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May 30, 2012 02:27 PM

Good Filipino Food in Vancouver?

Is it that hard to find decent Filipino food in Vancouver or the 'burbs for that matter?

Even after informally surveying my Filipino friends, many of them were quick to point out that nothing measures up to their mother's home cooking. When we paid the new Max's on Kingsway a visit, we were really sad that the chicken was not up to par (apparently it's a huge restaurant chain back in Manila, so our expectations were admittedly high). Kumare in Richmond was a disappointment too: the sisig I was looking forward to turned out to be a dud, hardly had the nice crispy bits that makes sisig so good. Cucina Manila is pretty decent, but rather greasy (ordered laing and it was in a pool of oil, still tasty though).

(That leaves mainstays like Pinpin's and Little Ongpin...and Cucina Manila. I'm aware of Filipino grocers that also serve turo-turo style food like Tindahan and Aling Mary's in Richmond, but haven't given those a shot.)

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  1. By no means any kind of filipino food expert but I love the sisig (good crispy bits) and the crispy pata at Pinpin's. I've found some of their other dishes quite unpalatable (stuffed bangus, I'm looking at you) or just kinda meh. I like that they prep a fair bit a la minute and don't rely on the point-point steam tables. The thing to do is to get invited to someone's house, for sure :-).

    1 Reply
    1. re: grayelf

      Crispy pata's definitely not good for the waistline (the crispy skin is deadly), but it's nice to have every once in a while. ;)

      Perhaps CrispyLechon can shed some light on this?

    2. There's a place called Java Jazz on 6th St in New West. Fun lil' place .......

      Food is ok and casual. But you're there to enjoy the jazz, which is performed by the entire friendly and lovable family of talented musicians (some of whom juggle between serving and singing/playing on-the-fly).

      1. Nothing will ever match what you'd get from home or at family parties. I'm sure that applies to many other cusines. Moreover, it's always hard to match a dish with the orignial on different turf, like Max's Chicken (or tacos, okonomiyaki, etc.). I haven't been yet, but Kulinarya in Coquitlam seems to be getting good reviews.

        5 Replies
        1. re: el_lobo_solo

          How can such nice people eat such consistently awful food-that is the question.

          1. re: el_lobo_solo

            The Maxs chicken here tastes pretty darn close to the original. (The Maxs in the US do not.). The chicken is an acquired taste - it will seem over-fried to those who prefer other styles (e.g. Southern). The banana ketchup rounds out the whole package. The chicken and the crispy pata are the only things I would order there.

            Kulinarya is the place that discerning Filipinos recommend most.

            1. re: fmed

              The original chicken at Max's imo is juicier than the one here, and the banana ketchup is necessary for the chicken to even be edible unfortunately. I liked the butterscotch bars that would come with every chicken meal you ordered at Max's (Iol I hope this doesn't give out my age).

              I know this is a cop out, but it'd be nice if someone brought Jollibee up north so we wouldn't have to trek to Seattle all the time...palabok is pretty decent (definitely better than the kind you'd get at a Jollibee back in Manila), but not something I would deliberately drive 2 hours for.

              Thanks for the Kulinarya recommendation fmed, will have to check it out when I'm in the area.

              1. re: TheCulinaryCircus

                I guess expectations of Max's chicken are different from yours. I like mine fried so that the chicken falls apart at the joints when you try to pick it up, the dark meat at the extremities is crunchy, the white meat is tender but not juicy, and you can actually eat some of the bones. That's the Max's I remember. I hope that doesn't give out MY age ;-)

                1. re: fmed

                  I think you just gave away your age, :p

                  (Unrelated, but I remember watching one of those cheesy dramatic telenovelas, some "dramatic reenactment" about the whole Max's empire. Man, it's been a while since I've seen Maalala Mo Kaya...or TFC for that matter hahaha)

          2. here's an interesting thread "is Filipino food embarrassing" from the Seattle chow board

            3 Replies
            1. re: Georgia Strait

              Interesting read! imo Filipino cuisine by nature is very "homey" and comforting. I've yet to see a fine dining Filipino restaurant here, but that might just be because to do so would mean adapting Filipino dishes to Canadian tastes (no sweet style pasta sauce thank goodness).

              Kumare might have been the closest Vancouver's come to mid-scale Filipino cooking but delicious it is not. Apparently the owners have also split the business into two restaurants, the one in Richmond and an "express" restaurant downtown.

              1. re: TheCulinaryCircus

                The closest to mid-scale would've been the now defunct rekados.

                1. re: el_lobo_solo

                  We went to Rekados twice. IIRC the place was predominantly Filipino customers, so we thought they did something right. But the food didn't wow us. After the second time we were actually "bored" if that's the right word. Too bad they couldn't stay afloat to evolve and grow.