Monday, February 19, 2007

If you like Filipino food, eat at Tribu Grill...

Just took my friend to Tribu Grill in South San Francisco, easily the best Filipino restaurant in South City/Daly City, if not the Bay Area.

I'm usually hesitant to try Filipino restaurants because most of the food is not much better than what I can cook at home, the presentation is usually nonexistent, and the service leaves a lot to be desired. With Tribu Grill, there were a number of things going for it, even before our food arrived. It was refreshingly unpretentious, with bright pale yellows and oranges dominating the eating area, with warmly lacquered tables, chairs and benches for people to sit. The tablecloths were just butcher paper, but accompanying each table were crayons for kids (or anyone else, for that matter) to draw and doodle. The food I saw on the tables looked like the chefs were paying attention to the presentation, and the smell of barbecue and the lull of conversation readily gave it a down to earth feel that never stooped to being ghetto.

As I was taking out a friend who was recently laid off, and also because I had worked out really hard this morning, we ordered 4 things: ribeye salpicao, fried ribeye steak with garlic garnished with more fried crispy garlic on top; sizzling bangus belly (which was recommended from a friend who had gone there earlier); bagoong fried rice; and my friend ordered a plate lunch of chicken and pork adobo. I also ordered a calamansi slush to drink, while the friend ordered the water.

The drinks were probably the only misstep of the entire meal--the calamansi slush had too much ice/water and not enough calamansi syrup which watered down quickly, and my friend waited till nearly the end of his meal to get his water.

The food, however, came out quickly. First came the bangus belly, sizzling on a hot sizzling plate with soy sauce, onions, and lemon. The smell alone got us going. Next came the bagoong fried rice, a huge bowl of rice fried with bagoong, and four different kinds of toppings on top, slightly ripe mango, diced Roma tomatoes, scrambled eggs, and pork adobo. The presentation was the most stunning with the rice bowl, bright mango and tomato dice nestled next to the pork adobo and soft scrambled eggs. Finally, the ribeye salpico with fried garlic.

All four of the dishes were incredible. The bangus belly was nicely well done with a few bones still around the fins of the fish, and the stomach itself was wonderfuly creamy. The adobo was not too fatty, which can be a problem with pork adobo and the vegetable condiments that came along with it, diced tomato and onions, along with carrots, was a fresh counterpoint to the adobo. The ribeye was well done and juicy, with the garlic lending some sweet and deep notes to the meat. The bagoong fried rice was the best surprise, with the mango and tomatoes complimenting the saltiness and fish flavors of the fried rice, and the pork and eggs lending a lot of depth as well.

When we finished the meal, we were surprised to find that we weren't bloated. The freshness of the ingredients made the meal a lot lighter than expected.

This was such a welcome surprise to how I've perceived Filipino restaurants that I hope people start franchising (hint hint). Again, this is easily the best Filipino restaurant in the Bay Area, and I will definitely be coming back. Pictures of my lunch are also in my Flickr.

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