Saturday, July 28, 2007

Barrio Fiesta - CLOSED

After being disappointed by the last three Filipino restaurants I visited, I was really hoping that Barrio Fiesta would break my unlucky streak and guess what? It did.

When I walked into the waiting area for the first time, I already liked the vibe. There were various art pieces on display from the light sculptures of a man and a woman dressed in traditional Filipino garb to the funky wood-carved chairs and table to the rectangular mirror that also depicted a colorfully carved "Barrio Fiesta" or neighborhood party.

The two main dining rooms to the left of the waiting had brightly painted walls that were cheery as well as having these really interesting chairs that were black with a rounded flowered patterned back and differentiated by various colored seat cushions.

Even the waiters were dressed in eye-catching barongs, which are embroidered formal garments worn by Filipino men usually for a special occasion or wedding. Upon first seeing the waiters, I kept looking around the dining room to see if there was some kind of wedding reception going on before realizing that the barongs were actually what the waiters were wearing. Perhaps, the barongs are a way of signifying that every meal at Barrio Fiesta is a special occasion? If so, that's a pretty good subliminal message.

For my first meal there, my dining partner and I shared 3 dishes: paksiw na lechon (roasted pork cooked in vinegar, herbs and spices), guinataang shrimp (shrimp & vegetables cooked in coconut milk) and garlic fried rice.

I really liked the tangy sauce from the paksiw. Unfortunately, the one complaint I had about this dish was that there wasn't enough actual meat. It was too heavy on bones and fat. At least, the meat that was there was tender. The shrimp dish was wonderful and the coconut sauce was so good that I literally basted my rice with it. As for the garlic fried rice, with more garlic, it would have been even better.

For dessert, I had the halo-halo (shaved ice with evaporated milk, sweetened beans and fruit and ice cream) and what made this halo-halo stellar for me was that the ice was so finely shaved that it was relatively easy to mix the ice cream, the milk, the ice and all the other ingredients all together as opposed to needing an ice pick to do the job. It was a perfect way to end my meal.

For my second visit there, I came with a larger group and this time we were seated in the room to the right of the waiting area. Compared to the bright colorfulness of the other two dining rooms, this room seemed like a cave with its dark orange walls. Hopefully, the look is just temporary.

With 11 in my group this time, we ordered 10 different dishes. Of the 10, my four favs included:

*Lumpia Shanghai (fried egg rolls with ground pork) - crispy, fried to a nice golden brown, pork filling was moist and surprisingly the egg rolls weren't as oily as fried foods can sometimes get

*Crispy Pata (deep-fried pig's knuckles) - skin was deliciously crunchy and the pork meat was also tender and moist

*Sotanghon Guisado (bean thread noodles sauteed with pork and shrimp and mixed with shredded vegetables) - the noodles absorbed well the flavors of the pork and shrimp plus I liked its slightly fried-chewy texture.

*Grilled Bangus (boneless milkfish grilled with butter and vegetables) - quite heavenly to eat milkfish without having to worry about the seemingly hundreds of small bones this fish normally has and then adding butter to the mix, how can you go wrong?

I also liked how the Sinbala, a large platter of various grilled meats and seafood that came with a variety of sauces from vinegar with pickled carrots to shrimp sauce. The addition of quail eggs to our Chicken Adobo dish was something I never saw before, so that was a unique touch and the vinegar, soy, garlic-based sauce was perfect to pour on my rice. I didn't even need to eat the chicken. That sauce was enough.

The 4 remaining dishes included two different types of fried rice, Pinakbet (vegges, pork and shrimp cooked in shrimp sauce) and Kare-Kare (oxtail, pork and tripe cooked in peanut sauce). While not my favo
rites, these dishes were still pretty good. The only comment I have is on the Kare-Kare. The sauce didn't taste as peanutty as I would have liked plus I didn't think there was enough vegetables.

Also, I want to note three things. While Pansit Malabon is on the menu, they don't serve it, so don't bother ordering it. That was a bit annoying. Also, compared to other Filipino restaurants I've been to, the prices are higher, but the portions and the quality of the food are enough to warrant them. Finally, reservations are only taken for 10 or more.

Overall, I really enjoyed my meal at Barrio Fiesta. The service was good and with a couple of exceptions, the food was excellent. I would definitely go back and recommend this restaurants to both family and friends alike.

To see pics, go to:

Barrio Fiesta
4420 Eagle Rock Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90041
(323) 259-5826

Barrio Fiesta on Urbanspoon

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