Filipinos love adobo, the national dish of slow-cooked meat seasoned with black peppercorns, bay leaves and lots of garlic. "At home, we can eat adobo with rice at breakfast, lunch and dinner," says Eva Tellez, a cook at Kabayan in Fort Washington, where there is a sizable Filipino community.
On a recent afternoon, of the nine prepared entrees on view behind the service counter at the cafeteria-style restaurant, six featured pork. "That's what we like best," says Tellez, a native of Manila. (A mix primarily of Spanish, Chinese and Malaysian cooking traditions, Filipino dishes often derive their flavor from fatty meats and tend to be oily.)
The best is the delicious, tender pork adobo ($5.20 for 8 ounces), which is reminiscent of Southern pulled pork laced with soy sauce. A close second is the deep-fried pork ($8.35 a pound), with crackly, crisp skin and chewy meat, accompanied by a sweet plum dipping sauce. The finely chopped bok choy with ground pork ($4.73 for 8 ounces) has a clean, healthful taste. Dinuguan, pork slow-cooked in beef and pork blood ($5.20 for 8 ounces), is intensely meaty and powerfully salty. But the combo of okra and green beans, sauteed with bits of pork and pungent shrimp paste ($4.73 for 8 ounces), may be an acquired taste.
Beyond pork, deep-fried scad ($1 each), a small, pencil-length fish, tastes like mackerel, but, like the whole fried tilapia ($7.30 each), it's too dry. A better choice is the floral-scented chicken curry ($5.20 for 8 ounces), with chunks of bird on the bone mingling with pieces of carrot and potato, all enriched with coconut milk.
In addition to the prepared entrees, there is a short menu of cooked-to-order Filipino favorites such as lumpia ($2.30 for four rolls). Similar to an egg roll but about the size and shape of a cigar, the lumpia are thin, flaky wrappers filled with lightly seasoned carrot, onion and ground beef. -- Walter Nicholls (May 30, 2007)