Cafe Demitasse in Little Tokyo (my favorite coffee house) hosts pop-up dinners throughout the year. When I got the email blast that there would be a Filipino-inspired Pop-up Dinner, I immediately replied to reserve a table for six.
The Tasting Menu looked enchanting as it had Filipino delicacies infused with ingredients that are not a staple of the Philippines. Could it be that this is a modernized version of Filipino cuisine? Well, it seemed like it on paper.
A few weeks later, my Foodie friends and I walked into Cafe Demitasse eager to know what was in store for dinner. Chef Jeff Lustre, a recently unemployed chef from Allumette; a recently closed wine restaurant that garnered lots of accolades for its refined approach to modern cuisine. Chef Lustre is a Filipino immigrant. He mentioned that the dishes for his Filipino-inspired pop-up dinner were created knowing that there would be no kitchen in the back, but only a induction cooktop. For what little equipment he had, his creative Filipino-inspired dishes spoke for itself. I found it a modernized Filipino cuisine with all the familiar flavors and ingredients of the Philippines. It was one of the most endearing fine dining experiences that I’ve had for a pop-up.
The first course, Chef Lustre’s version of Lumpia (Spring Roll) was a modern, vegan version of the Fresh Vegetable Lumpia (Spring Roll) with a Peanut Sauce made with a Filipino snack food called Nagaraya; a peanut cracker. In the traditional method of making Fresh Lumpia, the wrapper is made with a papery thin crepe made with eggs, butter, milk, flour, and salt. Chef Lustre’s version was a simple, pickled paper thin slice of Jicama as the Lumpia wrapper. The proteins were replaced with chickpeas. I loved this gourmet version of Lumpia. Cafe Demitasse, in charge of the drink pairing, accompanied this dish with a Sen Cha Asamushi Green Tea with spices, orange peel, and olive oil.
The second course, Banagan is the word for lobster in the Cebu dialect of a region in the Philippines. This dish was basically a Filipino-inspired Frisée Salad with lobster, banana blossom, and sontanghon (glass noodles). I liked the strong vinigarette that accompanied this salad as it balanced out the sharp bitterness of the Frisée whereas the lobster and banana blossom provided a sweet contrast. This salad was divine. The drink pairing was an Almond-infused Soda make with fresh almond milk.
The third course, Mustasa is mustard green stuffed with scallops on a bed of a light Coconut Curry. I loved this dish too. I enjoyed to sour taste of the mustard green and scallops. The curry sauce was remarkable with a very clean and bright taste. The drink that accompanied this dish was a delightful Coconut-Kafir Lime Tea. This hot tea was truly amazing and very easy to make.
The fourth course was the Adobo – a Shoat Pork Belly and Terrine Adobo with Jerusalem Artichokes and Quince. There are like over 100 adobo dishes in the Philippines made with seafood, poultry, and pork. So I was very curious to know what the chef’s modern Filipino Adobo would taste like. His version was incredible for a pork adobo baked in a terrine. I absolutely loved this out-of-the-box approach to cooking one of the most popular dishes in the Philippines. The meat had all the elements that make up an adobo…soy sauce and vinegar. It was also very moist and tender. The beverage pairing was a Grapefruit-Ginger Iced Cappuccino with a hint of Matcha Green Tea. It turned out to be my favorite drink pairing of the dinner. It’s a medium-bodied brew with delicate notes of citrus and ginger flavors.
As the evening turned into night, Cafe Demitasse in Little Tokyo got its second wind as a nighttime watering hole for the coffee-drinkers. I’ve always been a people watcher, so it was quite the treat to watch the coffee bar crowd crawl inside for a hot brewed coffee. In the mix was Chef Lustre and his tiny team who hustled to serve our last course…the dessert. Turon is a popular Filipino Street Food dessert. It’s basically a deep fried banana and jackfruit egg roll. Surprisingly, we didn’t get the traditional Turon, but a fancier version of it. Chef Lustre’s modern version is a Banana Mousse, Jackfruit, Plantain with a Tanduay Rum Caramel. There is so much to love about this dessert. I loved the creamy banana mousse and at the very bottom was a very sweet piece of plantain. I especially loved the Jackfruit Coulis. The final beverage pairing was a Vanilla-Rum Cortado. I also loved this espresso drink.
Dinner was simply amazing. It truly was the modernize Filipino cuisine that I have been hoping to see in the Los Angeles area for quite some time now. I anticipate that Chef Jeff Lustre may repeat his Filipino Pop-up dinner in 2015 as that’s what they told me. If you want to catch it and other pop-up dinners by local Chefs, I highly suggest that you sign-up for the email announcements from Cafe Demitasse like I did. Along with the general news about coffee, the emails announce the monthly upcoming pop-up dinners, which generally cost about $45 per person. Note that there are no walk-ins taken for the pop-up dinners, so make sure that you email your dining reservation request for the future pop-up dinners in advance.
135 S. San Pedro Street
Los Angeles, CA 90012