January 6, 2010

Gristly bits, Filipino style...

I fully intended to make a nice chicken-veg-pasta soup last night (with De Cecco acini di pepe!!), but after walking the dogs and doing some work around the house, I just didn't have enough time. So, the wife and I decided to check out one of the restaurants in our 'hood that we've been eyeballing for a while.

Columbia City is one of the most diverse neighborhoods in Seattle and has a wide range of incredible ethnic restaurants, so we're never at a loss for awesome, authentic food from just about country in the world you can imagine. The Philippines in particular is very well represented in the CC/Beacon Hill area, so when hunger struck, we set out for Kawali Grill to try out this amazing fried chicken
(pandan) we've heard about.

Kawali Grill was pretty dead when we got there, which was a bit of a put off considering it was prime time for the dinner crowd, but we pushed on anyway. We walked in and were told by the nice gentlemen behind the bar to sit anywhere we liked, so we grabbed a table in the corner and watched a weird-ass Filipino game show that was playing on both TVs at full blast while we waited to have our order taken. After a few minutes of hanging out and trying to make sense of what we were watching, the lone waiter/chef came over, took our orders, then dashed off in to the kitchen to make it happen.

We ordered fried lumpia as a starter, and while Kawali does offer the more traditional fresh version, we weren't feeling it. The wife went with Pandan chicken, which are chicken fingers marinated with coconut milk, ginger and soy sauce, coated in panko, deep fried, then covered with the ubiquitous sweet chili sauce, while I decided on sisig.

Sisig (aka sizzling sisig) is a traditional Filipino dish that's typically made up of a combination of pig ears, jowls, snout, liver, and other assorted odds and ins. Kawali Grill's particular implementation consists of pig ears, snout, stomach, chicken livers, onions, and jalapenos all chopped up and 'grilled' on a griddle, then served on a sizzling plate with a side of lemon and rice.

The lumpia were okay; nothing special, while the wife's pandan chicken was delicious, but almost anything coated in panko, deep friend, and doused with sweet chili sauce would be. It was nicely presented with rice, a fried plantain chip, and some very limp, steamed mix vegetables.

The sisig was about what I expected: porky, greasy, and every bite chock full of crazy textures. I could almost pick out each of the various bits of pig and chicken parts within each bite, with the jowls and snout providing a cartilage like crispness, the stomach bits were chewy and tough, while the chicken liver melted in my mouth. I never got any jalapeno heat, but I assumed that Kawali had toned down the heat level for the brutally bland NW palette anyway, so I was forced to rely on my old friend, Rooster brand sriracha to get my heat fix.

Sisig by itself is a bit much, and not because the textures or taste are too weird to enjoy. I found the dish to be far too greasy, and while I enjoyed trying it, I think sisig would be much better filling for traditional taquería style tacos rather than as a stand alone dish. Give me some corn tortillas, diced onions, cilantro, some radishes, and a nice salsa de arbol, and sisig would be pretty much the best thing ever.

As it is, Kawali Grill wasn't bad. We spent under 40$ for two entrees, and appetizer, and a couple of San Migs (the infamous Filipino beer), which ain't bad for dinner for 2 in Seattle. Wasn't the best Filipino food I've ever had, but not bad for a Tuesday night out.

pandan chicken

Sisig from Kawali grill

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