Lunch started like a bad Abbot and Costello skit.
“Let’s get halo halo,” my friend said.
“Yeah, uh, hi there.” Sometimes I mumble. Maybe she didn’t hear my earlier salutations.
“No, halo-halo,” she said.
“Hellooooooooo,” I say again, thinking, sheesh Mel, get a hearing aid.
“No, they have halo-halo!”
“It’s like a milkshake. You’ll like it,” she laughs.
Mmmmm. Milkshake. BiteClub enjoys milkshakes.
On cue, Karen, our bubbly cruise director of Filipino cuisine/waitress sashays over. She has a giant smile, a wiggly, giggly way about her, and describes everything on the menu at Trisha’s Lumpia House as “Really Good!” But aside from the fact that halo halo is really good, I’m not really following too much else she’s telling me. She does seem a little dubious about us actually drinking the stuff.
“Halo halo!” arrives. Karen stands and watches Meloni and I look at the milkshake imposter like the cautious Midwestern girls we actually are.“You like?” I’m pretty sure she’s making fun of us.
Hmmm. Okay. Yes, it does look kind of like a milkshake. Except with a whole lot of ice on top and floaties swimming around at the foot of the glass. What else can we do but dive in and pull out the slimy treasure? Yum. Sweet ice cream, crunchy ice, mangoes, coconut and…crunch…uh, is that a garbanzo bean?
“You like it?” Karen’s smiling and giggling again as Mel and I pick through the Filipino milkshake like archaeologists. We pull out and identify the shaved ice, diced mangos, strings of coconut meat, sweet red beans, garbanzos, ice cream and sweet gelatinous blobs of kaong (also called sugar palm fruit). Yes, we do like it. Minus the beans. Extra kaong. Karen is happy.
Going Pinoy is the name of the game at Trisha’s Lumpia House, Sonoma County’s first (as far as anyone we talked to knows) Filipino restaurant. Hidden in Petaluma’s G&G Shopping Center, Karen tells us that much of the clientele are curious, um, obviously non-Filipino eaters like us and she’s always happy to walk folks through the menu. She locks us onto Pork Adobo, lumpia (think fried spring rolls), pancit noodles (think Pad Thai or chowmein) and Sitaw at Kalabasa (long beans and squash in coconut milk).
It doesn’t take long for the newly initiated to figure out who’s contributed to the mash-up of flavors from these steamy Pacific Islands: China, Indonesia and Spain–mostly. So, like any good food adventurer, you’ll want to dive right in. Start off with lumpia, ($3.25) crispy egg rolls similar to those you’d find at any Chinese restaurant, served with sweet chili dipping sauce. Pork adobo ($8.95) is a must-have dish, marinated in soy sauce, garlic and vinegar. It’s the unofficial national dish of the Philippines and one of the first things kids learn to cool (kind of like your five year old making peanut butter and jelly).
Keep going with House Pancit,($.7.95) rice sticks and bean threads (clear, thin noodles) tossed with veggies and meat with a squeeze of lime. The restaurant also offers tradition Filipino plates of Bistek (Filipino beef steak), Afritada (a tomato-based pork and vegetable dish), oxtail in peanut sauce, and soup-based dishes like Nilaga, Sinigang Baboy and Hipon. Party trays of most dishes, as well as menudo and pork belly are also available. Oh, and yes, there is a Trisha. She just didn’t happen to be there when we visited.
The tiny restaurant, with only a few tables and the obviously casual staff can be a bit intimidating at first, but when Karen’s around, the place warms up quickly, with everyone chatting between tables. Check out what your neighbors are eating and ask lots of questions. Just don’t fill up, because it’s worth saving room for dessert. Karen’s proud of the biko she frequently makes (she only rarely has kitchen duties), a sweet sticky rice in coconut syrup, along with flan and, of course, a nice big glass of halo-halo. With beans or without.
Trisha’s Lumpia House, 701 Sonoma Mountain Parkway next to G&G Market, Petaluma,707.778.3845. Open for dine in or take out daily from 11am to 8:30pm.