The claim that it’s the “home of the best Ilonggo inasal in Queens” would have been enough to grab my attention. A review in The New York Times put this restaurant on my must-visit list (although reviews by Capampangan friends and cousins dampened my enthusiasm a little).
I went with 3 friends, 2 of whom were not Filipinos. I was really curious what they would think of the place and the food. For appetizers, we got the kwek-kwek (quail eggs dipped in batter and fried) and fish balls. I enjoyed the batter for the kwek-kwek, which was light and crispy, but inside was a hard-boiled egg. I was disappointed because the NYT review made it sound really different, that the eggs weren’t fully cooked, with a gooey yolk similar to how proper Scotch eggs are done. As for the dip, it was pretty much vinegar with a few tiny pieces of minced garlic. I would have preferred more garlic, pepper, salt or patis (fish sauce) and chili pepper. The fish balls were actually a fish and shrimp combo and were flavorful. But, however good they were, I found myself still wishing for the fish balls sold by Manong next to the College of Music at UP Diliman.
I got excited when I saw they had la paz batchoy on the menu; I hadn’t had it in years. Turns out, I didn’t exactly have it then either. It would have been more accurate to describe this as mami; it tasted nothing like the batchoy I know and love, brimming with a rich broth flavored by pork innards, fish sauce and ginger. This was basic broth with noodles and toppings of liver, chicharon and pork. I thought maybe I was remembering batchoy wrong but one look at our other friend, who IS Filipino, told me it wasn’t what he expected either.
Less you think I’m all complaints, I did enjoy the sisig bangus, left. It was spicy, tangy and finished with a nice kick. The tortang talong, at left, was good as well. I might have rolled my eyes just a tiny bit because the eggplant was mixed in with the ground pork and served as an omelette instead of the more traditional presentation with the pork inside the eggplant and the whole thing dipped in egg and fried.
The ginataang sitaw at kalabasa (squash and string beans in coconut milk) was quite a hit. They loved it so much so that I got them a recipe for it so they could make it at home. They also liked the pinaputok na bangus (exploded milkfish? LOL!), which is basically steamed with tomatoes, onions and scallions.
The chicken leg inasal, however, was a disappointment, considering how the restaurant was promoting itself. It tasted just like any other roast or barbecue chicken served at any of the other Filipino restaurants that lined Roosevelt Avenue in Queens. It’s supposed to have been marinated in lemongrass, soy sauce, ginger and vinegar, but if the flavors were there, they were rather weak. Even the mustard sauce was rather blah, paling in comparison with the tongue-tingling version sold by Caravan Chicken in Astoria.
We didn’t exactly have room for dessert, but we did get some hot taho to go. I liked the taho, as it was very similar to the ones back home. The “syrup” was made of brown sugar, which is exactly how I like it.
So, I guess the big question here is would I go back to House of Inasal? Hmmm, someone I trust when it comes to food has to convince me.