Destinations

Kaffir Restaurant & Deli: SEA street food with twists

Try to drop by Kaffir Restaurant & Deli in Makati City, as it aims to whip up “authentic” Southeast Asian cuisine supposed to remind diners of Southeast Asia’s (SEA) “ultimate street food at prices that are easy on the pocket”.

I was in Bengalore in India when I was warned not to eat anything with milk as prepared by the street food vendors. Apparently, though I see a LOT of Indians buying stuff from these vendors who prepared what, for me, looked yummy what-have-you’s, “your tummy may not be on a par with the tummy of the locals,” my guide warned me. “So promise me, please: Don’t.”

I promised.

And it’s one promise I somehow regret making.

Why?

Because when visiting places (particularly other countries), the best locations to savor these places’ best offerings are often from street vendors. The Pad Thai of Bangkok’s Silom Street is much, MUCH better than any hotel’s (a lot more expensive) version. The 24-hour hawkers of Singapore offer – for me – the best laksa noodle soup. And don’t even get me started on the coffee served by the vendors of Ho Chi Minh…

These are the same offerings that Kaffir Restaurant & Deli intend to serve, as it whips up “authentic” Southeast Asian (SEA) cuisines (mainly from Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam) supposed to remind diners of SEA’s “ultimate street food at prices that are easy on the pocket”.

And yes, they have meat-less variants.

The place is somewhat small – there are less than 10 tables in the entire resto that could only seat, say, less than 30 pax. I’m fine with this, since it gives the place a “we’re-all-friends-here” ambiance. But be warned that exactly because it’s THAT small, when the chefs cook, you may end up smelling like one of the recipes they include in their recipes.

As for the food, start with the Goi Cuon (Vietnamese Summer Roll, which is fresh salad roll consisting of herbs, rice vermicelli and other ingredients wrapped in Vietnamese rice paper; P100 for the vegetarian version, P140 for the variant with pork or prawn). It’s somewhat refreshing – crunchy when bit and chewed, so you’d know you have freshly prepared rolls. I have an issue with the dip used, though – ditto with the Cha Gio (Vietnamese Spring Roll, which has ground meat, mushrooms, vermicelli and vegetables; from P150), since that satay-tasting sauce doesn’t give these two justice.

For something soupy, try Tom Kha Gai (spicy yet tangy soup with coconut milk, tamaring, galangal, chicken and straw mushrooms; P150) or Tom Yum Goong (hot and sour broth with lemon grass, galangal, kaffir lime leaves, chilis and lime juice, topped with prawns; P160). Or try their version of the Laksa Lemak (rice and mee or egg noddles with coconut milk, chilis and spices, prawns, and fish cakes; P180) – quite pale/bland when compared with Singapore’s hawkers, but should (particularly if you ask those who prepare to add more coconut milk and chilis), good enough as go-between your next overseas trip to test the real deal.

Else, just go straight to one of the main dishes. Their Pad Thai (fried rice noodles with tofu, fish sauce, sugar, lime juice, tamarind pulp, chopped peanuts, and then topped with eggs; P99 for the vegetarian, and P150 with prawns) will not necessarily bring you back to Bangkok, but it… satisfies. Then there’s the Khao Kluk Kapi (fried rice cooked with Thai shrimp paste – akin to the Filipino Bagoong Rice – a served with sweet pork, sour mango, scrambled eggs, chili and shallots; P160), with the flavors somewhat “sanitized”, so that there isn’t much after-taste when the meal is done.

No, this isn’t the best “cheap”/affordable SEA diner alternative (though in these parts of Makati City, it actually is). But yes, it’s worth a check for capturing the SEA penchant for whipping up something that could – and does – bring us all closer together. That’s food that makes us… chow, chow, chow.

At least here you can eat to your heart’s delight. And you don’t have to break any promise to do so.

If keen to check out what Kaffir Restaurant & Deli has to offer, head to The Collective at 7274 Malugay Street, San Antonio Village, Makati City.
For more information, call (+63 2) 208 4343, or SMS/call (+63) 9228960034 or (+63) 9228782296.

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