The Best Filipino Restaurants in Los Angeles
Filipino cuisine is having a moment
Filipino food has long been the neglected stepchild of the Asian food world, but the cuisine, which varies by region and reflects Spanish influences absorbed during nearly 400 years of colonialism, has plenty of flavor to spare. Discover 12 of the best Filipino dining options throughout LA that are part of a growing Filipino Food Movement.
Arko Foods Market
This grocery store resides on Glendale’s eastern edge, not far from the Filipino stronghold of Eagle Rock. Arko houses a cafeteria-style set-up with steam tables and enough clientele to ensure the food stays fresh. Depending on the day, you might find sisig, cubes of crispy pork belly tossed with garlic and chilies; meaty jackfruit stained pink from coconut milk and spices; and fibrous banana flower salad. Lumpia, savory egg rolls, are of course available. They also sell skewers of either BBQ chicken or pork marinated in sweet soy sauce and served with tangy vinegar. You’ll want to pair most of this food with rice, to temper the bold flavors. If you’re craving something sweet, Arko lines the path to the register with a cache of desserts, including turon, banana egg rolls with sticky caramelized skins.
Chaaste Family Market
Letters from the first names of various Esteban family members fuse to form the CHAASTE acronym. Their market has been a mainstay in east Pasadena’s Allen Center strip mall since 1987. CHAASTE is one of the area’s best places to buy Filipino ingredients and also houses four tables and a tiny cafeteria. Choose a portion of rice or pancit and pile on a rotating selection of flavorful Filipino preparations. Bopis is an appropriately funky beef liver dish with daikon, bell pepper, bay leaf, onion, and vinegar. Add red vinegar to cut the richness. More recognizable dishes involve grilled chicken skewers marinated in soy sauce, garlic and sugar; and cigarette sized lumpia with minced pork, carrot, garlic, onion and egg. After 1:30 p.m., they serve renowned turon, sticky sweet egg rolls filled with traditional bananas and versions with ube, coconut or “secret.”
Creme Caramel LA
Crème caramel, flan’s caramelized custard cousin, is in full effect at this tiny bakery/café from Kristine de la Cruz and Sean Gilleland that debuted in Sherman Oaks. Varietals include vanilla, ube (purple yam) and buko pandan flavored with young coconut and grassy pandan leaf. In case you had any doubt, a cartoon crème caramel logo is quick with a quip, saying, “I’m not a cupcake” in an attempt to distance itself from the dominant dessert trend at the time of opening: 2013. Depending on the season, additional highlights might include salted caramel polenta coffee cake or pumpkin spice cake seasoned with nutmeg, clove, and ginger. Savory items include slabs of strata (savory bread pudding) and delectable chicken adobo pot pie with vegetables and a sauce of vinegar, soy sauce, bay leaf and peppercorns, all hiding under a flaky puff pastry lid.
L.A. Rose Cafe
Just outside the shadow of the sea-blue Scientology building in east Hollywood, you’ll find Lemuel Balagot’s locally renowned Filipino restaurant, LA Rose Café, which dates to 1982. Their demure dining room features drapes, faux plantlife, and an artful mural of silver birds perched on bamboo. Pancit, the famed Filipino noodle dish, is available in two forms. Pancit miki bihon features rice vermicelli and fresh miki egg noodles, sautéed vegetables, Chinese sausage, and Chinese celery. Oxtail soup “Bulalo style” stars tender bone-in tail meat, beef cheek slabs, baby bok choy, cabbage, potatoes, cilantro, ginger, carrots, and green beans in a clear, surprisingly light broth. Sinigang is also enticing, a soup soured with tamarind that’s garnished with green beans, bok choy, and eggplant and populated with a choice of shrimp, pork, or fish. No matter what you order, by sure to shake at least a few drops from the bottle of pinakurat, house-made hot sauce crafted with coconut vinegar, red chiles, ginger, garlic, and fish sauce.
