I’ve been meaning to try Papa’s Kitchen for quite some time. So the other evening I stopped by the cozy spot tucked away from the hustle and bustle of Roosevelt Avenue’s Little Manila. Papa wasn’t in the house that night but his daughter, Mabie was. As I perused the menu she eyed a microphone on the table and asked me if I liked to sing. Like many Filipino spots Papa’s functions as something of a karaoke clubhouse.
After dodging the karaoke bullet I settled on pancit palabok ($8.95), a classic Filipino noodle dish. I also got an order of the steamed cakes known as puto ($3.50 for 10). The only other pancit palabok I’d had was at the fast-food joint Jollibee. Mabie feigned shock and chuckled when I told her. I was looking forward to a home-cooked version. It soon arrived at the table smelling of smoky fish and topped with hard-boiled eggs and green onions.
The chewy translucent noodles shot through with pieces of pork belly and smoky ground dried fish were tasty, but lacked something. Mabie suggested some Filipino fish sauce. I also asked for some hot sauce. “Is this banana ketchup?” I asked. “No, it’s spicy sauce ,” she responded. “Yes, I know but how do you say it?” I asked. “It’s just spicy sauce,” she repeated.
Once seasoned with some spicy sauce and fish sauce the noodles were thoroughly satisfying in a homey sort of way. I asked the cook whether pancit had dried smoked fish. “It’s a secret ingredient,” he said. I suspect the lot was seasoned with ground shrimp and dried smoked fish. There was nothing mysterious about the puto though. The tiny little spongy cakes made from rice flour were slightly sweet. I could easily eat a dozen for breakfast.
About half way through my meal some folks arrived to sing karaoke. As the lyrics, “Speak about the people in Massachusetts,” scrolled on the monitor I felt very far away from both New England and New York City. I’m looking forward to hanging out more at Papas’ Kitchen. Just don’t expect to see me singing karaoke any time soon.
Papa’s Kitchen, 65-40 Woodside Ave., Woodside, 347-724-9586