Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Restaurant Review: Isla (Filipino food)

Isla - lunch on September 28, 2014
When my cousins were here for my dad’s birthday party a couple of weeks ago, they went the next day to a Filipino restaurant called Isla. Neither my parents nor I had ever heard of it but, on my cousins’ recommendations, we decided to try it for lunch after church a week later. There aren’t that many Filipino restaurants where my parents live, at least not many we know about or seek out, except for Tribu. Isla was closer to our church and, ironically, within walking distance of the restaurant where we had my dad’s party.
The restaurant is quite large and was structured to accommodate large groups of people as most of the round tables were set for 8-10 people. There are only a few 4-toppers and we were seated at one of those. Their menu held a lot of classic Filipino dishes and their prices were mostly in the $8-12 range. Isla offers unlimited free rice (“rice-y” Asians will appreciate this) and other specials such as if you buy more than $50 worth of entrees, you get some kind of freebie, either a discount or an appetizer, I think. Sorry, I forgot what it was.
We ordered the fried lumpia appetizer (always have to try the lumpia at a new Filipino restaurant) - $7.95 for 20 pieces. The pieces were a bit small compared to my mom’s. Before I go further, just accept that I will always compare any Filipino food not cooked by my mom to my mom’s cooking. It’s just the way of the universe. And probably one reason we don’t eat at Filipino restaurants very much because they’re often not as good as my mom’s cooking. Truth.
My dad got the “bangsilog” which is shorthand for “bangus” (milk fish) and “itlog” which is the Tagalog word for egg. All such “-ilog” dishes come with rice so think of them as a Filipino rice plate. With fried egg. If you want the egg scrambled, you have to let your server know when you order. Otherwise it’ll come sunny side up. My mom and I went with the pancit palabok (noodle dish) and pork BBQ. In Filipino-speak, it isn’t “BBQ Pork” or “BBQ Chicken” – the bbq comes at the end. Don’t ask me why. I just accept it.
The pancit was, almost inevitably, not as good as my mom’s. The sauce was just okay and I didn’t like the noodles they used. I didn’t like the texture (a bit coarse) and the sauce didn’t make up for it. The Pork BBQ however was delicious. Great flavor, really tender and not too much fat. Not dry as pork dishes sometimes are. I could’ve wished for a little more sauce/marinade but only because it was so good and I wanted to moisten my rice more with it so that was wishing for more in a complimentary greedy sort of way. It was good and something I’d get again next time I go there.
Pancit Palabok
Pork Barbecue
Service was a bit sketchy as the servers were busy and rushed around too fast, making it difficult to catch their eye but they were nice and when we did manage to snag their attention, they were very helpful. Both my mom and I liked the “caldero” or little pot the rice came in. The authentic and larger version is the type of pot old-school Filipinos would’ve made rice in over an open flame. None of that rice cooker business. My grandmother would’ve used something like that so it gave me a pang of nostalgia.
It was also a good sign that most of the patrons while we were there were Filipino – that’s how you know it’s good. I’d go back again; they’ve got reasonable prices and yeah, that Pork BBQ has my name on it.

No comments:

Post a Comment