If you’re jonesing for some lumpia, halo-halo or adobo chicken, there’s a new spot in Larkfield offering up authentic cuisine from the Philippines. Tambayan, which means “hang out” in Tagalog (the native language of the South Pacific island chain) opened in April.
Since then, the family-run restaurant has been quietly serving up both familiar and “what exactly is this?” dishes to neighborhood diners.
On a recent visit, we fell in love with their rib-sticking breakfasts (silog) noodle bowls, beef satay and off-beat specialties like pan-grilled milkfish, pork sisig (minced pork with rice, onions, and mayonnaise) or laing with dried taro leaves, coconut milk and pork.
It’s best to go in with an open mind and hungry belly because some of the best dishes require a bit of trust if you’re not familiar with the eclectic cuisine of the Filipino culture.
Trade and settlement have brought together traditional island flavors (taro, coconut milk, banana leaves, banana sauce, fish) with influences from China (egg rolls, rice, soy sauce, steamed buns), Spain (adobo) and America (Spam — you’re welcome).
There are frequent off-menu additions that sometimes need a little explanation, but it’s worth having an adventure trying something like mung bean cookies or lechon belly (rolled pork belly that’s much like porchetta).
Other favorites include fried spring rolls with ground meat (Lumpia Shanghai), Pork Adobo — fall-apart meat cooked in soy sauce and vinegar with rice) and banana sauce on everything. Condiments are definitely part of the experience, and contrary to its name, banana sauce is a lot like sweet ketchup.
Save room for halo-halo. This traditional dessert combines crushed ice, evaporated milk, coconut strips, sweet beans, gelatin and a scoop of purple yam ice cream. Just trust us that this is the most surprisingly delicious dessert you’ve never had before.
Tambayan: 600 Larkfield Center, Larkfield-Wikiup, 707-843-3824.