Sari Sari Store at the Grand Central Market LA


At last, a convenient stop for silog in Los Angeles! Just like its name, Sari Sari, which is the Filipino word for variety, the store or stall that opened last summer at the iconic Grand Central Market, offers notoriously liked traditional mainstream items, and lechon manok, arroz caldo and halo-halo are the Chippy, Halls and Coca-Cola here.


Caught Chef Margarita Lorenzana Manzke, one of the owners of Sari Sari Store, also a co-owner of the crowd-pleasing République on La Brea, and Wildflour Bakery & Cafe in Manila, a James Beard Outstanding Pastry Chef nominee, fervently working on  buko pie, a mainstay at Sari Sari. Husband Chef Walter Manzke was also around.


Located in Downtown Los Angeles (DTLA), the Grand Central Market, a 1917 landmark, houses the many different flavors and cultures of the city. Eating here is a must-do when in LA.  Eggslut, Wexler’s Deli, Mc Connell’s Fine Ice Cream, La Huerta Candies, and lately, Sari Sari Store, are my frequent stops.


Arroz caldo is a hit among non-Pinoy guests here. With mushrooms, it’s a delicious modern rendition of the original arroz caldo back home. So far, I’ve tried tortang talong, studded with corn, and best eaten with patis; sisig rice, which is more liver than pig face, but definitely, the way I like it, like the original Kapangpangan Aling Lucing style; the Americanized buko pie; halo-halo with frozen watermelon and caramelized rice crispies; and homemade calamansi soda — all fun and still Filipino, notwithstanding the fresh twists on the basics.


Absolutely, unlike a sari-sari store in the Philipines, no pa-lista here, cash and credit cards only.

Photographed by Blauearth © Blauearth™ All Rights Reserved

Rice Bar to love in LA


There’s no place like home, but with no lola or nanay or hubby’s cooking to come home to, Rice Bar is home to me. And Chef Charles Olalia makes pancit luglug and longaniza (the hamonado kind) so much better than anyone else I know. And on my most recent visit, Vigan longaniza (in top photo) and pancit devil eggs were so new on the menu.


At the high point of its popularity, Filipino cooking in LA gets more and more powerful, and Rice Bar is one of the few innovative ones who has successfully defined Filipino food with just a handful of dishes on the menu. There will always be pancit, lumpia and adobo anywhere else, but Rice Bar has also other things like tinola is unexpectedly a bestseller, and the longaniza rice bowl is so good that I had two the first time, and buko ice candy for dessert? That’s so brilliant.


Pancit devil eggs taste so much like palabok with a zing of lemon.


If you happen to be in Downtown LA, Rice Bar is located on 7th Street. The space is tight and I liken it to a carinderia, but that’s part of Rice Bar’s appeal.

Just like home.

Life in America is an ube cheesecake


Seeing family is like chancing upon a Fil-Am ube cheesecake at Cafe 86 in Pasadena. Sometimes it’s there, and some days you see ube leche flan cupcake, like this week, I was able to touch base with Ericke, and two days later, with my beautiful cousin Samantha, who celebrated her birthday last week. Failed to attend any of her 3 parties ‘coz I was working that weekend. God, please create another weekend for those who work so others can have their weekends always.


Ericke’s office is in Pasadena, so she’s tried the new Asian fusion Fig Sprout that specializes in roasted chicken. I regret I didn’t take 1/2 ‘coz it was truly so delicious with the mint sauce and herbed rice. I am not a fan of chicken, but this one’s rare, like saying I have so much respect for El Pollo Loco. Ericke had Coco Pasta, very Asian with coconut cream, lemongrass, and so good that it was telling me to have my own full serving.


Before working another long weekend shift, had one more spontaneous date with Samantha at Market Provisions, a quaint restaurant in the LA Fairfax District near her office in Beverly Hills, and then she dropped me off to go walking down Rodeo Drive.


In my head debating whether to get rigatoni with crab and shrimps or linguini with lobster. Happy I listened to the waiter.


Life is an ube cheesecake, enjoy it when it’s there.

Saté, new and the only Indonesian restaurant in Ilocos Norte


Last night we were brought to Indonesia via Saté, an authentic, I repeat, a real deal Indonesian restaurant that opened in San Nicolas just a few days ago. Of course, nasi goreng and sate (satay) ring a bell, but on my latest gustatory adventure, my taste buds were treated to a higher level — a full course dinner prepared by Indonesian Chef Robby Satiawan, a former executive chef at Banyan Tree in Macau, who has also worked in other parts of the globe like Maldives, and Qatar, where he met his Filipina wife, Marie. Looks like they are loving their new home, as I feel the excitement radiating from them.


How we found ourselves at Saté was by accident, utter serendipity, as my besties Marla and Louie and I planned to go to another resto, then we changed our minds in the car ‘coz someone said there’s a new Indian or Hindustani resto in the next town, then we were thinking yogurt-based, masala and so on, and then I realized Brandon told me about an Indonesian restaurant he saw last week, but couldn’t remember the exact location (he said he went to so many places that day, if that’s not premature Alzheimer’s).


The diverse menu says a description of every dish, so ordering is easy. Found Ilocano gado (gado-gado/salad), but desired all traditional. We started with brief dishes (a la banchan) of veggie appetizers. Our fave was the pickled Ilocos ampalaya (bittermelon). By the way, Chef Robby buys everything from the tiendaan (public market). Another appetizer, perkedel, a fried corn dumpling that reminded me of our very own squash okoy, when topped with the shallot-sambal condiment (something like a spicy atchara), made beautiful contrast.


I love unusual drinks, so hot bandrek, a black pepper pandan drink with coconut bits, traditional in Indonesia the chef said, was surprisingly refreshing. Imagine a spiced sago at gulaman (the liquid).

Chicken sate and kukus (steamed chicken marinated in chili and sambal) went great with coconut rice. If you’re a chicken lover or on a diet, I highly recommend kukus, easily our favorite. Isi tahu (stuffed tofu) was also light and lovely.


The langka (jackfruit) sweet course on the menu was not available, but my discontent vanished as soon as we scooped out the flavors of the two other desserts. Penyet, grilled bananas with toasted coconut flakes and cubed jelly (with the texture of Turkish delight) sent me to cloud nine. A West Javanese treat, sarang burung, which means bird’s nest, but had pseudo bird’s nest (agar-agar) has Chinese influence. I remember to have tasted a cold sweetened bird’s nest soup back in the days when I was eco-ignorant.

Chef Robby’s cooking has fantastic balance, nothing overly seasoned nor cloying, aromatic yet delicate. And spiciness was tempered as he is still in the process of feeling the local palate. But I’m sure you can request your level of hotness.


Had to have a photo with my FB friend Trixie Ablan, who is apprenticing with the Indonesian chef.


Ending this post with a message to Chef Robbie and Marie, naragsak a isasangbay idtoy Ilocos!

Sate Modern Indonesian Dining
NationaL Highway, Barangay 1-San Francisco, Ilocos Norte, Philippines

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