It has been over two months since I last posted on my blog. I know I said I would try to post weekly but…no excuses. What inspired me to start up again was an exciting dining adventure last night.
Courtney had liked a post by The Stranger about a pop-up restaurant dinner featuring the Philippine staple bagoong. It is a fermented, unfiltered fish paste. http://www.the-stranger.com/blogs/slog/2015/06/12/22376871/fermented-shrimp-paste-and-unfiltered-fish-sauce-seattle-can-you-handle-the-funk
It sounded interesting and so I booked two reservations. Then I checked with Courtney to see if he wanted to go with me and (like mother,like son) he said yes!
The dinner is hosted by Food & Sh*t at Inay’s Asian Pacific Cuisine Restaurant on Beacon Hill in Seattle. They have been hosting dinners on the third Monday of each month for over a year, but this was the first I had heard of it.
There were two seatings for the dinner, 5:00 PM and 8:00 PM. We had reservations for the 8:00 seating and arrived about 15 minutes prior to that. They were still setting up and cleaning up, so asked if we wanted to wait in the bar. Of course! It was a small area off the main dining room with one table and a counter with stools. There were only two men and the bartender in there, which surprised us since there were quite a few people waiting outside.
Louie, the bartender, was a bundle of energy, very enthusiastic and funny, like a stand up comedian behind the bar. Turns out on Friday nights at the restaurant, he becomes Atasha, a one-person drag show!
He fixed us both a mojito special. We ended up joining the two other guests at their table and immediately fell into talking and laughing with them. When they were called for seating, Courtney went with them to see if we could be seated together. Coincidentally, we had already been paired up with them so that every seat and table could be used.
Sam and Shayne had both been at the pop-up dinners before and also at Inay’s restaraunt, which they said has great food. Shayne is Filipino so knew the foods well.
The menu was: Crispy Kangkong, beer-battered fried water spinach with calamansi bagoong-mayo; Bagoongumbo, crab, longanisa, okra, bell peppers, celery, onion, shrimp & vegetable stock, mochiko roux, chives;
Grilled Pinakbet & Bagoong Fried Rice, shrimp, eggplant, kabocha squash, okra, cherry tomato, pickled ampalaya, ground chicharron, jasmine rice, bagoong guisado, fried garlic, poached egg;
Bagoong-Brined Lechon Liempo, roasted stuffed pork bely, lemongrass, chrysanthemum, red lettuce, perilla, trio of bagoong: housemade bagoong guisado, bagoong alamang, vintage 2003 bagoong terong;
Mangga’t Bagoong Cheesecake, green mango cheesecake, green mango spear, palm sugar syrup & bagoong alamang powder.
All the menu items were served family style instead of individual plates. Even though the menu was already quite extensive, they started with an amuse bouche of bagoong mac and cheese! It was creamy, flavorful goodness.
The Crispy Kangkong was amazing. The batter was very light and must have had some bagoong in it because it was slightly salty but very flavorful and crisp. I had never even heard of water spinach before but it was mildly flavored, perfectly cooked, and matched well with the mayo dipping sauce.
Next up was small bowls of Bagoongumbo with real Dungeness crab – Sam found a piece of shell so it had to be real! It was dark and richly flavored but not overpowering with any particular flavor, just a blend of great taste.
We got skipped when they were handing out the next dish of Grilled Pinakbet & Bagoong Fried Rice. Louie happened to come out to visit us so he immediately went to make sure we got ours. The shrimp and vegetable skewer were good but the fried rice was amazingly good. Like none I have ever had before. It was very dark in color and very rich in flavor.
Since we were late in getting our fried rice the Bagoong-Brined Lechon Liempo was served before we finished the rice. The pork was served with a variety of greens and basil. The most interesting of the greens was the chrysanthemum leaves. They were beautiful to look at and tasted slightly of the way chrysanthemums smell.
The pork was browned and crisped on the top, and soft and fatty (in the best possible way) underneath. The fattiness was mellowed by the various greens and the bagoong. Of the three bagoongs served with the pork, we all agreed that the ‘Vintage’ 2003 one was the best. The housemade one was mild and rather watery, the bagoong alamang was very salty, but the vintage was dark and rich with lots of umami and really added to the pork.
The couple that run the Food & Sh*t dinners came out and introduced the staff and cooks, then said they had 3 special items for the first people to raise their hand. My hand popped up before anyone else had even processed what she was saying. To our surprise, the special item was balut – a 14-day fertilized duck embryo that is boiled and eaten in the shell.
I have seen Andrew Zimmern eat these on Bizarre Foods many times, but never had the opportunity to eat one before. Courtney was game to try it too. With Shayne’s coaching, I cracked the top of the egg and peeled the shell away to expose the egg, then slurped the juice off the top. Courtney took the first bite and got most of the ‘developed’ part. I ate the rest and it was really just like a hard-boiled egg. The bottom was tough, however, and Shayne said that was normal.
We were all a little leary of what a bagoong dessert might be like but were willing to try anything at this point. It was the perfect mix of sweet and salty. The mango cheesecake was subtly flavored and the bagoong alamang powder added just the right kick to balance the sweetness.
It was a wonderful evening of food and making new friends. We exchanged contact information with Shayne and Sam and plan on attending another dinner together. Courtney and I also want to go to the restaurant on a Friday night to see Louie do his show.