soup. The broth was a rich tasting but light mouth-feel peanut soup. The pieces of oxtail, tripe, eggplant, kabocha squash, and bok choy each paired differently with the peanut soup. To me, the squash seemed sweeter and the oxtail beefier when eaten with the broth.
Those were the table favorites. We also had another meat broth soup that was brightened with the sourness of citrus (lime or lemon but we didn’t think tamarind) and contained chunks of meaty pork ribs, tomatoes, eggplant, taro, and some water spinach (ong choy). The lumpia were proclaimed “cute” by someone at the table. They were indeed petite with a smooth ground meat filling (the owner grinds her own). The pork adobo was a bit unmemorable, only slightly vinegar-y. Nonetheless it was tender and tasty, and we ate it all. Perhaps the least successful dish was the rice noodle dish, pancit. It was tossed with bits of shredded pork, carrots, cabbage, and diced celery. There wasn’t much flavor to it other than “salty.” For dessert we had flan, a very dense, almost cake-like sort (rather than the slippery, silky kind) that reminded Melanie more of scrambled eggs than flan.
We all enjoyed our meal and, after having been away from the community of ‘hounds for a while, I really enjoyed sharing it with fellow North Bay Chowhounds. We’d like to go back to try the deep fried pork belly and the sissig. And we hear they do a roast suckling pig on special order!
La Parilla Restaurant and Catering
8492 Gravenstein Hwy
Sounds great! I'm so happy, too, that we finally have an active North Bay chowdown group. I know there's got to be more up there than the familiar wine country standards (although those are mostly very good).
I just want to say that I had an AWESOME evening sharing some of the best homestyle food that I have had in a long time. I cannot thank Melanie enough for her excellent choice in a restaurant and getting us together!
Check back soon for my report - but I must say Lise sentiments are almost mine to the t.
I thought this was a nice veggie dish but not very memorable when placed next to the Jackfruit dish.
Probably my second favorite dish of the evening. I enjoyed the sweetness of the coconut milk and the light heat of the sliced chiles. And the unripe jackfruit texture and taste -as decribed - was a great new culinary experience for me. The interpersed pieces of pork add a nice richness as did the shrimp paste undertone - which gave the entire dish a beutiful rosyness.
This dish made the meal for me - my absolute favorite - and the best preparatation I have ever had of tripe. I will come back for this dish, this is without question. Bacon, tendon, chickpeas, light tomato broth, and the most delicate pieces of tripe I have ever tastes - what's not to like? We actually fought over the last bits! I felt like I could have been eating in a Spanish restaurant.
>>Kare kare -
Third favorite dish - loved this over rice in the little bowl. I never had anything like this before. Squash, honeycomb tripe, green beans, and oxtails. This would make a perfect sustaining winter meal. The peanut butter and the tripe I found to work excellent together.
I really liked this dish - though when placed next to those dishes I have mentioned already it could not compete. However - the straightforward flavors pepper, vinegar and garlic were lovely. I appreciated that it was a drier rendetion as well and plus it looked sexy and robust. It had a justified place on the table. (4th favorite)
I would also like to mention the kindess and welcoming warmheartness of the propeitress. The love and care really shined through by way of her wonderful food.
I had a smile on my face the rest of the evening - great time.
I still have some of the dishes in my mind. I would love the recipe for the callos - although I think it was something that the owner just came up with.
Concerning the adobo, you may be interested in some backround to the version we were served:
"One noteworthy preparation style is the pinatuyo or, literally, dried method. In this method, the traditional pork or chicken in the adobo is dried off its sauce by slow-frying, resulting in a delicious caramelization of the meat and the creation of the much desired crispy bits that go so well with a plate of freshly cooked, steaming hot rice. This style of adobo has parallels with the Mexican pork dish called carnitas, which employs a similar cooking method."
"Oxtail, with the skin on and cut into 2-inch lengths, and ox tripe are boiled until tender. Sometimes pieces of ox feet or shins are added. In some varieties, other types of meat are used, such as pork or (rarely) chicken. (There is an instance of one version omitting the meat altogether and using vegetables) When the meat is tender, the soup becomes glutinous and to this is added ground roasted peanuts (or peanut butter), ground roasted glutinous rice to make the soup thicker. Atsuete (annatto) is added to give color. The basic vegetables for kare-kare include young banana flower bud or "heart" (puso ng saging), eggplant, string beans, and Chinese cabbage (pechay). Kare-kare is served hot with special bagoong alamang (sauteed salted shrimp paste) sprinkled with the juice of calamansi limes."
I wonder if she added annatto?
I am also deeply intrigued by a dish we were not served but is mentioned in Wikipedia:
"Arroz Caldo" - which would fit the bill as a textbook fusion of spanish-filipino-chinese. Think Paella -- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lugaw#Fi...
Maybe next time we can ask her to make it for us?
I wonder what area she is from?