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.
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.
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. 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!
@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?) 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! (Paging @PorkyBelly @Ns1.)
Buko Pie (Coconut, Coconut, Coconut):
The description on this Dessert was hilarious but fitting as well. 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!
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.
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! 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!
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!
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. And @paranoidgarliclover you’ll be happy to know, Chef Manzke doesn’t add Red Bean either.
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