Aug 15, 201312:32 AM
Haute Plates

Our weekly blog on the New Orleans fine dining scene

Milkfish: New Orleans' Filipino Pop-Up

Appetizers from Milkfish

The Milkfish is found in the Indian and Pacific oceans, commonly near coastal and island reefs. It is popular in the Philippines, where it goes by the name “Bangus,” and in Indonesia, where it's commonly called “Bandeng.” It has been farmed for around 800 years in the Philippines, and has white, mild-tasting flesh. It also has a lot of bones, which makes it somewhat difficult to prepare and eat.

 

You could learn all of that by entering “milkfish” into a search engine – Wikipedia and several commercial fishmongers have instructive websites – but I'm mentioning it because “Milkfish” is also the name of a Filipino restaurant doing the pop-up thing on Sundays at A Mano that's absolutely worth checking out.

 

I don't exactly have a broad frame of reference for Filipino food. During one of my Southeast Asian phases, I read a bunch of recipes, and I've cooked a few dishes, but it's not like there have been a lot of Filipino restaurants in the area, and it's a country I've never visited.

 

The older I get, the less important “exotic” has become on the list of reasons I visit a restaurant. I still like novelty, don't get me wrong, just not for its own sake. Still, it's nice to taste food that presents very different flavor profiles from the stuff to which you've become accustomed, and Filipino food generally does that.

 

We went with the appetizer sampler to start, with an extra order of lumpia shanghai, because having had the tiny fried spring rolls before, I knew those were going to be a hit. They're basically ground pork seasoned with onion, garlic and carrot, wrapped in a thin egg/flour crepe, then fried. They're generally served with a slightly spicy soy or tomato-based sauce. They are addictive. They also come in a larger version at Milkfish, and both come with the appetizer sampler, along with a couple of other items depending on when you go. I got to sample fried pork belly, pig's foot and a sweet-savory sausage. The pork belly was pretty good, the foot was so dry and tough as to be inedible, and the sausage was tender, juicy and delicious.

 

The dish I most associate with Filipino cuisine is adobo, in which chicken or pork is stewed in vinegar with garlic, onion, bay leaf and pepper. It's on the menu in both varieties at Milkfish, and both were excellent. The chicken – dark meat, which is always better in a stew – was tender, as was the pork, and both were tart, slightly spicy and fragrant with bay and black pepper. The beef stew called mechado was, if anything, a bit more tart, but again the meat was tender. Diced red potato was par-cooked to the point where it retained a bit of crunch. Ordinarily I'd label that “undercooked,” but it actually worked. The stews came with rice, and in the case of the mechado it was cooked with coconut milk.

 

We didn't get to try the milkfish or the noodle dishes, and I'm definitely looking to go back for Pinkabet (pork and shrimp cooked with bitter melon, eggplant, okra, longbeans, bok choy, daikon radish and fermented shrimp paste) and Kare-kare (oxtail stewed in peanut butter, eggplant, bok choy and string beans served over garlic rice).

 

Milkfish is open from noon until 10 p.m. on Sundays at A Mano, which is located at 870 Tchoupitoulas St.; chef Cristina Quackenbush told me she intends to open her own place in that general vicinity by the end of the year. In the interim, dial (504) 327-0635 to confirm the hours and menu, or to order takeout.   

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Haute Plates

Our weekly blog on the New Orleans fine dining scene

about

Robert D. Peyton was born at Ochsner Hospital and, apart from four years in Tennessee for college and three years in Baton Rouge for law school, has lived here his entire life. He is a strong believer in the importance of food to our local culture and in the importance of our local food culture, generally. He has practiced law since 1994, and began writing about food on his website, www.appetites.us, in 1999. He mainly wrote about partying that year, obviously.

In 2006, New Orleans Magazine named Appetites the best food blog in New Orleans. The choice was made relatively easy due to the fact that Appetites was, at the time, the only food blog in New Orleans.

He began writing the Restaurant Insider column for New Orleans Magazine in 2007 and has been published in St. Charles Avenue, Louisiana Life and New Orleans Homes and Lifestyles magazines. He is the only person he knows personally who has been interviewed in GQ magazine, albeit for calling Alan Richman a nasty name. He is not proud of that, incidentally. (Yes, he is.)

Robert’s maternal grandmother is responsible for his love of good food, and he has never since had fried chicken or homemade biscuits as good as hers. He developed his curiosity about restaurant cooking in part from the venerable PBS cooking show "Great Chefs" and has an extensive collection of cookbooks, many of which do not require coloring, and some of which have not been defaced.

Robert lives in Mid-City with his wife Eve and their three children, and is fond of receiving comments and emails. Please humor him.

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