Despite having a sizable community here, Filipino cuisine is still (imo) underappreciated in Malaysia. Unlike Thai or Indonesian restaurants, which are ubiquitous all over the country, Filipino restaurants are a bit more difficult to find, and their patrons are usually Filipinos, rather than Malaysians. There is one thing to be said about that, though – it usually means that these are the places that serve authentic food for those who crave a taste of home.
One of these restaurants is The Narra Filipino Resto Lounge, tucked within Dataran Millennium in Petaling Jaya. When searching for the best Filipino restaurants in KL, The Narra regularly tops the list – and for good reason. They have a wide variety of dishes from different parts of the Philippines, service is good, and prices and portions are fair. I’ve been here several times, and even celebrated a birthday here with the Hubs. Since my parents have never tried Filipino cuisine, I thought it’d be a good idea to bring them here for dinner on Sunday.
The decor is pretty much the same from my previous visit: neat, with clean white tables and chairs, and a small stage where a live band performs on weekends. There is a display of baked goods and cakes at the counter, as well as a couple of shelves stocked with Filipino treats and canned goods. It was quiet during our visit, so we didn’t have to wait long for our food.
Bro and Pops ordered Calamansi juice while I went for Gulaman, which is a syrupy sweet brown sugar drink with a jelly like substance, similar to cincau or agar. It was a tad too sweet even for me, so you might want to skip this if you don’t like sugary drinks.
Of course, I had to get my favourite order, Sisig, consisting of chopped pig head with onions, chilli peppers, calamansi and egg, served on a sizzling hotplate. The parts of the pig’s head create a medley of interesting textures: you get the crunch from the cartilage, and soft and fatty bits from the jowls and cheeks. It’s definitely not a healthy dish, what with the fat and grease, but it’s oh-so-sinful.
I usually come here alone, so I haven’t had the chance to try dishes like the Pininyahang Manok, which is chicken braised in coconut milk, pineapples, carrots, potatoes and bell peppers. My parents found the flavour ‘very odd’, but I liked it because it reminded me of Chinese-style buttermilk, albeit with a slightly sour aftertaste. Not a fan of bell peppers in general, but I don’t think the taste was very pronounced. The chicken was cooked well, and the carrots were done just right; soft without being mushy.
Bro had Embosilog. The name comes from the dish’s three main components: Embotido (pork meatloaf), Sinangag (garlic fried rice) and Itlog (egg). Nipped a bit from his plate and was impressed. The fried rice was very fragrant and the meatloaf was tasty.
Grilled pork intestines for sharing. I know some people will find it off-putting but I actually enjoy the slightly gamey smell 😛
The chicken inasal (grilled chicken thigh) was humongous. Among all of the dishes, I think this was my least favourite. It wasn’t bad but it wasn’t exceptional either.
PS: If you’re wondering why we didn’t order Filipino signatures like sinigang (a tamarind-based stew) and adobo (pork cooked in vinegar and soy sauce), it’s because my mom has intestinal and stomach problems, and she can’t take spicy, oily, or sour food. Which ruled out many options because a lot of Filipino dishes are sour, and some of the good ones are oily (lechon, crispy pata).
Having been to the Philippines many times, I think I have a good grasp of Filipino flavours – but I think my parents found it quite foreign and unlike anything they had tasted before. My mom commented that the food takes some getting used to, while my brother said, “I’m not sure what to make of it. With Thai food or Malay food, you get a distinct flavour profile that is easily recognisable. But these dishes are hard to identify.”
They both make valid points. The Philippines has a unique culture, being the only country in Southeast Asia that was occupied by the Spanish for well over 400 years. The cuisine has strong Spanish and Latin influence, which is why you’ll find dishes like adobo, chiccharon, flan, picadillo and empanadas gracing the dinner table in Filipino and Latino homes. At the same time, it also has distinct Malay influences, as evidenced by the Pininyahang Manok we ordered, which uses coconut milk – a common ingredient in Southeast Asian cooking. There are also dishes like the kare-kare (beef tripe cooked in peanut butter, influenced by Indian cuisine), and lumpia (spring rolls, from Chinese culture).
For me personally, I like some dishes, and some other dishes not so much. The hubs says I blaspheme because I don’t like the taste of Choco Butternut, but hey, you can’t expect every single non-Malaysian to fall head over heels with nasi lemak, right? (although I have yet to meet someone who didn’t like nasi lemak, lol).
The Narra also sells imported products from the Philippines, such as corned beef, banana ketchup (mom: WHAT?) and Mang Tomas (pork liver sauce).
I usually get Piattos (they call it Jigs here in Malaysia – although it’s super difficult to find these days), but the restaurant was out of stock, so I got some Lucky Mee Pancit Canton to take home instead.
Our meal (plus my snacks) came up to about RM120. I think we went a bit overboard – could have made do with 3 dishes instead of four – but the price was fairly reasonable given the portions.
If you’re Malaysian and curious about how Filipino cuisine tastes like, The Narra is a good place to try authentic Filipino food. If you’re a Filipino residing in Malaysia, the dishes and the atmosphere (the servers sing Filipino songs while they go about their work, and the resto is always playing OPM) will surely remind you of home.
THE NARRA FILIPINO RESTO LOUNGE
G001 Dataran Millennium, Jalan 14/1, 46100 Petaling Jaya, Selangor
Opening hours: 10.30AM – 9.30PM (Saturdays 11.30PM)
Phone: 03-7498 1061
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