Magandang gabi! It’s ya boy Matt Smizzle and I’m here at Grandt Kitchen in Surrey servin up some din-dins Pinay-style wit my fraternity homiez C-Money and Kimiko-mpton. What, you got beef?? This is Philz-style, homie, we’re all about dat pork yo! For some unfathomable reason I had it in my head to write this review entirely in some kind of Filipino b-boy vernacular, but after just one paragraph I’m getting on my own nerves so kain tayo…let’s eat!
Grandt Kitchen Surrey replaces the old Olympia Pizza, and thankfully also replaces my hazy memories of serenading waitresses with drunken karaoke renditions of I’ll Make Love to You at the former’s Filipino soirees. I have to stop typing in order to do a double facepalm right about now but….
…and several minutes of wallowing in shame later, I’m back. Olympia was replaced in the interim by a pretty generic dinner spot that if I remember correctly was catering to the Afro-Caribbean community, but I’m glad they’ve gone back to their Filipino roots with the current incarnation. Grandt Kitchen Surrey pays tribute with their interior design including a bunch of retro Filipino movie posters and advertisements, and a wonder-wall of inspirational quotes on A4 paper. The place has a very welcoming vibe, due in no small part to the staff who were extra jovial and friendly including the obligatory “siiiir!”s as one would be greeted with in the Phils. Gusto ko!
We grabbed a comfy booth and got our garlic on with some complimentary Cornicks, a Filipino puffed corn snack which comes in several flavours but garlic (pronounced gar-LICK in Taglish) is the best. Our waters came in stylish mason jars but getting back to the garlic, this was the absolute BEST garlic rice ($6.50, large) I’ve had the pleasure of eating. Not only does it have plenty of the crispy crunchy cut bits on top, it has half-cooked cloves sprinkled throughout meaning I can still taste it on my breath two days later! Maybe not for all tastes but the crew ate it up. When I complimented the waitress on it later as we were packing doggy-bags she offered to add even more garlic, but at this point I was already worried I would be persona non grata for stinking up the lunchroom the next day so I had to politely decline.
Craig is a relative newcomer to Filipino food, and even for an intrepid food explorer like myself Filipino cuisine presents some challenges. I put Filipino food at the bottom of an international hierarchy for years; too much fat, too much sugar, too much frying, too oily, and most of all too much pork! It’s inescapable, everything has pork in it. Hot dog pieces in spaghetti, pork floss in pastries, seafood n pork, hidden pork in your vegetable sides, pork soda…well maybe that last one was a Primus album, but I’d be willing to bet it’s being served up to an unwitting foreigner somewhere in the Philippines as we speak.
Eventually I came to understand that the tourist slogan, “it’s more fun in the Philippines” rings true for the food as well. Even the most adventurous of eaters may meet their match in Filipino cuisine. Fertilized duck embryos feathers and all, chicken beaten with a stick while still alive and then blowtorched, family dog on the barbecue, intestines swimming in goat’s bile, food scraps scavenged from local dumps and recooked in streetside stalls (note that this one is NOT traditional, but is a byproduct of poverty in the inner cities), bull’s penis and scrotum chopped up in a soup so foul it’s only known by a number as those who have tasted it dare not speak its true name…the list goes on. Yeah, fun.
Anyway Craig wanted something with lots of pork so I recommended the sisig ($13.95). I knew if I told him what was in it he’d refuse, and seeing as how he had already balked at the “blood pudding” I neglected to tell him that this dish was basically chopped pig’s face. Yup; ears, snout, jowls, maybe a bit of tongue, and the Filipino holy trinity of onion, vinegar and chili. Garlic and soy sauce are in there too of course, topped with a raw egg and served on a sizzling platter which you stir up to cook the egg. Lucky for him they normally omit the brains here in Surrey, but if you know where I can get the “creamy” variety please let me know in the comments or slide into our DMs.
We were given the options of half-cooked or crispy and we went for the crispy. Every bite had a different meaty texture; chewy here, mushy there, a bit gristly, a lot crispy. For outside the Philippines this was quite probably the best I’ve had, with one observation: serve promptly. We were so busy snapping pics and working the social that we let things sit a bit too long — tasted great on our initial helpings but when I nuked it at work the next day it had a rather burnt flavour. Regardless the sisig stole the show and was everyone’s favourite, until Craig found out what was in it…”washroom’s over there siiiiir!”
I knew if we were to do Filipino food properly we’d have to do double duty on the pork dishes. I tried to go straight bagnet (pork belly) with perhaps a side of binegar (vinegar — that Taglish again) but the waitress had me second guessing my decision when she prompted “juuust the bagnet sir?” so I went whole hog and got the bagnet and tripe in a peanut butter stew. I feel like aside from adobo, kare kare ($14.95) is the most accessible dish to those unaccustomed to the more “fun” aspects of Pinoy food. Minus the tripe of course, but who doesn’t like pork belly? Peanut butter goes really well with meat, think Thai peanut satay or dan-dan noodles with ground pork. This has more in common with Ghanian peanut butter stew but the basic flavour pairing is at work.
As if the tripe wasn’t enough to make my fellow diners grimace in disgust (and me salivate with anticipation), this dish came with a side of bagoong, a fermented shrimp paste that tastes as pungent as it smells. My favourite way to eat it is with green mangoes but it definitely livened up the tripe here as well and packed a helluva wallop for the tastebuds.
Well maybe this is even a tad more accessible. Pancit Bihon ($10.95) was recommended by a Filipino friend of Kimiko-mpton (along with, you guessed it — chicken adobo) and it was decent. Thin noodles with chicken, cabbage, snow peas and garnished with onion and lemon, this Chinese-influenced dish will neither make enemies nor win converts of Filipino food. As an aside I really want to try pancit luglug (toppings include boiled egg, shrimp, and chorizo) so if you know somewhere that serves it let us know in the comments. Salamat po!
If you’d like a quick protip on how to eat Filipino food, the polite way is to use your fork to push food onto your spoon and use the spoon to guide the food into your mouth. The spoon is also used as a cutting utensil in lieu of a knife. Oh, and don’t forget to eat your tripe, it will put hair on your chest and give you “power”!
Grandt Kitchen had just the right dessert ready for the three of us, a three-piece Turon dish ($4.95). These little lumpia rolls are filled with saba banana, a short and flat type that are a little less sweet and slightly more tart than your garden variety, but Grandt sweetens the pot with vanilla ice cream and a caramel drizzle flecked with sesame seeds. Masarappp!
Stay tuned as we plan to do a follow-up for halo-halo and BOODLE FIGHT! You can stop by Grandt Kitchen Surrey Location on a Wednesday or Thursday for 10% off any order.