Elevated, Casual Filipino Food at Sari Sari Store (Grand Central Market) - [Thoughts + Pics]


#1

We’ve been big fans of Chefs Walter and Margarita Manzke via their flagship restaurant Republique for a while now. Pastry Chef Margarita Manzke’s Pastries and Desserts have delighted us and brought enough smiles to our friends and family when we’ve visited over the years, even with the madhouse lines during weekend brunch. :wink:

When we read that Chef Margarita Manzke was going to open up a casual little food stand in Grand Central Market, as a tribute to her Filipino heritage, that sounded pretty intriguing and interesting. With the holidays upon us, we were finally able to try it out this month.

A Sari Sari Store in the Philippines is sort of like a convenience store (“sari sari” meaning “varied / miscellaneous” in Tagalog), and when you walk up to the counter in Grand Central Market, there are a variety of snacks, canned goods and a varied menu of Filipino-style dishes. It’s a cute setup. :slight_smile:

On our 1st visit, I start off with…

Iced Coffee - Verve:

Refreshing, fragrant, no complaints.

Arroz Caldo (Pork, Rice Porridge, Mushroom, Fried Garlic, Scallions, Soft Eggs):

I’ve never had Filipino Congee before, but this tasted very good. :slight_smile: The Rice Porridge was like a slightly thinner version of Chinese Congee / Jook, with the Soft Eggs & Yolk adding a luscious creaminess when broken up, as well as bits of Pork and Mushroom inside.

Lechon Manok (Mary’s Organic Rotisserie Chicken, Garlic Rice, Charred Scallions, Fried Egg):

Chef Manzke’s Lechon Manok was… OK. Their Rotisserie Chicken at Republique is usually very good. Here at Sari Sari Store? It tasted like a standard Rotisserie Chicken, with a slightly sweet, tangy Sauce. It tasted more “American” to us, like if you ordered a “Rotisserie Chicken Bowl” rather than something that hearkened to Filipino cuisine (but note, I’m not an expert).

Sisig Fried Rice (Crispy Pig’s Head, Onions, Chilis, Garlic Rice, Fried Egg):

But then they quickly rebounded with the Sisig Fried Rice. Imagine taking a bite of the most fragrant, decadent, porky, fragrant Fried Rice you’ve ever had, and you have Sari Sari Store’s Sisig Fried Rice! :heart:

@Bookwich @TheCookie I don’t like crazy animal parts as well, but the “Crispy Pig’s Head” is really just Chef Margarita Manzke using awesome bits of Pork Jowl (I love Italian Guanciale, so using it in Fried Rice? Sure, why not?) :wink: and other bits deboned and sauteed with the Fried Rice. The Onions, Garlic and Fried Egg just round things out even more. This was delicious! :blush: (Paging @PorkyBelly @Ns1.)

Buko Pie (Coconut, Coconut, Coconut):

The description on this Dessert was hilarious but fitting as well. :slight_smile: Hearing how a few staff members on the LA Times were swooning over this dish (Jenn Harris and Jonathan Gold) had us even more intrigued to try it.

I don’t eat that many Coconut Pies, but seriously, this has to be one of THE most wonderful Coconut Desserts I’ve ever had! It’s silky, light, creamy, luscious, yet doesn’t feel heavy. It’s tropical and aromatic and is redolent of Coconut, but it doesn’t overwhelm either.

The Buko Pie is just an outstanding Dessert and a must-order! :heart:

SO GOOD!

On our 2nd visit, we started with…

Pinoy BBQ (Grilled Pork Ribs, Garlic Rice, Atsara, fried Egg):

Their Pinoy BBQ is made up of lip-smacking, garlicky, sweet Grilled Pork Ribs, cooked to the point they are falling off the bone tender, but still meaty. :slight_smile:

The Pickled Green Papaya added a nice contrast.

Spam Silog (Housemade Spam, Garlic Rice, Pickles, Scallions, Fried Egg):

When we saw the words “Housemade Spam” on the Specials Menu, it was a must-order! :smile: So unlike the gelatinous, unique (in)famous Canned Pork Product known as “Spam,” Chef Margarita Manzke makes her own “Spam” from scratch, using Salmon Creek Farms Heritage Pork, and the result is this slightly crispy patty of diced and chopped porcine goodness! :heart:

It’s meaty, porky, luxurious, slightly fatty (in a good way), slightly crispy on the exterior, and with a nice tender interior. It was delicious and perfectly seasoned! :blush:

If you ever see this on the Specials Menu, give it a try.

Halo Halo (Watermelon Ice, Leche Flan, Fresh Fall Fruit, Tapioca, Coconut Pandan Ice Cream):

On both of our visits, we could see the Sari Sari Store staff (some from Republique), painstakingly creating and arranging the Halo Halo. You can sometimes see the staff in the corner, making each component, and then seeing it come together, it’s like a beautiful art arrangement.

