Rice & Shine pop-up brunch brings Filipino soul food to Los Angeles

When one thinks of Filipino breakfast, items like pandesal, champorado, or variations of silog come to mind.

But, how about an Adobo fried chicken on top of a garlic rice waffle? Or Kare Kare Eggs Benedict? Definitely not what lola or nanay prepare in the mornings.

Those are two of the main dishes chef AC Boral whipped up at Rice & Shine, a pop-up event held on Saturday, Jan. 10.

Taking over EsCala, a Colombian gastropub in Koreatown, 235 diners trickled in from 11 am to 4 pm, despite the gloomy weather. DJ Erok provided a live set of hip hop tunes throughout the day to match the interiors filled with vibrant street art, a relaxed vibe that had the feel of hanging out, eating and listening to music at a friend’s apartment, which Boral wanted to re-create.

The transitory nature of pop-ups is part of their charm: borrowing an established restaurant’s kitchen and dining space and introducing an inventive menu to a selective audience (usually those who are quick and savvy on social media), only to be gone so soon. Filipino-American chefs across the country have hopped onto this trend, as a way to attract investors for a future restaurant venture or to test out a concept, with the grand purpose of permeating Filipino cuisine into the American culinary landscape.

The pop-up is a fitting platform for Boral, who has no formal attachment to any particular city. He has done a taco pop-up in San Diego, where one of the dishes was an adobo pork belly taco, and introduced Rice & Shine at an existing Filipino restaurant in Chicago, as a prix fixe menu with five courses.

“I would find myself coming back to food,” the Southern California native shared about his career path into the culinary industry, despite bearing no formal training.

“His culinary practice developed through “osmosis and practice,” he said, especially watching his father cook growing up. His first time cooking for the public was in 2013 at 626 Night Market in Arcadia, Calif., where he had a booth called REFIL (“remixed Filipino food”) and served his interpretations of sinigang and lumpia and incorporated items like skyflakes and coco jelly into dishes.

“I emphasize that I’m Filipino-American. I don’t make traditional Filipino food,” Boral said of the marriage of Filipino and American flavors on his menu. “I’m reframing what I grew up eating and I’m [here] to educate and excite people about it.”

For starters, Boral prepared pandesal with ensaymada butter and ube cream cheese schmear. The ube spread was a clear standout with its fluffiness that brought punches of flavor to the bread. The idea itself makes you think why nobody has come up with that before, or even brought it to store shelves.

Next, a longganisa Scotch egg that resembled a meatball on the outside, but let out an oozing, runny yolk wrapped in the sausage, once cut in half. The sausage had a peppery kick to it that paired well with the calamansi dressed greens and garlic rice.

Rice & Shine was conceptualized during a meal with friends in Long Beach, Boral recalled, in which he “tried to do an egg-centric menu.” All of the dishes have been tried and tested by many before making their introduction here in Los Angeles.

Diners could choose from three entrees for the main course: Kare Kare “Eggs Benedict”; Adobo fried chicken and garlic rice waffle; Maja Blanca pancakes.

The Kare Kare Benedict had peanut butter-braised short ribs and coconut milk greens served with poached eggs over pandesal and topped with peanut sauce and bagoong aioli on the side. The peanut taste was not too overpowering, nor was the overall dish too soupy, like the way kare kare is presented in the traditional sense.

The adobo fried chicken and waffle was a Pinoy version of the Southern pairing/turned brunch staple. A crispy adobo-infused fried chicken—similar to the way its served at Max’s—and a sunny-side up egg topped the garlic rice waffle drenched in adobo gravy. Though fried chicken and waffles are generally a mix of savory and sweet, this dish was more on the savory side with a lingering taste and smell of vinegar. The garlic rice waffle, again another one of Boral’s ingenious inventions, is an ode to the Filipinos’ love of the carb-heavy grain.

When asked how he thought of creating that type of waffle, he said it was motivated by eating silogs, though he wouldn’t give away his secret of making it.

The last dish that came out was the Maja Blanca pancake — a warm coconut milk and cornstarch pudding mixture topped with corn kernels that tasted like ginataan. The pancake was more of a sweeter wrap up to the meal and palate cleanser than an individual entree.

Everything was made from scratch because, according to Boral, he knows “how [he] wants things to taste.”

“The way I do Filipino food is with a personal twist, not the Andrew Zimmern [type] with shock value,” Boral added.

Boozy drinks were also concocted, like a calamansi mimosa, Kape Espesyal (coconut cream, coffee, Milo chocolate mix, and dark rum) and Pearls of Disorient (Tapioca pearls in syrup, molasses, amaretto, and dark rum).

Given the volume of orders, the dishes came out fast enough, and the chef even took the time to visit the tables to see how receptive the crowd was to his creations.

The diners were a mix of first and second-generation Filipinos and Filipino-Americans and even other races, representing the level of culinary adventurousness seen in the city.

Ely Vedar, who runs her own public relations and marketing firm, helped Boral market this pop-up to the LA crowd.

“It was about getting on social media and the right press,” Vedar said. “It’s my favorite event [I’ve put on] so far and the added component of music gave it a [very] live experience.”

Though opening up a restaurant would be the end goal, Boral doesn’t want to get tied down to one city. Right now, he is the co-founder and chef of Filipino.Kitchen, an online movement that connects Filipino identity and heritage to food.

(LA Weekend January 17-20, 2015 Sec. B pg.1)

Christina M. Oriel
Christina M. Oriel

Christina M. Oriel is the Managing Editor of the Asian Journal Weekly Newspapers.

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