The sand­wich takes a joyride through Filipino fla­vors

Northern Living - - EATS - TEXT RENZ NOLLASE PHO­TOG­RA­PHY PA­TRICK SE­GOVIA

Parked in a still-ob­scure food park in Kapi­tolyo is a be­he­moth of a black jeep­ney that serves dis­tinct Filipino fla­vors in the compact form of a sand­wich.

Para: Filipino Sand­wich Bar was born out of owner John Spakowski III’s love of Filipino food and western sand­wiches. But with his back­ground in film and mu­sic, it was his part­ner, chef Alex Miche­lena, who got tasked with trans­lat­ing the con­cept of a Filipino sand­wich into a de­li­cious, hand-held re­al­ity.

To come up with a sand­wich, you need your pro­tein, your dress­ing, your acid, and your veg­eta­bles. We need the lay­ers, like in a western sand­wich, but us­ing Filipino in­gre­di­ents,” says Miche­lena on com­ing up with Para’s con­cise menu of five sand­wiches. The Grilly Cheese, for ex­am­ple, is the clas­sic grilled cheese made Filipino by swap­ping the ched­dar and Swiss cheese with kesong puti and queso de bola. They draw the line, how­ever, when a dish de­parts from the Filipino fla­vor pro­file; a lengua caldereta sand­wich was given the boot when it tasted too much like pizza.

But for the rest of the menu, it’s a ba­sic les­son on the Filipino palate. The best­selling Filipino Burger is made of a mixed long­gan­isa patty, ched­dar, singka­mas slaw, and home­made bar­be­cue sauce. The Vi­gan long­gan­isa in the patty lends a tangy, vine­gary taste to the sand­wich—re­fresh­ing in a world of un­der­whelm­ing lumps of meat.

There is fla­vor through and through in all of Para’s sand­wiches. The Aligue Shrimp Slaw with taw­ilis chicharon, in fact, threat­ens to over­whelm with its rich com­bi­na­tion of fla­vors, but the prom­ise of an­other deca­dent bite of shrimp coated with aligue dress­ing keeps draw­ing you in. The Dou­ble Adobo ad­dresses all Filipinos’ crav­ings with a dou­ble dose of the clas­sic dish topped with a sunny side up egg and a gen­er­ous sprin­kling of gar­lic flakes— per­fectly hardy when paired with a bot­tle of San Miguel beer. Para doesn’t serve al­co­hol, though, so find in­no­cent com­fort in­stead in a serv­ing of their Yema Shake: milky, sweet, yet salty, eas­ily ad­dic­tive to those with a sweet tooth.

Right now, the Para jeep­ney is yet to roll out of the gates of Gas­tro Park—good news for the foodie com­mu­nity in Kapi­tolyo. The own­ers are ex­pand­ing their menu, look­ing for new ways to serve Filipino food aside from the usual stew. On why they chose to serve Filipino fare in a hearty sand­wich, Spakowski says, It’s soul food. It feeds you in­side. It’s good food.” We say amen to that.

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