A New Way to Discover Filipino Cuisine
UPDATE (10/31/11): Walked by recently and noticed this place is now closed. There's a mediterranean sandwich shop in its place.
1442 Franklin St. (at 15th), Oakland
Lunch, Monday to Friday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., dinner, Monday to Saturday, 5 to 9 p.m.
No reservations, major credit cards accepted
Filipino food seems to be the new hot thing, or as some people have said, it’s the new Korean. I don’t know too much about Filipino food, but I was surprised to notice a new restaurant near my Oakland offices that showcased not just Filipino cuisine but vegan.
The appropriately named No Worries restaurant opened last month and is the brainchild of Chef Jay-Ar Isagani Pugao, who has run a catering business of the same name before opening the restaurant. Chef Pugao’s business model is to serve healthy food that celebrates his Filipino heritage. His ingredients are locally sourced and he operates his business to support the Oakland community.
While No Worries is open for dinner, I only visited during lunch. For the lunch menu, Chef Pugao offers a limited selection of classic Filipino cuisine as plates with the price based on the number of selections: two items, $5.95; three items, $6.95; and four items, $7.95. All plates come with a scoop of steamed white rice (you can substitute for brown rice for an additional $1).
My first time I got the Afritada and the Bistek. The Afritada is a soy chicken dish with potatoes, red bell pepper, green peas and garbanzo beans in a tomato sauce. It had a nice flavor, and reminded me of a stew. It was very comforting, and the soy chicken really did have the texture of chicken.
Side note: All the soy products are sourced from a local provider and isn’t made in the house.
The Bistek is a soy beef strips sautéed with onions and fresh string beans. This is like any other stir fry, but I felt the soy beef was a bit tough. So in a way it really mimic overcooked beef strips.
On another visit, I tried the Pancit, a traditional rice noodles dish stir-fried in vegetable broth, cabbage, celebry, carrots and thinly sliced soy chicken. I love rice noodles, but this dish seemed soupy to me because of the vegetable broth. I don’t know if that’s the texture one gets when eating Pancit, but it’s not something I would order again.
I got the Pancit with the Mungo, which was a dish with mung beans boiled in vegetable bullion and combined with tender squash, string beans and tofu. The Mungo was like eating lentil and also reminded me of another stew dish. It was tasty but the one piece of squash I got, while nice in flavor for the season, didn’t seem to fit in with the rest of the dish.
On my last visit, I decided to go with three items because I thought I’d finally try one of the most signature Filipino dish – the lumpia. If you’ve had lumpia, you’d know why I would avoid it because it’s like a deep-fried spring roll. But since this is such a classic dish, I figured I had to try it.
I order the lumpia along with Tocho and Giniling. First off, the lumpia came only as just one piece (I think you get two when you just order it on a two item plate), which probably is OK since I’m not a fan of deep-fried foods. The lumpia was nicely fried, with a thin shell and crispy texture. But I felt the filling leaned more toward the vegetables and I hardly tasted the soy ground beef.
Tocho is a soy fish dish sautéed in black beans, ginger and soy sauce with red bell pepper. The soy fish actually had a fishy taste to it, but overall the dish was pretty straight-forward. Giniling is a soy ground beef dish cooked with potatoes, carrots and peas. It had the most spice in the flavor, with something similar to five-spice. The ground beef actually did remind me of ground beef, and the overall dish was very comforting.
I want to also note that the price isn’t very high compared to other restaurants in the area, but the serving size isn’t very big either. It’s almost like the chef is practicing portion control for you, which I guess is a healthy step. But don’t expect to leave feeling full.
No Worries is an interesting concept, and even though I’m no expert on Filipino foods, I found all the dishes to have good flavor and the soy substitutes are quite convincing. The healthy aspect of everything being vegan is just an added bonus.
Single guy rating: 2.75 stars (Tasty and comforting)
Explanation of the single guy's rating system:
1 star = perfect for college students
2 stars = perfect for new diners
3 stars = perfect for foodies
4 stars = perfect for expense accounts
5 stars = perfect for any guy's dream dinner
Wednesday, November 03, 2010
A New Way to Discover Filipino Cuisine