All-New Fisherman’s Wharf Restaurant is a Modern Filipino Food Heaven
I’I will never forget eating balut first, the popular Filipino delicacy of a boiled and fertilized egg embryo eaten from the shell, which also appears throughout Asia. At a table full of self-proclaimed “foodies”, mostly men, myself and another woman were the only ones willing to try it.
My egg was swimming in blood, the crackle of the birD the wings of the embryo mingling with the bloody egg. The texture – and that little bird – was a struggle, but the flavor was like chicken and eggs, absolutely harmless. But enough to make vegans and animal rights activists scream. As a big bird lover myself it was not an easy taste but out of respect for the culture and history I will try any dish presented to me by chefs who have it. prepared with care and context.
I remember just as clearly the first time I tasted Chef Francis Ang’s ‘deconstructed’ balut, served from his Pinoy Heritage stand years ago at events like Undiscovered SF Filipino Night Market when it launched. in 2017 (he’s back in October). The chicharron-like bird skin contained a mound of almost whipped egg, tobiko, and pickled red onion in a bite-sized portion that was much easier to handle than its root dish. It was also delicious.
Tasting Ang’s Cuisine Over the years at Gary Danko’s and the long gone (but still alive in my memory) Fifth Floor, since 2014, Ang has hit its stride in creating elevated Filipino cuisine. His Pinoy Heritage take-out, multi-course dinners, and collaboration with great bartender and fellow Filipino Kevin Diedrich of PCH (Pacific Cocktail Haven) and Kona’s Street Market were a bright spot during these gloomy first months of the pandemic. . So it was with more than a little impatience that I dined at Abacá at the new Kimpton Alton Hotel, which debuted on August 16 with this same dynamic duo, serving modern “Philippine-California” cuisine. d’Ang alongside Diedrich’s cocktails.
My husband Dan and I decided that a short overnight stay on a quiet Monday at the Kimpton Alton was the right way to experience the restaurant for the first time. The hotel is a refreshing new oasis in the middle of Fisherman’s Wharf. Artists painted the colorful mural on the front patio while I was there. In the bedroom, mini-Victrola record players and three records in our nightstand drawer looked like an attempt at hipster hotel relevance akin to the always overrated Ace hotels, which I have stayed in in three cities but have found. I always have the impression that they are industrial, cold, sterile. While rooms at Kimpton Alton are a bit simple with white walls and bedspreads, warmth emanates from dark blue carpeting and headboards, along with chic pink velvet accents or green floral chairs. White.
The views of the dock and Alcatraz made our room even better, with my favorite ‘cheap to eat’, the Codmother Fish & Chips food truck, prominently displayed below. I was happy to see that the Alton is home to the only third wave cafe in the neighborhood for my morning espresso needs.
But going to dinner on Monday night – the wine happy hour after the lobby – was not disappointing. In fact, the place was crowded, crowded, bustling with tunes like hip-hop classic Paula Perry (In addition, in addition !!) or the classic Filipino favorite, the APO trekking company.
Under a heat lamp on the patio, we quickly warmed up, cooling off with cocktails. Filipino and global Southeast Asian flavors dominate, from calamansi to Diedrich’s skillful and pioneering hand with pandan leaves. Initially, by tasting five of them, two stood out. The Ube-Colada was the most fun, mixing the coconut, pineapple, tropical vibe of a Pina Colada with Appleton Estate rum and ube (Philippine purple yam) in the form of ube- cream. coconut. The result is a vibrant, lush, creamy and crushable purple. My favorite is Local Word, a twist on the classic 1920s Last Word cocktail, a showcase for the herbaceous green Chartreuse. Here, the Chartreuse plays with Hendricks Gin, absinthe, pineapple, calamansi and bitters, delicately balanced but with a tangy, tropical and herbaceous touch.
As for the food … oh, my. This is Chief Ang executed, even if it already was with these clever tasting menus from Pinoy Heritage. But being to take away, one loses the plate and the atmosphere of an experienced dinner. Where Pinoy dishes are more refined, Abacá is no less refined but feels playful, at times hearty, walking a fine line between upscale and contemporary with rustic, family-friendly soul.
Although Ang is originally from San Francisco (we’re lucky), he spent years of training in the Philippines, where he and his wife, Dian, traveled frequently and visited their families. The 2013 typhoon left them stranded on the islands where they worked to feed the community. Back home in SF, they hosted a Filipino fundraising dinner, Francis cooks his heritage kitchen for the first time. This sparked their 2014 launch of the Pinoy Heritage pop-up after several months of food and ingredient research in the Philippines, which is a vast archipelago of around 7,640 islands.
Ang’s international culinary techniques and influences add layers to his dishes. Whispers of Italy hang over a salad of heirloom panzanella tomatoes and K&J Orchards peaches sprinkled with toasted croutons, over mung bean hummus, subtly mixed with tinapa, a smoked fish condiment from the Philippines.
From a section of “BBQ Sticks,” I called the longganisa pork sausage, served in the Japanese style tsukune-esque (yakitori chicken dumplings). Recalling the presentation of the tsukune, it was not only on a skewer, but was dipped in a small bowl of egg yolk, soybeans and rice cane vinegar. Likewise, the sausage is juicy, plump, diamond-shaped, topped with puffed rice. I immediately wanted another one. Ditto for the steamed pork bun, which is not “just another bao”. It’s bursting with sweet and savory Filipino tocino-style bacon, black garlic, and pineapple kimchi.
On the lighter side, Kinilaw Salmon is a silky, crudo-esque plate of raw salmon, pluots, candied calamansi and avocado, all topped with paper-thin taro chips. The starters are sharable and generous, the squid relleno (at $ 52) being among the most interesting. Imagine a whole squid stuffed with chorizo, sliced and topped with melon and calamansi aioli. While the butternut squash balls in coconut milk and the pancit noodles with fermented scallops in XO bagoóng sauce dripped with comfort, it was the umami-rich sisig fried rice, marked by chicharon, poached egg and onions. marinated which conferred the greatest comfort.
A silky corn cream, paired with blueberries and Parmesan ice cream, is an appropriate finish that is both light and lush for a meal that’s as creative but rooted in its roots. Getting up to bed was a welcome proposition after such a feast, the dining room beaming with melodies, buzz, conversation, memorable drinks, and edgy Filipino fare hard to find in any American city.
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We dug into an album of the aforementioned Filipino band’s biggest hits, APO Hiking Society, quickly put to sleep by their easy-to-listen 1980 hit, Ewanas the fog rolled gently across the bay outside our window.