Home style Filipino in Papa's Kitchen!

Let's spend a Friday evening in a tiny, cozy restaurant just steps from the bustle of Little Manila and feast on home-style Filipino food cooked and served by some of the warmest titos and titas in Woodside.  Guests are encouraged to belt out tunes on the karaoke mic during and after dinner, so make sure to warm up those vocal chords beforehand.

From The NY Times article by Ligaya Mishan:

“Purple Haze” crashes from the speakers as stingrays flap languidly across the flat-screen TV. The singer, leaning over the rubble of his dinner (monumental pig hooves, broken crab shells), nails every throwaway whoop. The crowd, if that’s what you can call three tables, erupts.

At Papa's Kitchen, which opened last October in Woodside, Queens, this could be Saturday night, or Wednesday night, or every night. Beth Roa, co-owner, waitress and M.C., makes the rounds from table to table, gently proffering the karaoke mic, while in the kitchen her brother Miguel cooks serious Filipino comfort food. (Ms. Roa pitches in at the stove as needed.) The scent of roasted pork steals through the tiny room, infiltrating clothes and hair.

Filipino cuisine is slowly creeping into the American mainstream. “Top Chef” recently featured a haute reimagining of balut, fertilized duck egg, with duck confit and foie gras. In New York, young Filipino-Americans have opened restaurants with wink-wink references to their heritage, like Spam fries and Tang cocktails.

Papa’s Kitchen is how they kick it old school. (“Papa” is Beth and Miguel’s father, who taught them how to cook back in Quezon City, the Philippines.) It occupies a single-story house barely the width of a station wagon. It is so small that at first it operated only as a takeout joint. When neighbors asked if they could dine in, it became a sit-down restaurant.

Mirrors on one side, a purple slogan (“Divine Tradition Papa’s Creation”) painted on the other: this is the extent of the décor. Plates are paper, flatware disposable (if provided at all), water served in plastic cups.

The menu is minimalist and mostly in Tagalog. Best to leave it up to the Roas and order the salu-salo sa bilao, a feast of stupefying proportions, presented in two winnowing baskets lined with banana leaves. (It is available on Fridays, Saturdays and by special request; minimum party of four required, $25 a person.)  

One basket comes heaped with meat around a daunting mound of rice. If the stars align, it will include tilapia fried whole, meant to be eaten like fried chicken, by grasping it with your fingers and ravaging the dainty bones; tuna belly, bought fresh that morning, doused with a “secret” marinade and grilled; and chicken adobo, poached in an intense concentration of garlic, soy sauce and vinegar.

Inevitably there is pork, perhaps belly, marinated both before and after cooking to deepen its flavor, or crispy pata, deep-fried pig’s trotter, cut lengthwise, the better for gnawing.

The biggest surprise are golden tubes called dynamite, akin to spring rolls but skinny and tight as cigarillos, with a nearly sheer, crepe-like wrapper. They are deep-fried but confoundingly light on oil, and come open-ended so that you can see the dangerous filling: a whole jalapeño stuffed with ground pork and cheese.

The second basket is filled with mostly vegetable accompaniments, intended as counterweights in flavor — salted duck egg to be paired with longganisa (sweet-spicy Filipino sausage), mango with chicken adobo — or, when you are exhausted from eating, as bland balms to incite your appetite anew.

Do not underestimate their pleasures. The finest dish at Papa’s Kitchen may be hiding here: laing, taro leaves steeped in coconut milk, like a larger-than-life version of Thanksgiving creamed spinach, amplified by green finger chiles, crab meat and shrimp. The recipe comes from the Bicol region, where Papa grew up.

For dessert there might be banana turon (fritters) or orange slices, but the real postprandial event is karaoke. On each of my visits, the evening did not properly begin until the prep cook, Lila Soriano (whom the Roas call Manang, a term of respect), emerged from the kitchen and sang, beautifully, the pop song “Ako ay Pilipino” (“I Am Filipino”). At the end, she announced, in English: “Welcome. Tonight we are all Filipinos.”

****We will NOT be doing the salu-salo feast; instead we will be ordering a la carte family style and sharing the food bill.  Please bring cash. The restaurant is CASH ONLY. Please RSVP YES only if you are 100% certain you can come as this is a limited RSVP event and a restaurant reservation is required.****

I suggest the following menu:

-Dynamite lumpia

-Lumpia shanghai

-Adobong Manok

-Grilled Tuna Belly

-Pork Menudo

-Beef Pares

-Kaldereta

-Kinunot

-Laing (taro leaves in coconut milk)

-Sitaw at Kalabasa 

-Pancit Sotanghon

If people still have room for Filipino desserts, we can walk around the neighborhood and go get some halo-halo :).


