In Oakland’s Temescal neighborhood is the newest addition to the growing Filipino food scene in the Bay Area. The long awaited opening of FOB Kitchen took place last November, taking over the space of Preeti Mistry’s beloved Juhu Beach Club. I decided to try FOB Kitchen’s brunch menu on a Saturday morning, waiting about 45 minutes to be seated. Growing up in a Filipino household, I was, as always, intrigued to see how it compares to my grandmother’s cooking.
I ordered the Pandan Iced Coffee, iced coffee infused with pandan leaves — an aromatic plant commonly used in Southeast Asian cuisine. It was a delicious and refreshing take on iced coffee. If it’s a Friday night out or you’re just feeling extra thirsty, check out the awesome beer and wine list including San Miguel Lager, a Filipino staple. They offer a brilliantly named cocktail list featuring drinks like “Feelin’ Myself“, “Blow the Whistle“, and “The Town“, tying in its East Bay roots.
To start, we began with Shanghai Lumpia, a must-try classic with ground pork, carrots, and water chestnuts with a sweet chili sauce. We shared a few “silog” plates, silog meaning with fried garlic rice topped with an egg. The Tocino, sweet cured pork shoulder, was tender and juicy — a relief from what I’ve sometimes experienced as dry and chewy. The Lechon Kawali, thrice cooked pork belly, was fried, fatty goodness dipped in spiced vinegar to offset the fat. We also tried the Adobo Fried Rice as with Filipino cuisine, you can never have too much rice. The Adobo Fried Rice was a winner — rice cooked with pork adobo, the Filipino national dish.
Did it compare to my grandmother’s cooking? While nothing can ever compare to her dishes, FOB Kitchen sure hit close to home. It’s a refreshing take from the usual cafeteria style Filipino restaurants, with a great atmosphere, friendly service, and delicious eats!
Over the holidays, instead of sitting home eating another portion of leftovers, I decided to take my parents out to Oceanside and try my friend’s new restaurant, Dija Mara. My friend Ryan Costanza has been a chef at many incredible restaurants around the world, so imagine my excitement when I realized that he had a new spot near my parent’s home in Southern California.
When we arrived in Oceanside two days after Christmas, the usually buzzing town was all but silent. Although the streets were quiet, Dija Mara was filled with smiling faces and the delicious smell of Southeast Asian cuisine. Dija Mara is known for their mix of Southeast Asian flavors with Western flair and Japanese cooking techniques, which basically means Balinese Californian food. Already sounds amazing, right?! All of their wine is natural, so this was my parents first time trying natural wine and we went with Ryan’s recommendation of the Vermentino. The wine was funky and paired perfectly with every single dish that was sent out. It’s a rare occasion that the wine matches such a wide range of food, but Ryan personally made sure that every wine in the restaurant pairs well with each dish, so no matter what you order, you’re in good hands. Once the Vermentino got the thumbs of approval from my parents, we knew we could just sit back and enjoy any dish that Ryan sent out.
The first dish that we received was the Grilled Flat Bread on Sonora Wheat Sourdough with roasted chicken curry. The flatbread was grilled like a traditional roti but maintained it’s moist and fluffy texture which made it perfect for scooping up the curry. Then we had the Charred Eggplant which was made with smoked tomato sambal, meyer lemon labne, thai basil and fried shallot. Next up was the Sea Bream Ceviche with kaffir lime, daikon, sambal matah, cassava, black sesame and coconut. This was probably the most shocking dish for me as I’m not one for raw seafood, but somehow, the way they prepare the sea bream, it’s not too “fishy,” but instead it’s light, bright and airy with a hint of lemongrass. Needless to say, we cleaned our plate.
The next dish was the Squash “Gado” which is Japanese sweet potato, variations of squash, persimmon, sunchoke and peanut ghee. This dish was not only beautifully prepared, but it also moved, which was funny to watch my parents react to. This was one of my favorite dishes as the peanut ghee added such an elegant flavor to the squash, and the variations of squash made each bite different from the last. We also had these incredible Corn Fritters made with heart of palm, mango mostarda, crème fraiche, lardo and prawn. Even the Chicken Thigh Satay was prepared in a way that was reminiscent of yakitori which mixed the traditional Balinese satay with Japanese cooking techniques. Just when we thought we couldn’t eat any more, they brought out the Grilled Octopus with Thai pork collar sausage, curried potato, pineapple vinegar and sambal ijo. I love octopus, so this dish was a highlight for me. The pork sausage and curried potato really gave the dish an incredibly authentic Southeast Asian flavor. The last dish of the evening was the Mie Goreng with tomato, sambal matah, cabbage, Chinese sausage and carbonara egg. I love a noodle dish, especially traditional Mie Goreng so I had high hopes for this dish and they exceeded my expectations. The carbonara egg brought to mind Italian influences while still maintaining a traditional flavor with a lot of spice – this by far was my favorite dish. I wish I was eating it right now, honestly. At this point our bellies were full and the wine had come and gone, but Ryan had one more surprise up his sleeve and brought out a Black Sesame Brownie with coconut gelato. I’m not usually a dessert fan, but this was above and beyond! The brownie was so light, and the coconut really gave it a new flavor that I don’t typically taste in desserts.
Overall, I completely understand why Dija Mara was awarded Eater’s San Diego’s restaurant of the year for 2018. If you want authentic Balinese and Southeast Asian cuisine with a California twist, then this is the place for you. And sending a MAJOR thank you to Chef Ryan Costanza for preparing this incredible experience for us. I can’t wait to come back here again and try some more of the natural wine selections and stuff my face with the Mie Goreng!
On the way out to our relaxing trip to Bali, we made a stop in Hong Kong to explore, eat and drink. Everything was incredible and per the suggestion of our friend, we made a special stop at Dr. Fern’s Gin Parlour, an exciting, stylish bar tucked away in the basement of The Landmark. The concept for the bar is that it belongs to Dr. Fern who is a botanist that prescribes gin cocktails for “stress-related ailments.” From the white coats worn by the staff, to the host asking if you have an appointment upon arrival, the theme was executed quite nicely.
Madison – I ordered one of the gimlets that night. In flavor, it was similar to a Moscow Mule. The drink was good, but my favorite part of the bar was the ambiance. We realized there are a lot of trendy bars in Hong Kong. The cocktail scene really seems to be taking off there. Dr. Fern’s seemed to be a particularly popular as it was crowded the night we were there.
Maya – I ordered one of the special gin & tonics that was supposed to be made with Sabatini Gin. Unfortunately, they were out, but they recommended a substitute and it was delicious. It was garnished with olive, cardamom, and thyme. I also loved the ambiance and details that were carried throughout the space to give the feel of a doctor’s office. For example, the Patient Waiting Room was off to the side for if you had a reservation and your table wasn’t ready (we ended up waiting there). The menu has a “personal prescription” section, the bill came in an old pill box, and the servers wore white doctors’ coats. The details were wonderful.
If you find yourself in Hong Kong, we highly recommend stopping in at Dr. Fern’s.
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