Filipino food gets designer presentations

Thursday, November 30th, 2006

Rekados filipino cuisine: Vancouver gets its first come-hither Filipino restaurant for the budget-minded in clean, modern surroundings

Mia Stainsby

Chef Charlie Dizon, wife Pinky and brother-in-law Larry Elima, all owners of Rekados (meaning ingredients) Filipino Cuisine, show off crispy Pata, sugpong sinigang sa miso and special cocktails sebu afterglow and boracay blue. Photograph by : Peter Battistoni

There’s nothing shy about Filipino food. It stamps its feet for attention. It can be a melody of sweet, sour, salty and spicy flavours but it can also, without a knowing hand, be muddled and off-kilter.

In terms of making a mark in this restaurant city Filipino cuisine has just been but a blip on the radar. Rekados is the first come-hither Filipino restaurant, a place where owners, Charlie and Pinky Dizon and Larry Elima, created a budget-minded but clean, modern space for physical appeal.

“It’s been my dream to introduce the Filipino culture and food to Vancouver when I moved here. Our Filipino guests are telling us this is finally a place they can be proud of,” says Elima. “They invited their non-Filipino friends. It’s heartwarming. People are asking about our culture. I’ve been working so many years in this industry and I’ve never been able to say to my friends, let’s go for Filipino food.” And this is something I didn’t know — the Filipino community, he says, is the third largest minority group in Vancouver.

The staff are as friendly as can be; if you tell Larry, who works in the front that you liked your meal, he lights up, barely able to contain his excitement.

I ask a female server what she’d recommend. “It depends on what you are craving today,” she replies, and proceeds to describe some of the dishes.

In the kitchen, chef Charlie Dizon translates Filipino cuisine into designer presentations. It helps that he worked in a high-end French restaurant in Manila. He moved to Vancouver 10 years ago and has previously worked at Monk McQueen’s and Wild Rice as well as the Arbutus Club.

The cuisine reveals the country’s history of trade with China and colonization by the Spanish. Adobo, a very common dish is made with pork and/or chicken, braised in a sauce of soy, garlic, vinegar and peppercorns and sometimes, coconut milk. Here, the kitchen grills the pork and chicken separately, and presents the dish on a long and narrow plate.

Dizon’s tokwa ‘t tokwa (deep-fried tofu) is a delicious treatment of this bland food. It’s shock-fried in hot oil and served quite elegantly with a bright soy-chili sauce.

I tried a very nice curry with tiger prawns and a coconut milk-based sauce. Grilled eggplant was served on a narrow plate with shrimp paste sauce, tomatoes and onions. Bihon, thin rice noodles with veggies, shrimp and Chinese chorizo received gentle treatment with no sign of clumpage. Another noodle dish palabok with “luglog” noodles, shrimp, pork, egg and cracklings was not as refined. A half roasted chicken with lemongrass marinade (it comes whole as well), coupled with another dish would be more than you’d need for a meal.

Prices are ridiculously easy to swallow. Appy size dishes are $2.75 (for steamed Chinese pork buns, which looked delicious), to $4.95 to $6.95 for the flashed-fried squid. Main dishes are $7.95 to $11.95. Actually, there’s a $29.95 banana leaf mixed grill with whole tilapia, barbecued chicken, beef shortribs and eggplant, served on a banana leaf.

The crispy pata (slow roasted pork hocks), Elima says, is a popular dish. “It’s slow roasted for four hours and quickly deep-fried at service. It’s crispy outside and inside, it’s so tender.”

And quelle surprise — desserts are worth a try too. The warm toffee cake with a banana springroll, butterscotch sauce and vanilla bean ice cream wouldn’t be out of place in a haute dining room and neither would the chocolate trio of flourless chocolate cake, ganache and “Antonio pueo” hot chocolate. There is a small selection of affordable wines, with an eye to working with complex flavours.

When I was leaving after one visit, Elima saw us off with most heartfelt of thank-yous. Hands waving, eyes bright and a smile writ large upon his face: “Thank you! Thank you! Come again!” he cried as we left.



4063 Main St., 604-873-3133. Open seven days a week, lunch and dinner.

Overall RATING 3 1/2

Food RATING 3 1/2

Ambience RATING 3

Service RATING 3 1/2

Price $/$$

Restaurant visits are conducted anonymously and interviews are done by phone. Restaurants are rated out of five stars.

© The Vancouver Sun 2006


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