Filling Flavors at Filipino Fast-food Restaurant

When the Laguna Hills Mall food court closed, Pinoy Pam’s Best moved up El Toro Road to a location in the strip mall near BevMo and the SmartCo. I’m a novice to Filipino fast food, but the fact that Pinoy Pam’s survived displacement made me want to give it a try.

With generous portions, good prices and what tastes like home cooking, fellow reporter Kristy Chu and I found why the newly relocated restaurant might have stood out in a mall food court. I’m hoping anyone who grew up eating these dishes can weigh in on whether they’re the real thing, but here’s my take on a few of the menu options.

The familiar: Food is still served food-court style; every meal starts with picking between a one- or two-item combo ($5.05 or $5.95). Impossibly fluffy steamed rice or fried rice goes into a foam container, then the big choices begin.

I pick kare kare (show above), which one of the ladies behind the counter questions if I’ll like. The combination of beef in peanut sauce is definitely a different flavor for me, but it doesn’t disappoint.

Exceedingly tender meat with a variety of greens is a great place to start for any dish, and the sweet sauce is a little addictive.

Monggo (mung bean soup) reminds me of lentil soup with its savory, hearty qualities. But unlike most lentil soups, this is satisfyingly meaty stuff, featuring shrimp and little chewy, fatty chunks of pork.

Afritada features pork in a tomato-based sauce, and it’s a little sweeter than I expect. Potatoes and beans again give this a hearty feel, and it simply tastes like comfort food.

We don’t catch the name of this mix of ground beef, quail eggs, beans and onions. Like the other dishes, it’s simple and a little heavy, with the greasy meat presenting the most dominant flavor.

I’m told Calamansi will help fight a cold. Probably the vitamin C? In any case, the lemon drink is sort of like Kool-Aid meets lemonade – thin, sugary and refreshing.

As we become entranced by a Filipino variety show on a wall-mounted TV, I only manage to work my way through half of my mountains of rice and entrees . Next time, I’ll have to come hungrier – must be a rookie mistake.
Pinoy Pam’s Best 23635 El Toro Rd Suite GLake Forest 949-454-0412.

Source: Orange County Register