EVAN DUCHARME/SPECIAL TO THE S.F. EXAMINERChef Josie Yumul and her husband Larmie Yumul display Pampanguena Cuisine’s bountiful kamayan-style dinner

EVAN DUCHARME/SPECIAL TO THE S.F. EXAMINERChef Josie Yumul and her husband Larmie Yumul display Pampanguena Cuisine’s bountiful kamayan-style dinner

Filipino fare makes Pampanguena feel homey

Pampanguena Cuisine’s bright yellow banners are a hot flash of color on the newspaper-gray sidewalks of Mission Street. It’s a very Filipino combination of cheer and grit — in fact, it feels like the house of my old Filipino baby-sitter, right down to the television playing soap operas, cheerful artificial flowers and walls painted in a hot, creamy palette, like fluorescent colors muted by humidity.

But unlike the steam-tray joints I grew up with in Union City, the superior, old-school Filipino cooking here draws Filipinos outside of their homes.

The menu is extensive, not shying away from dishes that take more work to make, such as the kamayan-style dinners: a literal bounty of grilled and fried meats and seafood (squid, chicken and milkfish), a bright heap of mango, and, of course, pork lumpia arrayed around a mountain of rice on a family-style platter lined with banana leaves.

Patrons are given plates lined with banana leaves as well. Traditionally, the components are mixed together with rice and accompanying sauces and diners eat with their hands, although you don’t have to.

The kamayan-style meal can be ordered for anywhere between one and 10 people. My behemoth platter sized for six made for plenty of leftovers.

Anything grilled is good: The delicate, mild-flavored milkfish plucked of its many bones was opened and grilled white-flesh down. (The milkfish was also delicious fried, without batter, so its flesh crisps up.)

The grilled chicken was completely impregnated with a not-too-sweet marinade — Filipino food can be too sweet — while the pork’s thorough marinade in a black pepper-soy combination tricked one of my dining companions into thinking it was beef. The squid did appear to be a bit tough and was better cut into smaller pieces.

The lumpiang shanghai — finger-size egg rolls filled with pork and carrot — were the savory wonders one has come to expect at any Filipino party. Though not lushly filled, or with the embellishments one might expect in the P.I., they had plenty of flavor and were a steal at the price.

More complex was the miki bihon. Its mix of delicate noodles, diced long beans and meat was infused with pork essence. There was a sweet hint of shrimp in its aroma. Toasted garlic, scattered over the dish, gave it earthiness; fresh scallions tonified. It’s a meal in itself.

The restaurant’s sparse decor — tile floors, simple chairs and tables, fluorescent lighting — belie a familial cheeriness. Chef Josie Yumul visits customers while wearing her bright apron, beaming, and behaves as though everyone who comes is part of her family.

The place does have a lived-in feeling. On one occasion, a kid hung out at an out-of-the-way table engrossed in a laptop. On another, the same kid, dressed in a Catholic school uniform, waited for the restaurant to close while “Juan dela Cruz” — a low-budget sci-fi-fantasy television program that looked like someone had put “Star Trek,” “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “The Lord of the Rings” in a blender — played.

Pampanguena Cuisine is intimate and personal, and if hours are a bit uneven, or if menu items aren’t available, I for one can forgive it. Next time, I’m getting the lechon.

Pampanguena Cuisine

Location: 4441 Mission St., S.F.

Contact: (415) 586-8899, http://pampanguenacuisine.com

Hours: 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays

Price range: $6.50 to $14.95

Recommended dishes: Kamayan ($10-$12 per person), miki bihon ($8.75), barbecue chicken ($2.25), lumpiang shanghai ($6.50), grilled or fried milkfish ($13.95)

Credit cards: Not accepted

Reservations: Recommended for large partiesFeaturesFood & DrinkFood and WineJosie YumulPampanguena Cuisine

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Health care workers would be the first group in the state to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. (Go Nakamura/Getty Images/TNS)
Hope on the way: Here’s what to know about California’s COVID-19 vaccine plan

The first batch of doses could hit the state as soon as early December

The Big Game was played Friday at Memorial Stadium in Berkeley. (Shutterstock)
Stanford blocks extra point to stun Cal, win 123rd Big Game 24-23

The 123rd edition of the Big Game featured a number of firsts.… Continue reading

Psilocybin magic mushrooms (Shutterstock)
‘Magic mushrooms’ moving into the mainstream

Efforts to decriminalize psychedelics could follow several different paths

The 2020 Census has concluded taking responses sooner than expected. (Courtesy photo)
What does California have to lose if undocumented immigrants are excluded from the census?

By Kim Bojórquez The Sacramento Bee If The U.S. Supreme Court rules… Continue reading

Those who stick around San Francisco on long holiday weekends can enjoy a slower pace, uncrowded streets and beloved institutions like cable cars. <ins>(Kevin Hume/S.F. Examiner)</ins>
These empty San Francisco streets: A holiday dream

We’re here because we can be, and because we have nowhere else to be

Most Read