Pin Pin Restaurant
6113 Fraser Street
Filipino food has a bit of a PR problem. Not unlike many other cuisines, Filipino food revolves around family gatherings and religious feasts – not around restaurants. Essentially, it is “potluck” cuisine: the best food isn’t prepared by chefs, but by various aunties, grandmas, grandpas, uncles, dads…all with their own specialties. Filipino restaurant cuisine in the West has not evolved beyond the all-too-common buffets (“turo-turo”). Unfortunately for many non-Filipinos, buffets – where the food is of dubious freshness – are their entry into this cuisine . It really doesn’t come as a surprise that non-Filipinos find this food either: unappetizing, or mysterious.
Pin Pin is one of the rare restaurants that prepares their food fresh from the kitchen – no steam tables here. (So far, I know of three restaurants that do this here in the Vancouver area…there may be more.) Pin Pin labels itself as a Chinese-Filipino restaurant, and the menu has a Chinese section at the back. (As a matter of interest, Pin Pin is the name of one of the streets in Manila’s Chinatown – established in the 15th century, making it the world’s oldest.) I prefer to order the “straight” Filipino food, however.
Their specialty is “Crispy Pata” (pictured above) – an awkwardly named dish that draws from two of the Philippines’ historical colonial masters: the Americans (for the word “Crispy”) and Spaniards (for “Pata” – the Spanish word for foot). Crispy Pata is an ode to the Filipino love for all things porcine. It is a dangerously delicious dish made from a pre-boiled pork leg that is then deep fried until it is crispy. Though it sounds greasy and cholesterol-enhancing, the dish comes off as almost “light” – especially the skin which is crispy and airy.
The menu lists a very good survey of this highly regional cuisine with a good representations of classics from Luzon and the Visayas. Not unusually, they don’t list any food from the Muslim South (Mindanao) where the cuisine is akin to Malaysian and Indonesian food. The Filipino buffet classics are all there, like Pinakbet pictured above. Oddly missing (and perhaps understandable – considering its ubiquity as a home-cooked meal in Filipino households) is the “National Dish” of Adobo.
If you are looking for an introduction to this cuisine, Pin Pin has some reasonably priced lunch specials that comes with rice and two dishes. Check them out if you are in this area.