Isla Pilipina doesn't look like much from the outside. Tucked away in a crammed strip mall, it's worth setting out to find (make sure to keep an eye out for #D), as this small spot serves up some of the best Filipino food around.
The current owners implemented some changes when they took the space over. A fresh coat of mint green paint gives the restaurant a clean, open feel, and small paintings of scenes from the Philippines serve as a link to the islands. They've also brought on a set of new chefs, whose expertise extends beyond Filipino cuisine into other East Asian dishes, giving the menu a fusion-esque quality.
For starters, try the gigantic lumpia, the Filipino take on the spring roll. The massive, burrito-size roll comes filled with bean sprouts, carrots and other veggies and served in a sweet, peanut-y, tauco sauce. A mini-order of ten lumpiang Shanghai, pork-filled fried rolls, will set you back $1.50.
Ask the staff for recommendations, and they'll tell you about the popular adobo, a ginger, garlic and peppercorn sauce served with a variety of meats (or not) over white rice. Its portion, again, is humongous, the large chunks of beef cooked to perfection. Another option, pancit, stir-fried, thin rice noodles, comes topped with cabbage, green onion and tofu. Large parties may want to try the sinalab, a huge, sizzling seafood feast for $35.
Most everything on the menu costs less than $10 and, considering the portion size, it's an extremely good value. Food specials change weekly, and Isla Pilipina is BYOB.
Average cost: <$10
Centerstage Reviewer: Bill Burman