There are a variety of Seasonal Gelee Cubes, farmers market sourced Fruit and a light touch on the Sugar, to create a delicate, light, delicious version of the classic Filipino Dessert known as Halo Halo. Only Chef Margarita Manzke’s version doesn’t include neon-pink and green artificial ingredients. :wink: And @paranoidgarliclover you’ll be happy to know, Chef Manzke doesn’t add Red Bean either. :stuck_out_tongue:

Prices range from $4 - $13, with most of the Bowls in the $11 - 13 range.

Overall, Sari Sari Store is a welcome addition to Grand Central Market, and I wish it was closer to the Westside. It is a very casual, relaxed little food stand, but the dishes happen to be elevated by Chef Margarita Manzke (and her husband Walter, along with staff from Republique). This results in a delicate Arroz Caldo (Filipino Congee), and Housemade Spam (from Salmon Creek Farms Heritage Pork) that tastes like it could be a course in a tasting menu at a fine dining restaurant.

But it never gets so elevated that it loses its roots: The Sisig Fried Rice is that type of decadent, amazing bowl of porky happiness that makes you want to come back, along with the beautiful Buko Pie and their light Halo Halo.

Sari Sari Store
(at Grand Central Market)
317 South Broadway
Los Angeles, CA 90013
Tel: (323) 320-4020

http://sarisaristorela.com/


What's good at Grand Central Market
#2

For other Filipino food of this style I would highly recommend Oi Asian Fusion and the Achara truck.

the sourcing of the ingredients won’t be as stellar though…


#3

You’re so funny. Whenever I hear “pig head,” I think “head cheese”. Eek!

Great review. I think I’ll take the children there after we wait in line for hours to see Infinite Mirrors and then don’t get in. :balloon:


#4

I love this pie, but more than once the crust has been tough. Like beef jerky leather tough. Not a good thing.

All the rice dishes are superb, although recently I have a hard time picking Sari Sari or RiceBar … Good to have options though.


#5

You had me at Spam, sisig fried rice, and coconut dessert!


#6

Thanks @Ns1. I hadn’t heard of these places before. I’ll definitely have to give them a try one of these days.


#7

Thanks @ipsedixit. Bummer about the crust, we might’ve been lucky, the crust we had tasted light and flaky, as if it was baked that day. I have to try out RiceBar as well. What do you like there?


#8

I think you’d love the Sisig Fried Rice, Housemade Spam Silog and the Coconut Dessert Buko Pie. :slight_smile:


#9

Menu changes pretty frequently, and constantly. When they first started they were experimenting with a tocino offering that was just not all there. I think the highlight thus far for me has been the longganisa (in any of its variations), the pork bicol express, and the rice. The rice, any of the 3 varieties, are just well done. Porridge is good too.


#10

I’ve had their stuff, pretty darn good eats even if the sourcing isn’t as good. Sari-Sari is very good though…


#11

Thanks for the shout out, but did you get me mixed up w/ another poster? I know nothing about halo halo (actually, about Filipino food, in general) and generally love (Japanese) red bean. :slight_smile:


#12

Hi @paranoidgarliclover,

Ack! I thought when we were talking about desserts one time, and you mentioned liking black sesame, that you didn’t like Chinese red bean desserts? :sweat_smile: sorry for the confusion.


#13

The eggplant bowl is really delicious as well. The only thing I haven’t liked is the Skewers… tiny for the price and they get cold the second the hit the counter.

–Dommy!


#14

Great report @Chowseeker1999, I’ve only had the buko pie and it was delicious. My friend also reports the lechon kawali is good too.

from their instagram


#15

Oh gawd, yes, don’t get the skewers. I was legit pissed off at what they served me and what they were charging for it.


#16

I also had the Arroz Caldo and coconut pie last weekend. Perfect lunch meal for a cold day.

What’s nice about Ricebar is they usually have a beef or lamb dish, so the menu is a bit more varied.


#17

I found myself here for lunch today before heading over to the Pantages for a matinee. I got the lechon kawali…it looked fantastic, but I feel it missed the mark on a couple of elements. The bed of garlic fried rice wasn’t garlicky enough…it tasted like toasted fried rice…I couldn’t find the garlic…and even when I added the extra sauce…it still didn’t taste like sauce either. The egg looked lovely…they get “sunshine” eggs from a farmer who feeds the chickens a certain type of food to ensure the yolks are a bright orange color. However, my egg was over cooked and didn’t ooze out all over the rice. The lechon itself was really good…super crispy and super unctuous at the same time, and I loved the pickled veg to give it a fresh punch.
They were quite busy at lunch today, so am not sure if that affected what I got. But the menu is interesting enough for me to try it, again.


#18

Hi @attran99,

Bummer about your egg & rice today. You should definitely mention it to them if the egg was overcooked (the staff seemed really accommodating / friendly the 2 times we went). And as you can see in the pics, all of the eggs in the dishes we got were cooked perfectly (soft).

Our garlic rice also was pretty garlicky, hopefully it was only an off day for you. Thanks.


#19

Question for anyone: The food looks good, and I love any kind of Asian food, but it seems like every picture of the food includes a fried egg. Does everything come with egg, or is the egg an add-on?

Sincerely, someone who doesn’t care for eggs…


#20

You can always decline the egg. Mine was over cooked yesterday so I couldn’t really tell if it would have made a difference.