Restaurant review: Patio Filipino
Homestyle Filipino cooking takes animal suffering to thrilling heights. The detritus of the slaughterhouse—liver, blood, intestines, even unborn ducklings, for Christ’s sake—become material for vinegar-and-garlic-stained intensities capable of provoking shudders. Even among dedicated salumi eaters.
Where you first sample this heady cuisine of studied cruelty tends to shade your feelings about it. Having your first taste of dinuguan (the infamous stew of pigs’ blood and offal, euphemized in Fil-Am households as “chocolate meat”) at a cafe table covered in greasecloth that lives up to its name—well, it can put you off the stuff for good.
Yeah, it’s irrational, but a vase of carnations and cloth napkins can soften the blow of a shocking cuisine. Which is why Patio Filipino in San Bruno offers comfort to the Filipino-food wary. The place is handsome; it sprawls over two rooms and, well, a patio. The Ilocano-tinged cooking is authentic while managing to skew contemporary, and without the tics of self-conscious fusion.
A couple of crunchy-skinned pork dishes are studies in gilded indulgence. Crispy Pata is a boiled and deep-fried pork hock—you pull rich, chewy pieces of meat off the bone and dip them in a sauce with a healthy presence of what tastes like sugarcane vinegar. Lechon Kawali is diced hunks of pork, nearly equal parts chewy meat and gnarled chicharron. It comes with pork liver sauce—smooth, cold, and tart-sweet.
Ginataang Sitaw at Kalabasa (a stew of long beans, kabocha pumpkin, and shrimp in coconut milk) is deliciously savory; Vegetable Kare-Kare is overwhelmed by a thickly emulsified peanut sauce that squelches any vegetal flavors; garlicky pork Lumpianitas offer no surprises. But Patio Filipino itself—a place that serves up well cooked, satisfyingly homey dishes in a setting nice enough to comfort Filipino-food novices—may be all the surprise you need. —John Birdsall
Patio Filipino. 1770 El Camino Real, San Bruno, 94066. 650-872-9888. http://patiofilipino.com/