The sign high over Maximiliano in Huntington Park says "pizza," but not adobo, lechon, lumpiang or guinataan.
Yet these are what chef-owner Andre Guerrero was cooking the other night--a modern Filipino dinner based on the food he has known since childhood.
Born in the Philippines, Guerrero agreed to cook for an event arranged by Culinary Escort, a dining-out and party organization run by a Filipina, Marian Bacol-Uba.
Drawing on memories of his mother's cooking, he added new twists and contemporary techniques to five of his favorite dishes.
Kinilaw, a sort of Filipino ceviche (at top), came out with a jaunty, chewy rice cake on top and slim radish slices around it. The fish was yellowtail, marinated with homemade vinegar and calamansi juice. "I''ve lightened it up a little bit and presented it in a different way," Guerrero said.
Then on to lumpiang Shanghai, tender, crisp spring rolls filled with shrimp and pork and accompanied by a sweet dipping sauce (above). "This is the dish everybody associates with Filipino food," Guerrero said. And he left it as is--"nothing innovative," as he said, because how could you improve anything that is already perfect?
Next up was guinataan (above), a luxurious stew of shrimp and kabocha sqaush in coconut milk. Years ago, Guerrero made this for a party celebrating his sister Monique's birthday. And Monique was on hand to eat it again. You can see what I wrote about her birthday party and get the recipe at this link.
Guerrero turned innovative with chicken adobo (above), the classic dish of meat cooked with soy sauce, vinegar and garlic. Dumping tradition, he deconstructed the chicken, cooked it sous vide and presented it as roulades topped with a thin crisp flake of the skin.
"I've taken a lot of liberty here in calling it chicken adobo," he admitted. But he followed his mom's tradition by serving on the side fresh chopped pico de gallo with patis (fish sauce) and a salted duck egg.
Next came porchetta--well no, lechon (suckling pig) dressed up like porchetta with a wrap of fatty pork belly. (above). "You won't find lechon like this in any Filipino restaurant," Guerrero said. However, he kept the traditional liver sauce intact.
Then pastry chef Jan Purdy took over with dessert--ube flan with dots of blueberry sauce and a coconut sauce that contained tiny tapioca pearls (above). Crossed over the top were pastry "chopsticks" filled with almond frangipane.
Guerrero (above) is often asked if he will open a Filipino restaurant. "The food is so soulful, I don't really know how to interpret it in a restaurant," he said. That's an overly modest statement considering how well he did with a one-night stand.