2016 marks the unofficial rise of the Filipino food movement in Los Angeles. Prominent pockets like Carson, Eagle Rock, West Covina and of course Historic Filipinotown just west of Downtown have contributed to L.A.’s Filipino culinary landscape for years. But a new crop of Filipino chefs and restaurateurs are making an impact in atypical pockets like Chinatown, the West Valley and South Bay. Silog is one of the leading practitioners.
The path to victory is often fraught with obstacles. For Lemuel Guiyab, adversity presented itself at a large-scale chair manufacturer in Cypress. He was on the verge of a promotion, or so he thought, but instead suffered a surprise dismissal. He and wife Lorrain had a young son at home, and she was still in school. Guiyab had a realization, saying, "I was working so hard for them, and decided to work that hard for myself." He turned to past experience for inspiration.
Guiyab wasn’t shy about invoking the F word of the food world
Guiyab and his wife both grew up in Quezon City, part of Metro Manila, and he filtered childhood food experiences through the prism he forged for a decade in SoCal restaurant kitchens, offering "more of a fusion, not just basic Filipino food."
Guiyab wasn’t shy about invoking the F word of the food world, but he’s really just referring to four non-traditional delivery methods, each with a choice of meat: tacos, fries, tots, and grilled cheese. The fries and tots amount to Filipino poutine (Filipoutine?) with Provolone, gravy, and garlic crème aioli. Tacos feature corn tortillas, meat, mango salsa, garlic crème aioli, and chicharron. Grilled cheese melds sourdough with provolone and cheddar, grilled onions, and orange marmalade.
Appetizers are limited, but flavor and value are high. Lumpia ($4.95) resemble six rolls of quarters, but they have plenty more give. Each roll features a thin, crisp sheathe and juicy pork-centric filling that pairs well with the sweet chile dipping sauce.
Chicken wings ($7), marinated with spicy garlic and adobo before getting grilled, are available on a sliding spice spectrum. Mild gives way to medium, and hot. If you’re looking to dial up the pain, the off-menu "dynamite" level is your best bet.
Really though, you should start your journey with traditional plates ($7.95 to $8.95) that includes fried garlic rice (sinangag) and runny soft-boiled eggs (itlog). After all, Silog’s restaurant logo features an egg in place of the O, and rice helps temper richness.
Pares (pronounced pah-res) involves cubes of brisket stewed until fork tender with garlic, onions, peppercorns, anise, and "spices." The menu imparts plenty of information, but Guiyab still withholds some key secrets.
Sisig is a popular Filipino pork dish that’s been known to co-star snout. Silog marinates belly and shoulder with pineapple juice, vinegar, and spices before braising until the meat forms tantalizing shreds. A shower of crunchy chicharrones and pungent garlic crème aioli completes the plate.
Meanwhile, tocino provides welcome contrast, with slabs of pork cured in anise wine, pineapple, sugar, and salt until the meat sports vivid pink color. The results are seared until caramelized, resulting in great flavor and a pleasant chew.
For dessert, the best bet is turon a la mode ($3.95). A single banana egg roll with caramelized sugar coat arrives plated with a scoop of either jackfruit or mango ice cream and decorative squiggles that are probably too cute.
Chef Guiyab asked, "Filipino food, how come we’re always last? I want to help put Filipino food on the map." Efforts so far at Silog are clearly pin-worthy.
Silog, 1555 Sepulveda Blvd., Torrance, 424-263-5961