Despite appearances to the contrary, I don’t frequent upscale restaurants every night, and I do check out new places every now and then. Take today for instance. With Fondy out of town, I decided to just hop into my car and motor off in search of a hidden treasure. My impromptu road trip took me down King Edward and up Main street to my ultimate destination: Sandy‘s Cuisine. I’ve passed the place countless times but never thought to drop in – until I discovered it served Filipino food. Well, what goes better with NFL football than Bicol Express and Halo Halo? Okay, beside pizza and wings.
It’s a low-key cafeteria-style set-up offering a wide range of Filipino faves – and then some. I approached the counter and explained it was my first visit. The woman behind the counter, Tessa, was more than happy to give me a rundown of the various dishes: the Bicol Express (spicy pork in coconut milk), the Caldereta (braised beef with tomatoes and potatoes), the Bistek (beef strips in a soy, lemon glaze)… “Hang on,”I said, pointing to one of the selections she’d missed. “What’s that?”
“Sauteed beef lungs,”she informed me, no doubt expecting me to roll my eyes, shudder, or both. “I skipped it because I didn’t think you’d be interested.”
I informed her I was very interested – and up for anything. Seemingly impressed, she moved on to the other offerings: Callos (beef tripe in a tomato-based stew), Tilapia in coconut milk, Sinigang na Baboy (pork soup in a sour tamarind-based stock). Tessa suggested I might like to try one of the restaurant’s more popular dishes: Tuna Panga (tuna jaw). It was a foreboding-looking piece of fish but it did come highly recommended so I went with the tuna jaw – and four other items including dessert. While I was ordering, owner and chef Sandy Daza came out of the kitchen to say hello. I learned that, n addition to running his restaurant, Sandy also hosts his own cooking show, Cooking With Sandy, on our local SHAW Multicultural Channel. As I prepared to head out, he packed me up a portion of the Caldereta, the braised beef dish I’d failed to order.
So I got home, unpacked the food, heated up my tuna jaw as instructed, and settled down for lunch.
First things first. I thought the grilled tuna jaw would be interesting at best, but one bite and I was wowed. The flesh was moist and tender, perfectly grilled and utterly delicious. It came with a soy dipping sauce that I didn’t even use. The tuna was that good.
The Bicol Express, spicy pork in coconut milk, was another winner – again very tender and very tasty. It’s one of those dishes that sneaks up on you, its sweet and savory flavors so delectable that you’ll forget you should have stopped eating ten minutes ago.
The Bopis, the beef lungs, were also very good – chopped and then sauteed with tomatoes, chiles, and onions.
The Sisig, according to the menu: “pork face served on a sizzling plate”, was the only disappointment. As most of you know, I’m usually all about the pig face yet this version didn’t fare as well in comparison to other’s I’ve tried.
I did enjoy the Caldereta however. Like the meats, the braised beef was fork-friendly and flavorful.
For dessert, I had the Halo Halo, a popular Filipino dessert comprised of shaved ice, milk, and an assortment “sweets” that included red bean, sugar palm fruit, coconut, caramelized plantain, and purple yam. This was a first for me and, surprisingly, the only thing I didn’t like about it was the shaved ice. I removed the bigger shards, waited for the rest to melt, then enjoyed the fabulous results.
Sandy’s Cuisine is a terrific find and one I’ll certainly return to, preferably sooner than later as the owner is considering a move out of the neighborhood to more parking-friendly environs. Next time in, I think I’ll try the Kare Kare (ox tail in satay), the Lechon Kawali (deep fried pork belly), and the Bangbus (smoked boneless milkfish). Who’s with me?!
4186 Main St.