Filipino food crosses over into Vancouver's mainstream cuisine

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      With the popularity of Asian food in this city, it’s quite easy to forget that it took decades for such items to become palatable to local diners.

      One cuisine that has been underrepresented and underappreciated in this city is Filipino food. While there have been a handful of Filipino establishments, such as Josephine’s or Pinpin, most of them have remained popular primarily within Filipino-Canadian communities.

      Bao Down co-owner Matt Adolfo hopes to change that. While he says he’s been called out for not serving authentic Filipino recipes, that’s the point.

      “What we’re trying to do with Filipino cuisine is…add a little fusion into some dishes to make it more familiar to other palates, therefore it’ll be easier to accept it,” he told the Georgia Straight.

      Bao Down

      His first location in Gastown (12 Powell Street) focuses on bao (steamed buns), while his gastropub and raw bar in Olympic Village (115 West 2nd Avenue) features pan-Asian inspiration, with everything from lettuce wraps to noodle dishes. A third location, which opened in November at 221 Carrall Street, focuses on Filipino items, such as adobo fried chicken, paksiw (pulled pork lechon, or roasted pig), and kare kare (braised oxtail with tempura bok choy, pickled papaya, and eggplant).

      Bao Down Gastropub and Raw Bar

      There’s also a Filipino-style brunch menu with everything from breakfast wraps with fried bao, tocino (pork-belly bacon), longanisa (sweet sausage), water chestnuts, poached eggs, and taro hash to tocino grilled cheese with pandesal (sweet rolls), cured pork collar, cheese, and calamansi (Philippine citrus fruit) hollandaise.

      A fourth spot will open in March at 1408 Commercial Drive, with a return to a focus on bao. Location number five will open in May or June in UBC’s U Boulevard area.

      As if that’s not enough, a San Francisco location (a partnership with Filipino screen star Marvin Agustin) will open soon.

      Kumare Restaurant and Bakery

      Another local Filipino restaurant that has expanded is Kumare Restaurant and Bakery, which opened an express spot at 5183 Joyce Street on January 14. This petite location is turo-turo–style, in which customers point at prepared to-go dishes in display cases for takeout. The menu is a condensed version of those at its Richmond and Delta restaurants, and breakfast is available all day at this location.

      There are dishes from palabok (thick noodles with shrimp, tofu, and ground pork) and miki-bihon (stir-fried egg noodles with shrimp, pork, Chinese sausage, and vegetables) to desserts like sago gulaman (tapioca and gelatin with brown syrup) and buko pandan (coconut, pandan jelly, and cream).

      While this city may have lost a number of Filipino eateries, such as Galing Galing and Rekados Grill, the growing number arising to replace them will certainly help to expose more people to the full range of food from this Southeast Asian nation.

      You can follow Craig Takeuchi on Twitter at @cinecraig or on Facebook