Friday, May 18, 2018

Likha Opens Inside Hometown Heroes Sports Bar with Modern Filipino Food

By Momo Chang
Fri, May 18, 2018 at 2:19 PM

click to enlarge A full spread at Likha. - PHOTO COURTESY OF AGGIE REVANE/@MISSMIYAGGIE
  • Photo courtesy of Aggie Revane/@missmiyaggie
  • A full spread at Likha.

Filipino food pop-up Likha has been rotating through locations like Starline Social Club and Ramen Shop for more than a year. Earlier this week, it softly opened within Emeryville’s Hometown Heroes Sports Bar. June 1 marks the grand opening, which is when Likha will be open daily for dinner. Until then, you can check it out on nights the Warriors are playing.

The bar itself is also brand new, located in the former Propaganda space at 4000 Adeline St. This is the bar owners’ third one; they also have South San Francisco’s Hometown Heroes and San Francisco’s Trademark & Copyright. The bar manager is BJ Tilos, who formerly worked as a bartender at Blind Tiger.

Likha means “to create” in Tagalog, and chefs Jan Dela Paz and Bobby Punla infuse that idea into their food. They met while cooking at Ramen Shop. Both are classically trained and worked in Michelin-starred restaurants prior to working at Ramen Shop. They fuse French techniques with traditional flavors, yet their food isn’t fussy — it’s at a sports bar, after all.

“Everyone is excited about tasting Filipino food,” said Punla, who was born and raised in Richmond. "We just wanted to get back to our Filipino roots — going with tradition, but using fresh produce from California.”

The chefs hope that one day, Filipino food will become as popular as Thai or Vietnamese, especially given that Filipino Americans are the largest Asian American population in California at about 1.5 million.
Likha started as Dela Paz’s pop-up with another Filipino American chef who worked at Ramen Shop, Catherine Baquiran, who later moved out of state. “That was fun,” Dela Paz said about that first pop-up. “It was exciting.”

Dela Paz, who started working at Ramen Shop because he wanted to open a ramen restaurant in Napa, was born and raised in the Philippines. But now, Dela Paz said he has changed his mind and feels committed to serving Filipino food. “Why do something else, if this is what I grew up knowing and eating?”
click to enlarge Bobby Punla and Jan Dela Paz. - PHOTO COURTESY OF LIKHA
  • Photo courtesy of Likha
  • Bobby Punla and Jan Dela Paz.

Currently, their menu includes dishes such as a Patis caramel fried chicken sandwich ($14). The chicken thighs are brined in Patis fish sauce, lemongrass, and ginger; fried in a rice flour batter; and then covered in Patis-caramel glaze. It comes with fries, with the highlight being the house-made “banana ketchup” made from roasted plantains, which is probably the best house-made ketchup out there. They also have chicharrones with adobo spice ($5), barbecued ribs ($14), and a healthy portion of Niman Ranch pork lumpia ($8) with two types of dipping sauces.

On June 1, they will debut a fuller menu with rice bowls — think chicken adobo with a sous vide egg; sisig (marinated pork served on a sizzling plate with vinegar) and lechon kawali (fried, crispy pork belly) and more lumpia.

Their “from scratch” approach leads them to creating things like Spam longanisa (sweet Filipino sausage), using a terrine and sous vide process, which they hope to add to their menu soon in the form of sliders or sandwiches, as well as when they eventually add breakfast and brunch.

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