Maria Canlas and her three brothers, who have always dreamed of owning their own restaurant, have opened Jonathan's Grill/Pampanga's (8388 West Sam Houston Pkwy., 281-530-8887) in the food court of the Viet Hoa Center. The family comes from Pampanga, a town in the central Philippines that, according to Maria, "is known for its very flavorful and rich food, which is a mix of Spanish and Chinese cuisines."
The siblings are answering a demand for Filipino cuisine. "In New York and L.A., there are streets and streets of Filipino restaurants," says Maria, "and there's quite a demand in Houston for Filipino food."
We tried the Sizzling Beef Salpicao, or chunks of beef marinated in soy sauce and topped with onions. It is a tasty and filling dish. The Pork Barbecue and Sisig with Rice also proved to be an excellent choice. It came with a side portion of atchara, or sweet, pickled papaya, which went perfectly with the skewered pork. But when we first ordered it, Maria's brother Jonathan had a question for us. "Have you ever tried Sisig?" We said we hadn't, and he continued, "because it's fried pigs' ears and other parts." We didn't flinch at this description, and enjoyed the dish.
The Buko, or sweet coconut juice, contained small pieces of coconut that somehow managed to make it through the straw. And the Calamansi juice, which we hadn't heard of, turned out to be made from a type of citrus native to the Philippines. It was refreshing. One hint: The menu board can be intimidating since the dishes have no English translations, but the to-go menu, situated on the counter where you order, does.
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