Chase and Chad Valencia ran a modern Filipino fine dining pop-up at night in Far East Plaza’s Unit 120 before fully replacing the Alvin Cailan-led culinary incubator in Chinatown. Their family’s from Pampanga, a province two hours north of Manila with strong Spanish influence that factors into their ever-changing dinner menu. They’ve done away with prix fixe in favor of stylish la carte dishes like charcoal-grilled chicken gizzard skewers, twice-cooked octopus in rhubarb sinigang, and brown rice arroz caldo with green garlic & ginger broth. During the day, LASA now operates a lunchtime window with limited menu and picnic table seating. They serve two different pancits starring egg noodles, XO dressed with calamansi butter and patis-cured egg yolk and spicy, funky OG showered with chunky bagoong XO, radish, and scallions. Adobong puti stars vinegar braised chicken leg & thigh fried garlic and scallions over steamed jasmine rice. Lumpia sariwa is a warm salad that shrouds roasted seasonal vegetables, black kale, shaved cabbage, and peanut-soy vin with a delicate brown rice flour crepe.
Oi Asian Fusion
Chef Eric de la Cruz now runs two branches of Oi Asian Fusion, including a Canoga Park strip mall outlet complete with a cartoon chicken and cow staring down an egg, and a smaller location with reclaimed wood and twin counters in a Los Feliz plaza next to the Hollyhock House. The menus are nearly identical. Start with pork egg rolls, aka lumpia, which come as octuplets with sweet chile sauce. Fluffy buns are also worthwhile, particularly the version with karaage fried chicken thigh, lemon mayo, cucumber, leafy green lettuce, and scallions. Rice bowls are clearly the big draw, especially an adobo bowl with braised pork belly that delivers crispy meat and melting fat. Chicken Longanisa features a sweet ground chicken patty, garlic rice, a vivid yellow fried egg, pickled red radishes, and scallions. Pour on vinegar-based chile sauce to cut the richness.
The Park’s Finest
In 2012, Echo Park block party king Johneric Concordia brought the “backyard boogie” of The Park’s Finest to Historic Filipinotown. A plain front by the 101 freeway gives way to a dining room with burgundy walls and colorful Filipino paintings. Concordia and crew smoke meats with alder and pecan wood. Peppery Mount Malindang pork ribs, San Pablo pulled pork, and Taal Manok chicken are all in play. So is Mama Leah’s coconut beef flavored with coconut milk, vinegar, onion, and garlic. No matter what meats you order, definitely snag Ann’s cornbread bibingka, which arrives in sweet, sugar-dusted, kernel-studded squares. Filipino-inflected, house-made sauces consist of a sweeter tomato based sauce with pineapple and coconut oil, and a vinegar based soy with garlic and soy.
In 2015, longtime fine dining chef Charles Olalia and business partner Santos Uy (Cento Pasta Bar, Mignon, Papilles) installed RiceBar, a downtown Filipino cubbyhole. Olalia is often behind the L-shaped counter, facing customers, reclaimed wood, and a colorful mural of the sun rising over rice fields. RiceBar features specialized rice grains in their bowls, including Mindanao black rice and Kalinga Unoy rice, both from the Philippines. Pork longganisa is the restaurant’s most popular protein. Olalia’s uncle taught him to make this sweet and spicy pork sausage, which is nitrate-free, simply seasoned with salt, pepper and sugar, and dyed red with beet powder. Bistec tagalog highlights chunks of braised black Angus beef, soy sauce, pickled onions, and tiny, tart calamansi. Request a bottle of chile-infused vinegar to help further balance both dishes. If you’re looking to experience hardcore Filipino food, pancit luglug involves thick rice noodles dressed with thick sauce, crumbled egg, fish balls, fresh shrimp, tiny dried shrimp, cabbage, carrot, celery, bread crumbs and scallions.
Chef Lemuel Guiyab and wife Lorrain both come from Quezon City in Manila and debuted Silog in Torrance’s Victory Plaza in February. The name refers to the classic combo of fried garlic rice (SInangag) and eggs (itLOG). Silog’s logo even features an egg doubling as the O. Start with pork lumpia that sport thin, crispy skins that dip easily into sweet chile sauce. Adobo chicken wings are also popular. Plates come with garlic rice, soft-boiled egg, pickled papaya, and kale salad. Pares is especially satisfying, featuring beef brisket cubes stewed with garlic, onions, peppercorns, anise, and spices. Tocino involves seared vivid pink cured pork marinated with anise wine, annatto, pineapple, sugar, and salt. Sisig is another winner, with braised pork belly and shoulder marinated with pineapple juice, vinegar, salt, pepper, and spices, chopped and dressed with crunchy chicharrones and garlic crème aioli. Silog also offers three untraditional delivery methods: tacos, fries or tots, and grilled cheese.