A new island adventure
Lola Ling’s Restaurant
Lola Ling’s Restaurant6157 Mack Rd.
Sacramento, CA 95823
So let me begin by saying that this was my first time having Filipino food. I took with me on this review a friend whose Filipino background made her a trusted companion with a familiarity with the cuisine.
It’s hard to review a cuisine you’re unfamiliar with. Yes, you can research recipes, read history and interview chefs but, really, you need a history of tasting. My Filipino food experience is more than remiss. So, dear readers, bear with me as I relate to you the loss of my turon virginity.
Lola Ling’s is located in South Sac off of Mack Road and is a sari-sari restaurant, meaning it functions like a cafe: order agrave; la carte, or get a few items in a combo (two meats and a side: $7.50; two veg dishes and a side: $5.50).
Chicken adobo is certainly a divisive dish. The Philippines is made of thousands of islands, each with its own communities; each family in each community has its own recipe for adobo. All this is to say that every menudo recipe can be slightly or vastly different from the next. Ling’s is deeply enthralling with bone-in chicken and the taste of garlic, vinegar, bay leaf and soy.
The adventurous eater may enjoy the adobo pusit: squid, cooked in vinegar, soy, onion, pepper and squid ink. The deeply briny dish resonated with a vinegar sourness. The squid mantles still contained the quills, though, which I found severely marred the experience.
A strangely pink pinakbet proved to be a disappointing mess of cooked vegetables with some overcooked and others undercooked.
If you love creamed spinach (and if you don’t, why do you hate yourself?) you will love laing. The Filipino version of creamed spinach, it consists of taro leaves cooked in coconut cream. Savory, deep, sweet, creamy, it’s a dish that that rings of Christmas in Manila.
Elsewhere on the menu, the grilled liempo ($1.99), skewered pork with a sweet barbecue sauce, had a good flavor but too much time under a heat lamp made it tougher that the LSAT.
A grilled, skewered mackerel ($2.99) was served quite dry—but there was some appeal to it. Diners can rip the crispy skin and pliable flesh apart and dip it into vinegar and soy sauce; it’s a dish that demands to be eaten on the beach with a cold beer.
We finished our meal with a couple of popular Filipino desserts: halayang ube cake, halo-halo and turon. The halayang ube cake ($3.99) had a chewy, slightly flan-like, coconut-laced top that guards below a creamy and sweet ube (purple yam) pudding. It’s sweet enough to give even the people sitting around you diabetes and is terribly delicious.
Our spiral into hyperglycemia was completed with the haro-haro ($4.99). Tagalog for “mixed together” or “toss-toss,” depending who translates, it’s a curious mixture of treats. Crushed ice, sweet beans, jellied fruit, crispy rice, young coconut and jackfruit are layered before being flooded with evaporated milk and topped with ube ice cream and leche flan. At Lola Ling’s it’s a brilliant fireworks display of sugar, color and flavor.
The turon ($0.75) is a banana-and-jackfruit-filled deep-fried spring roll glazed in a hard shell of bitter caramel. Sweet, fruity and so bitter I almost gritted my teeth so hard they threatened to shatter as much as the candy shell itself. A treat one has to grow up with, I gather.
All the food suffers after marathon sleeps under heat lamps so there’s no avoiding that at times the quality can be certainly sorry. Still, the food is flavorful, affordable and satisfies well enough.