4093 No. 5 Road
Pricing: $$ (average $15 per head)
Pricing: $$ (average $15 per head)
Pros: Filipino comfort food; Decent selection, serving and taste.
Cons: No frills cafeteria-style dining typical of small Filipino restaurants
Overall Rating: 7/10
This is a Filipino-Chinese restaurant, that serves Filipino comfort food. By the way, Ongpin is a popular place in the Philippines which is similar to having a "Chinatown." This is where you can find good, cheap, and tasty food. Almost every city I've been to where Filipinos reside, there is sure to be a restaurant called "Little Ongpin."
If the menu itself is any indication, this is a no-frills dining in a cafeteria-style setting. I do love how there are lots of photos to help you identify and salivate over the food selections that they serve.
If you arrive early enough before the prime hours, you will have a decent selection of seats. Otherwise, most Filipinos will start flocking in by 7pm onwards and I heard there can be a line. So it's best to arrive early and have the full attention of the servers especially to answer your questions should you be unfamiliar with the food.
Our table had typical Asian condiments like soy sauce and fish sauce as well as salt and pepper. The moment you sit down, your server will hand you over a pitcher of iced water for your table. Yup, just like home.
First order of business is to have a big order of garlic fried rice. Garlic bits that are fried until dark brown...okay, burned!...but the flavour texture over white rice will just make you eat more. There are other fried rice selections, but this is the one I most gravitate towards.
Sisig, enough said. Kidding. These are fried pork cheeks served on a sizzling cast-iron plate. The pork cheeks are further seasoned typically with soy sauce and mayonnaise. There also is a small red chili and a slice of lemon to squeeze over the food similar to when you have Fried Calamari.
At home this is best eaten as a snack over ice cold beer. In fact before sipping our beer and while the plate is extremely hot, we pour over a good amount of the local beer to give a depth of flavour (think: beer-battered onion rings). The alcohol will burn out, but the profile is still evident.
This is what I do with the red chili. I squeeze to rapture the skin and pour over some good 'ol soy sauce. However, most people will find the dish salty enough. In this case, a good amount of rice per spoonful bites will neutralize the taste. Do season according to your liking.
To continue with my pork craving. How about some Lechon Kawali. This is pork belly that's been boiled until tender and then deep fried until the skin is blistered and crispy. This is cholesterol at it's best. Your heart won't thank you, that's for sure.
To complement the taste, you are served a side dipping sauce made by combining mainly pork liver, pepper, vinegar and brown sugar. Don't make that face. You're not a real foodie until you've tried this. It's best eaten with any crispy fried food. The most popular maker of this sauce is a brand called Mang Tomas. If there was an English branded counterpart it would be called Mister Thomas.
As a reward, don't leave without trying the Filipino version of an ice shaved dessert. This is called Halo-Halo - quite literally "to mix". That's because, just like a Taiwanese shaved ice, you have a bunch of Filipino native preserved fruits and desserts (coconut, jackfruit, palm, yam, custard, evaporated milk, and a scoop of ice cream) in a bowl of shaved course-textured ice. Definitely something to have on a very hot day as a snack or to sooth your tongue from the most often very tasty and sometimes salty food that's typical of Filipino cuisine.
Of all the Filipino restaurants I've tried in Metro Vancouver (and I'm not expert), this is the most I've enjoyed in terms of price, size, and service.