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  • beth

    Hey guys, thank you very much for your continued support. We very much appreciate it. We had a great time listening to everyone singing! Also, just wanted to let you know we have Kamayan Night every Fridays & Saturdays and also, balut eating contest :)

    1 · 3 days ago

  • Gary

    Another great time eating and laughing with the lifers!

    1 · January 6

  • Nie,weiwen

    I wanna in~~~~~~~~~~~

    January 3

  • Ro

    By the way, I'm aware that it will snow several inches overnight but this is definitely still on. The only reason I'd cancel this is if the restaurant closes. Anyway, it will stop in the morning.

    January 2

  • Carol D.

    Thank you, I called again and you are right. The guy that I spoke to made a mistake. He reserved for sat instead of Friday. I am sorry everyone no second table for those on the waitlist. I'm very very sorry. I tried. Maybe next time.

    1 · January 2

    • Ro

      No worries, Carol. I'll host this event again (most likely not a busy Friday night this time!) and hopefully you can make it then. Thanks for your efforts. See you tomorrow night! :-)

      January 2

  • Carol D.

    Hey guys... Good news . I reserved another table of 4 for those of us on the waiting list. Please post below that u can come. First come first serve basis,so the first 3 to post will get a spot. Thank u.

    January 2

    • Ro

      Carol, I would suggest that you confirm your reservation by calling them and speaking to Beth. Not sure if there was some miscommunication re: your reservation because Beth told me just today that there's another large party of ~10 people, and having been there a couple of times, I doubt that they can even seat more than 20 total. On my last visit on a weekend night, I called an hour before my arrival and was given the green light by a man, only to come and find out that there were only a couple of things that were available for us to order, because it's mostly pre-ordered Salu Salo dinners on weekend nights... So basically your table might be in a similar situation if the cook is not prepared for you. Your best bet would probably be to go to one of the other Filipino restaurants a few blocks away.

      January 2

  • george b.

    Finally made it off the wait list this morning, but I had already made other plans for tomorrow night. But at least someone else will be able to attend now. Enjoy this meetup everyone. It sounds like it will be a fantastic one to start off the year for the group. :o)

    1 · January 2

  • Ro

    I just spoke with Beth who informed me that there will be another large group there tomorrow and it'll be a full house. Because we are ordering a la carte and the other group is ordering the salu salo where they have to share food from large baskets, to accommodate all of us our party will be seated at two separate tables. Don't worry; we will still be sharing a good variety of dishes and the server will assist and explain what the dishes are. To facilitate things I've pre-ordered the dynamite lumpia and lumpia shanghai (for appetizer), chicken adobo, pork menudo, beef pares, kaldereta, laing, sitaw at kalabasa, pancit sotanghon, longganisa, and grilled tuna belly for the main dishes. For dessert Beth said she would have maja blanca, a coconut-milk based dessert. Definitely come hungry!! :-)

    1 · January 2

  • Joe

    I sprained my foot on NYE so am taking things easy for a few days. Yum, this sounded good!

    January 2

    • Ro

      Thanks for letting me know, Joe. Take it easy. Hope you can join us next time.

      1 · January 2

  • Ro

    Hi all,

    I just sent an email to everyone who's attending or on the waitlist for tomorrow with some important info. Please read. Let me know if you didn't receive the email. Thanks,
    Ro

    January 2

    • beth

      Ro- please give me a heads up of what you will be ordering :)

      January 2

    • Ro

      Beth, I had sent you an email on meetup the other day. The food we're ordering is listed above in the event description. I'll call you today to confirm. Thanks!

      January 2

  • Jeff

    wow, this sounds awesome! Once again, I will be a definite "maybe", and will not be able to commit for a while so I won't take up a spot until I know for sure.

    1 · December 1

  • Mae Lee

    Hopefully I get in I'm filipina and I love to eat comfort Filipino food...

    December 1

    • Ro

      I'll do another event here and prioritize those on the waitlist who don't get in this time around. It's already one of my fave Filipino places ^_^. Feels like you're hanging out in your uncle's kitchen.

      1 · December 1

  • Joe

    The dynamite lumpia sounds incredible.

    1 · December 1

    • Ro

      It has a nice kick to it!

      1 · December 1

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