SO, there’s just a TOUCH of controversy here. Our friend Bob found this cool, new (to all of us, anyway) Filipino restaurant in the Ravenswood neighborhood of Chicago and so, away we all went for some home-cookin’ Filipino-style.
We got to the restaurant just a wee, tiny bit early for our 6:30 reservations, but were still seated right away by one of the busiest restaurant hosts/waiters/bus persons/etc. I have ever met. Still, busy didn’t keep him from being friendly and helping us to decide (mostly correctly, I think) on our munchie and dinner selections.
At Bob’s urging, we began with an order of 20 Lumpia Shanghai – 20 tiny, tightly wrapped eggrolls filled with pork, jicama, scallion, and stuff – served with what Isla calls a sweet & sour sauce, but which Bob called sweet chili sauce.
it was all to the yummy!
We decided that we needed to sample the Crispy Pucit – beautifully breaded and fried to perfection calamari, served with a nice vinegar and garlic dip but wicked good with the sweet & sour sauce from the lumpia – we really shoulda ordered a couple of extra bowls of that for dipping.
Moving on to dinner, we bowed to our host/waiter/bus person’s recommendations and decided to all share Lechon Kawali, Bicol Express, Pancit Bihon, and their award winning Chicken and Pork Mixed Adobo. Or: deep-fried pork belly with Filipino style gravy – like a brick o’ bacon, but better; mussels, shrimp and squid with some nice veggies all drizzled in coconut milk; pan-fried rice noodles with chicken and veggies; and lastly, chicken and pork marinated in garlic, vinegar, peppercorns, and bayleaves – really nothing like a traditional Spanish or Mexican adobo, but justifiably award winning.
I gotta be honest, I thought it all really, REALLY good – except for my choice for sharing – the Pancit Bihon, which, to me, was just OK. I used to love the Pancit Canton (same thing, basically, but with Chinese instead of rice noodles) at Hi Ricky – a long-gone chain noodle place Rich and I used to like going to on Southport in town – and Isla’s Pancit didn’t quite match the no-doubt bastardized (but good!), slightly smoky flavor I remembered so fondly.
Oh well, that’s MY problem – it was truly a fine meal, after which only Bob and Rich felt up to ordering dessert – Halo-Halo for Bob; crushed ice mixed with fruit and bean preserves over a leche flan, all topped with some bright purple Ube ice cream – imported from the Philipines. Rich settled for just the Ube ice cream – which tasted to me slightly of cashews. Nice.
Isla is a tiny store-front place in a mini-mall just outside of Lincoln Square, and we’re guessing that by the time we arrived at 6:15 or so they had already had a busy day, as they were out of a couple of other things we’d thought to try, but they were looking at an even busier evening as we left, with all the tables filled, and a large party taking up one whole side of the tiny room. Still, we gladly paid (well, Bob paid, he decided to treat us all – thanks, Bob!) our $60 (!) and left, threading our way through the gathering crowd in search of sparkling cocktails…
SO, $60 for all that good, GOOD food – we were shocked, SHOCKED, I tell you – but in a nice way, and will probably go back – maybe for lunch next time, to catch some of those comestibles we missed out on this visit.
If YOU wanna go, here’s the link: http://www.islapilipina.com
Oh, and the controversy? Well, Bob was quite happy, claiming it ‘tasted like home’; but our friend Jon maintains that, while it is indeed good Filipino food, his is better.
I feel a cook-off comin’ on…