Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Salakot Sizzle and Grill Restaurant Covers The Los Angeles Fine Dining Scene

An American lawyer who was married to a Filipino woman once told me that Filipinos in California do not habitually go to Filipino restaurants for sit-down dinners. He probably knew what he was talking about because at the time he made that observation he and and his wife were the owners of a Filipino restaurant in the Filipino-rich city of West Covina. Their restaurant had been taken over long ago by another owner, and the American lawyer had died.

One of the riskiest businesses in the food industry is the restaurant segment. Majority of restaurants opened do not make the grade and end up closing or saved from extinction by other restaurant operators or first-time restaurateurs. Despite this grim statistics, restaurants keep sprouting up in the Los Angeles basin like the proverbial mushrooms.

Around twenty years or so ago, Bayanihan Restaurant and Greenhills Restaurant -- separated by a distance of less than one-half mile on Beverly Blvd. in L.A. -- lorded it over the restaurant scene in that part of town. Bayanihan was the first to close in the mid-90s, and Greenhills, although still open, is no longer owned by the original founder. In the mid-80s, when Greenhills opened, it attracted lunchtime crowds from as far away as the mid-Wilshire district, some three miles away. Presently, there are four Filipino restaurants of note doing business in the Historic Filipinotown section of L.A. Bayanihan on Beverly Blvd., close to LaFayette Park, Kapistahan, and Bahay Kubo Natin on Temple Street, and the latest addition, Salakot Sizzle and Grill on Beverly Blvd.

A good number of Filipino restaurants have been successful for many years for various reasons. Some of these restaurants served topnotch Filipino foods, but eventually lost patronage due to their ambiance. Others achieved good reputations for the kind of entertainment fare that they offer, but came short in the culinary department. Others lost their viability due to a failure to maintain the quality of their food offerings. Still others closed or were sold for reasons that were never made clear to the community, like a very popular Filipino restaurant in Glendale that was shuttered about two years ago and had re-opened in adjacent Eagle Rock under new owners.

Salakot is located right smack in the center of Historic Filipinotown. Owner Ramoncito Ocampo, a lawyer and Christian church minister, says Salakot was established to address the lack of Filipino fine-dining restaurants in Los Angeles where diners could come and enjoy Filipino cuisine even when they are dressed to the nines. The brand-new restaurant is ensconced in a purpose-built two-storey building located on Beverly Blvd., a block southwest of Alvarado Street. If you are an Angeleno worth your salt, you'd easily find that location.

On Wednesday, November 26, I got to visit the new eatery during a press conference called by a large community organization, and I sampled some of its traditional Filipino fare, including, bulalo (boiled beef shank and bones with marrow and bok choy, cabbage and potatoes), $10.50; pancit miki/bihon, $8.75; and a seafood platter that consisted of steamed shrimps and mussels, grilled giant squid, and steamed pompano with tomato and onion stuffing, with boiled eggplant and okra sides and bagoong and onion with vinegar sauces; and pork (or chicken barbecue). The Salakot Seafood Platter is good for four to five persons and costs $31.95. A pretty good deal.

The selection of entrees is varied and reasonably priced. The lunch express selection consists of barbecue items served with soup, cucumber, garlic fried rice and vegetable/chicken roll, at prices from $5.95 up to $8.95 for beef short ribs, chicken and pork barbecue on stick.

The ambiance is bright and airy, with a mezzanine level that's designated for private banquets of 50 to 60 persons. In the back is a spacious free parking space good for about 20 or more cars. Salakot's address is 2122 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90057. Tel: (213) 483-0303 and fax: (213) 483-0361. Business hours are Monday to Thursday, from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Saturdays, from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Sundays, from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.

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