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Jonathan Gold Feasts on Contemporary Filipino Fare at Irenia

The Filipino wave keeps moving forward


This week, Jonathan Gold heads south to Santa Ana to review Irenia, a modern Filipino restaurant by chef Ryan Garlitos. Garlitos, who worked with Carlos Salgado at Taco María, is bringing his heritage to the forefront much in the same way as Chad Valencia of LASA and Charles Olalia of Rice Bar. The Times critic sums up Irenia’s offerings by explaining, “if your knowledge of Filipino cooking comes from only church-carnival adobo and cheap steam-table joints, Irenia will change the way you look at the cuisine.”

That means there are some pretty stellar classic Filipino dishes reconstructed “with farmers’ market ingredients and Western technique:”

So sinigang, the tamarind-soured broth usually used to moisten great handfuls of rice, becomes denser and milkier when Garlitos makes it, more about the broth and the seared cubes of daikon in it than about the jolt of pure acidity. Ginataan tends to be a thick coconut-milk stew; Garlitos uses it to accent a dish of romanesco. His pancit, chewy house-made noodles garnished with citrus and snips of fried chicken skin, is served like a plate of Italian pasta, but its sour-savory flavor is straight out of Manila. [LAT]

The chef also manages to make pork blood stew appealing:

Dinuguan, a stew of pig innards in a super-pungent sauce made with pork blood and ground liver, is usually one of the most fearsome dishes in the Filipino arsenal, but Garlitos lightens the cocoa-dark sauce — the liver becomes no more than a fleeting hint of bitterness — and replaces the intestines and such with crisp-edged slices of roast pork shoulder. It was the most popular dish at the table. [LAT]

The Golster concludes by recommending the dilis, charred little gem salad, dinuguan, chicken inasal, and ube brown sugar pie.

400 N Broadway
Santa Ana