Royal Kubo gets four stars simply for being something really different a Filipino karaoke bar/restaurant. Your experience would be enhanced if you could go, as I did, with a person who grew up on Filipino food. For her seventh birthday, my guide, Linelle Mogado, received a halo-halo shaver (keep reading for an explanation), which may tell you something about the importance of food in the culture.
Basically, Filipino food is a mix of native methods and ingredients, influenced by Chinese customs and then again by the Spanish colonizers: rice, of course, and lots of garlic and vinegar, which make for tasty broths. No chopsticks the traditional way to eat is with the hands, although the Westernized version is with fork and spoon.
A good place to start is with the combo dinner. This gives you pansit, a Chinese-like, thin-noodle dish with vegetables, chicken, shrimp, slices of hard-boiled egg and lemon to squeeze, plus a choice of one other dish. I ordered adobo, with pork, chicken and potatoes in a mild sauce delicious, if a little greasy.
A special dish is kare-kare, a huge bowl of four big oxtails, green papaya, green beans and eggplant in a peanut sauce. This comes with a side dish of bagoong, a bright pink paste of baby shrimp, fermented and extremely salty; Linelle pointed out the tiny black dots that are the shrimps eyes. Use this sparingly if youre not used to it dont just spoon up a mouthful the way I did.
I also tried shrimp sinigang, this time with giant adult shrimp, onion, eggplant, green beans and big hot peppers, all in a tamarind broth. It tasted great, although the size of the components and the liquidity of the soup made it perplexing to eat neatly.
Another good soup "What you eat when youre sick," said Linelle was lemon-chicken-rice, quite lemony.Cassava cake, a bland, cream-of-wheatish dessert, served warm, is a second comfort food. It would be perfect for a blue winter night why anyone would invent it in the tropics is mysterious.
The cuisine is generally aggressively meat-based fried garlic and pork are used to start off and flavor just about everything, according to Linelle but our vegetarian co-diner was quite pleased with the selection.
There are eggrolls OK, but a pretty greasy wrapper and pinakbet, a stew of smoky eggplant, tomatoes, long green beans and bitter melons. The latter are indeed bitter and are reputed to have medicinal qualities; as the owner walked by, he said, "Those are good for you."
Several dishes, such as papaitan, are based on tripe, liver or hog maws. Theres also ihaw-ihaw, which here is a choice of charbroiled or deep-fried fish. In the Philippines, it would be a spread of fresh raw meats and seafood.
Dont leave without trying halo-halo (mix-mix). This is a dessert of shaved ice with condensed milk, cubes of leche flan (a custard), sweet red beans, white beans and fruit maybe a mango, maybe a canned peach. It would be a lot better if the ice truly were shaved rather than in the pellets Royal Kubo uses. What happened to their halo-halo shaver?
The crowd is primarily Filipino, though all are made welcome. The karaoke officially begins at 9 p.m., but doesnt really get going till much later. If youre going primarily to sing, the menu does include T-bone steak, fried chicken and wing dings.