Mabuhay Cafe: A foodie's delight

My first time there -- an institution for all lovers of Filipino food -- at a surprising time of day. Who knew there was such good food at 8:30 p.m. on notorious River Street?

My exposure to Filipino food has been limited, unfortunately. That's what happens when you don't grow up in Kalihi or Waipahu, where most of the best f ood from the P.I. is. But I love it for its similarities (see the vinegar-based veggies at top right) and differences (Spanish influence?).

There are no two shrimp sari sari that are alike. This one is addictive. Savory, but not overwhelming. The shrimp were succulent, but the soup was a perfect medium between rich and light. No root/starch type vegetables here; when I first tried this dish at Tante's (then in Kona), it was stocked with tasty, heavy veggies and something that was a super-dense potato-ish root. This one is lighter and just as delectable.

The pork adobo at Mabuhay Cafe is pure ecstasy. Tender and moist, sweet and just a tiny bit spicy. Adobo is to the Philipppines what kal bi is to Korea. When it's done right, it's heavenly. And addictive.

Fried chicken? What's so Filipino about that? I dunno. I just know it was good. Don't you know Filipinos love their chickens?

Best pork lumpia I have ever tasted. These women at Mabuhay Cafe know how to cook. Everything they touch is golden. I left that restaurant with old buds Donald and Mark in total awe. As Donald said, this is Filipino soul food.

I must add this: the white rice was perfect. Not too fluffy, not too densely moist. Perfect. That was especially impressive because they were about an hour away from closing, and a lot of places have nothing but crunchy, stale rice by then. I love Mabuhay Cafe, their great service, comfortable chairs and tables. It felt almost like eating at somebody's house, and their mom and grandma were cooking up their favorites for you.

Of course, I went right to the gym two hours later and rode that bike for eternity. Break the law, pay the price. It was worth every mouthful for sari sari, adobo and chicken (and lumpia)!

Mahalo to Donald for the great photos.