Tony's Barbecue and Bibingkinitan in Carson
Spurred on by this post http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/816857 we visited the Carson location recently.
One of my favorite childhood memories growing up in the Philippines was the Aristocrat chain. They specialized grilled chicken with a side of rice and some atchara. Atchara is a pickled shredded papaya side condiment. I haven't found anything like Aristocrat since I've been in the U.S. The closest was Cambinos in Cypress which I liked immensely but it was a little far to go to regularly.
Thus it was with much excitement that we finally had the opportunity to try them as we would be in the area. Tony's is a tiny place, it's more of a take out place with only four tables and enough seating for ten. They have large signs warning that everything is grilled to order and it would take a while. They do encourage call in orders.
Just about everything on the menu is set up as a meal with choice of meat, side of java rice, small cup of peanut sauce and atchara. For sheer research purposes of course, we ordered a lot more than most normal two people. We got 3 meals and a side of a half dozen chicken wings. The bbq chicken leg, 2 pork skewer and jumbo squid for the meals.
Meal prices are pretty inexpensive ranging from $5.75 to $8.75 with the more expensive items being the fish items such as salmon, halibut, tuna belly or tuna collar.
It wasn't an overly long wait, about 15-20 minutes and our food was ready. Portions were large for the price. A big leg and thigh for the bbq chicken. The grilled squid was also pretty big, about the same size as the squid at Beverly Soon Tofu. The chicken wings were on the small side I thought.
I dug into the squid first. Good grilled taste, the edges were on the overdone side a bit. The middle was good. The wings were really good even if they were on the small side. The grilled flavor came through really well. In fact a lot better than the leg or thigh. Both those only had a faint grill taste, the skin was flabby with no crispness or marks. I was kind of disappointed. They were still juicy but there wasn't anything exceptional about it. Which I found weird since the rest of it was done properly. If it had some kind of char, I would have been happy.
The absolute hit for us were the two pork skewers. The meat and fat was carmelized just right, juicy porky grilled flavor. Little bits of char and crunch giving way to the meat. Just loved it.
Java rice was steamed yellow rice with bits of ground pork. It wasn't overly porky, mild and a good counterpoint to the meat. The acidity of the atchara was also a good match for the meat. The flavor combination with the meat was different from my childhood memories but I still liked it. The side of peanut sauce that came with it wasn't to my taste. It was more of a teriyaki sweet sauce and not very peanuty. It went best with the chicken but I left most of it untouched.
While we were waiting and eating, there was a steady flow pickup orders. Almost everyone was getting some of the bibingka. The display case was filled and emptied regularly with the kitchen working steadily putting out tray after tray to satisfy the demand. I'm more used to the sticky rice version of it. Tony's is the cake kind and they add in some cream cheese and salted egg on it. We snagged a fresh hot one right when we finished our meal. The little pockets of melted cream cheese and bits of salty egg were very tasty.
During a lull after our meal, I had a brief chat with the owner, Tony. I mentioned my Aristocrat memories and he said his intent was to model the place after Aristocrat. He also said that they could do ube and coconut bibingkas if they were called in ahead of time.
Overall, I liked this place. It's not blow your mind destination food. But it's tasty grilled Filipino food at inexpensive prices. I also like the little touches they do. The plastic plates we had were lined with banana leaves, the plates and plastic cutlery was actually the heavy sturdy kind. But it really is a take out place that just happens to have a couple of tables.
Located in the same center as DJ Bibingkahan. No website.
860 E Carson St
Carson, CA 90745
This place is down the street from my former place of work. With so many turo-turo places in Carson, it's great to have a restaurant that grills instead of stews or fries everything, and also one that cooks to order instead of having things sit in steam tables.
I've worked through much of the grilled menu, and it's mostly good.
You know, I haven't had the tuna collar or belly yet. It's definitely on the must-try list, and I HOPE that they're selling enough of them so that we're getting fresh, or at least, freshly-thawed frozen fish.
I have tried the big ol' whole squid, and came away with the same opinion as you. I liked the pork cuts and beef short ribs better.