This month TimeOut restaurant critic Simon Majumdar, currently the only person awarding stars for a food publication in LA, doles out four stars to Filipino restaurant Ma’am Sir in Silver Lake. Accomplished chef Charles Olalia, whose tiny RiceBar in Downtown earned accolades for serving reasonably priced Filipino comfort dishes, opened Ma’am Sir in the heart of Silver Lake back in early summer. So far, the place has been very busy with both the Filipino and local Eastside crowd looking for chef takes on traditional homestyle dishes. Majumdar starts out with some positives, especially on the pork entrees:
The crispy pork lechon ($18) was enough to cause a disagreement between my wife and I over who would have the last piece of crackling pork skin. (For the record, I lost.) The most famous pulutan dish—or food to have with beer—in Filipino cuisine is pork sisig ($16), and Ma’am Sir’s is just as good as any I’ve had in L.A. or the country itself. It had the prerequisite crunch from the braised and fried pork, the fruity heat from serrano chiles and just the right amount of acid from calamansi citrus.
There were some negatives though, including the Instagram-friendly uni-topped lumpia and the most celebrated Filipino dish, chicken adobo:
The “lumpia” ($14) spring rolls came filled with shrimp mousse and topped with uni; while the rolls were fine on their own, I’ve never understood the desire to put sea urchin on warm food, as it inevitably ends up changing from a fresh bite of ocean joy to a mouthful of briny slime. Chicken adobo ($14) and the beef-and-peanut kare kare stew ($18) might be two of the most famous of Filipino dishes, but both felt here like they’d been neutered to avoid offending the uninitiated. The adobo lacked the deep savory taste that comes from braising the bird in soy, garlic and bay leaves, and even with a hit of alamang (shrimp paste) the kare kare felt a bit flat.
Still, Majumdar loves much of what Olalia is doing, and ends the review on a high note:
At Ma’am Sir, Charles Olalia isn’t attempting to redefine or deconstruct Filipino cuisine. Instead, he takes a genuine joy in its Spanish, Chinese and Malay heritage, chooses a selection of classics from the vast repertoire, and then does his best to execute them really, really well.
So far Majumdar has been turning out helpful reviews that balance positives and negatives from hot new openings. Still, one wonders when the LA Times will announce its new critics after announcing the new staff positions back in August. In addition, the LA Weekly hasn’t announced a new critic position or any starred reviews since their new ownership took over earlier this year. Though the reviews aren’t starred, Gary Baum has begun writing shorter restaurant reviews for entertainment-related places for The Hollywood Reporter.