Half of the tenacious twosome behind Los Angeles’ Spoon & Pork, chef Raymond Yaptinchay champions Filipino cuisine through modern, inventive dishes
Once a modest (albeit, notoriously popular) player in Los Angeles’ famed food truck scene, Spoon & Pork has quickly flourished into one of California’s must-know dining destinations. Led by the tandem of chefs that is Raymond Yaptinchay and Jay Tugas, the modern Filipino comfort food kitchen realised its first brick-and-mortar restaurant in 2019, just two years after they hit the streets as an on-wheels concept—and the reception has been spectacular.
Within a year of opening its Silver Lakes outpost, the Los Angeles Times and New York Times recognised two of its dishes as among the best of the year: the Patita, a slow-cooked and deep-fried pork shank with a chilli garlic glaze, and the Coco Jack, a coconut-braised jackfruit dressed to the nines. Most recently, Spoon & Pork was listed on the 2021 California Michelin Guide, further establishing the Filipino restaurant as a fierce figure in the highly competitive dining scene. Yet, this is but the beginning for the dynamic duo, who just opened its second location in Sawtelle.
“It’s been humbling for sure,” shares Yaptinchay, reflecting on their experience thus far. “I love making people happy through my cooking. There is nothing more satisfying than watching people enjoy and love what you just cooked for them.” At Spoon & Pork, this passion is emboldened by their proud dedication to showcasing our country’s “colourful history,” a story beautifully told through delicious food. “We love to cook and share our culture with everyone who comes to our restaurants,” he relates. “We want everyone to feel like they are eating in our home. We treat everyone like family.”
Discover Yaptinchay’s bucket list restaurants in Metro Manila (and the eccentric collection of pasalubong he carries back to the United States), below:
What do you miss most on the food/drink front when you are away from the Philippines or haven’t been back for a while?
Our fruits: mangga, chico, lansones, mangosteen; and also, Lucban longganisa.
What is the first dish you want to eat when you return, and where do you go for it?
Lucban longganisa, fried danggit, garlic rice fried with the rendered oil from the Lucban longganisa, and eggs, with mangoes for dessert. Nothing can beat Filipino breakfast. Oh, and fish balls and isaw too. These are foods that we can’t get here in the States.
Do you have a favourite restaurant in the Philippines? For fine dining and for more casual experiences?
I haven’t been back since 2015, but I always hit up restaurants that I grew up with. Hmm... Pancake house, Via Mare, Sugi, Jade Garden, Seoul Garden, Milky Way, Cirkulo, Minggoys, Kimpura—that’s just off the top of my head, but there’s so much more. I eat out every day when I’m back home. I enjoyed Abe and Mecha Uma the last time I was there. I can’t wait to try Manam, Toyo [Eatery], Hapag, and Sarsa. I’ve been following them from here [in the United States], and they are on the top of my list for when I visit.
If you have visitors/guests with you, where do you go to give them a real taste of the Philippines?
At the Dampa, fresh seafood that’s cooked right there [in front of you]. It doesn’t get any better than that.
Any other must-visit food/drink spots when you are back?
As I mentioned above, I hit up childhood favourites and also check out the new ones that look exciting. I also miss the old school restaurants like Mario’s, Minggoy’s, and Alba’s. The dining scene in the Philippines is pretty amazing right now. There are so many places I would love to try.
Do you take any food or treats back home with you from the Philippines?
Where do you go to find authentic flavours of home where you live?
Spoon & Pork of course! We live in Los Angeles, where we have amazing Filipino restaurants all over the city. I love going to turo-turos like Arko Foods in Glendale or American Ranch [& Seafood Market] in Artesia.