Have you tried new wave Filipino-American food yet? There's a growing group of Filipino-American chefs, often second or third generation, sharing familiar flavors of their childhood across the country. It was hard to ignore the examples that cropped up in L.A. alone throughout 2015.
You could've opted for adobo fried rice for brunch at République. You may have feasted on rice sourced from the Philippines that Charles Olalia dresses with pork longganisa or crispy dilis (anchovies) and Haas avocado at RiceBar. Perhaps it was a fried chicken sandwich on house-made pan de sal brightened with thin slices of pickled green papaya, when Ria and Matt Wilson helmed Wild at Canelé, their weekday lunch service in Atwater Village (closed for now since November). And then there was pancit with calamansi butter or toyomansi-braised short ribs whenever brothers Chase and Chad Valencia hosted their LASA dinner series at venues like Elysian.
Because LASA's dishes were available only during limited-seating events, the likelihood was that you got acquainted with some of L.A.'s most exciting Filipino cooking through a camera lens. Soon, though, you won't have to feed off of Instagram alone. Later this month, the Valencias unveil LASA as the first residency at restaurant incubator Unit 120 (Eggslut chef Alvin Cailan’s test kitchen) in Chinatown. After taking a general hiatus since last September, the brothers will return with their seasonal four-course, prix fixe dinner available from 6 to 10 p.m., Friday through Sunday for at least the first half of the year. The Filipino-inspired dinner will run $48 per person.
At Unit 120, the brothers will have a dedicated space to build upon lessons gleaned from running LASA as a pop-up series since 2013. Cailan also will provide infrastructural support, which could include connecting them with resources such as lawyers and restaurant designers, while the Valencias get to focus on flexing their culinary creativity. “There was a sense of limitation, running things once a month. With the residency, we can let ideas develop and really expand the menu,” Chase Valencia says. “We'll get to ferment all types of things. It's exciting,” his brother adds.
The three met at a speaking event for Filipino-American organization Next Day Better in 2015. On having LASA as the first resident at Unit 120, Cailan says, “They're the kind of people we were looking for and the reason why we're opening this space.”
Whereas LASA aligns with his desire to “help a Filipino food movement cross over,” Cailan emphasizes that Unit 120 is meant for “highly talented chefs with a really great concept who are looking for a permanent home, but still have to showcase their stuff in order to get more exposure.”
“When we started in November [2014 at Elysian], they'd fill out in five days to a week,” Chase Valencia says. “By the end [of the run], we'd book about 120 seats in like 15 minutes — and on top of that there'd be around 100 to 200 people on the wait list.”
“This is definitely the perfect next step for us, after the pop-up but before a brick-and-mortar,” Chad Valencia says.
The brothers say they are investing all of their resources, having quit their day jobs with the launch of LASA at Unit 120. The tentative menu to kick off their residency may include winter citrus and radicchio salad, pancit with bagoong XO sauce, crispy duck arroz caldo and a pear ginataan with coconut milk and pandan syrup. In keeping with their California sensibility, Chad Valencia will switch out dishes according to what's available at farmers markets.
Meanwhile, alongside LASA, Unit 120 will host prominent chefs from California, Portland, Oregon, and New York in coming months. There may even be a few Top Chef alumni making appearances.
LASA at Unit 120, 727 N. Broadway, Chinatown. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to get on the mailing list for notification on the opening or to make general inquiries. Future reservations will be made through lasa-la.com.