The third establishment on my Filipino dining wishlist was Cucina Manila, a turo-turo restaurant by Joyce Station. It was highly praised by a colleague and a salsa dancing acquaintance, both of whom make their respective commutes from New Westminster and the West End to partake in its culinary offerings.
It was hyped to be much better than Sandy’s Cuisine, the restaurant that has recently trumped Josephine’s Restaurant as my Filipino restaurant of choice. Last weekend, my husband and I made the trip over to Cucina Manila to see just what was so extraordinary about this place.
Let’s start with the menudo, the pork stew that was once my favourite at Josephine’s and whose degradation I have been lamenting ever since.
While the quality was indeed better than the recipe currently being dished out at Josephine’s, it still doesn’t compare to my mom’s recipe, nor the one that I’ve secretly loved more than my mother’s by former Josephine’s chef, Mang Rene.
The other dishes we ordered were decent at best. Both of us were let down that we had travelled all this way for food that we could have made better at home. We also weren’t thrilled that there was no posted menu to speak of. It quite intimidated my husband, who felt very conscious of his lack of Filipino vocabulary and his unfamilarity with the dishes that were on display.
Hoping that our dining experience was just an off day, I took home an order of daing and kutsina to try out over the next few days.
Daing is butterflied milkfish that’s been marinated in vinegar and garlic and fried till crispy. It’s one of my favourite Filipino breakfast dishes, but cooking something this pungent at home would induce the wrath of all of our neighbours (not to mention my husband). The daing from Cucina Manila did a good job of satisfying my breakfast craving, and was probably the best tasting item out of the ones we had sampled.
The kutsinta was passable. It was by no means as good as the stuff my aunts have served us at the monthly Filipino potlucks we attend, but it was better than anything I could have made myself.
Would we come back and see if we’d like other dishes at Cucina Manila? Probably not. Perhaps I’m so used to how my family makes certain dishes that the style of cooking at Cucina Manila is simply not to my taste. Perhaps my husband’s discomfort at feeling out of place and unwelcome as a non-Filipino was an impression I’ll have a hard time overcoming. At any rate, Josephine’s and Sandy’s are much closer to our downtown abode and will likely continue to be our go-to places until I complete my tour of the other Filipino restaurants in the Lower Mainland.
Want to convince me otherwise? Leave me a comment and let’s see if I can be persuaded to try Cucina Manila once more.
5179 Joyce Street | Vancouver
Other blog reviews of Cucina Manila:
- Van Eats: First visit: Cucina Manila
Filipino Restaurant Series to date: