A frequent complaint of Austin dining insiders is the lack of culinary diversity in the city’s bustling culinary scene, with many chefs opting to serve upscale New American cuisine instead of focusing on global flavors. But a new restaurant is set to correct that course by bringing Filipino cuisine to the north side of town.
Be More Pacific Filipino Kitchen and Bar opens October 12 in the former space of Rebel Pizza Bar above Suzi’s China Grill. Owners Giovan Cuchapin and Mark Pascual met in college and decided to open a trailer in 2011 after realizing they couldn’t find a restaurant offering the food from their youth. The new brick-and-mortar brings in chefs Salvador “Buddy” Melgarejo and Tony Dominguez to offer new takes on traditional Filipino fare — a style of cooking influenced by Chinese, Japanese, Indian, and Spanish cuisines — to Shoal Creek Boulevard.
With the new chefs at the helm, the new restaurant will be reworking some of the favorites from the trailer. Melgarejo has a diverse culinary background that spans four-star hotels and traditional Filipino restaurants. His move from the Philippines to Houston led him to collaborating with cousin Pascual. Dominguez, formerly of La Condesa, was brought in as a collaborator to refine classic comfort dishes, tweaking time-honored dishes like kare kare and tosilog.
Highlights from the menu include lumpia Shanghai (pork and shrimp egg rolls served with a house sweet chili sauce); sweet and tangy barbecue ribs with a pickled papaya salad and sautéed green beans; spicy coconut lime bacon fried rice topped with a fried egg; and adobo (chicken, pork, or tofu cooked in vinegar, soy sauce, and garlic). Dessert is kept simple and fresh, with a choice of either a banana and jackfruit filled egg roll or halo-halo (literally mix-mix), a goblet of purple yam ice cream (created in collaboration with Amy’s Ice Cream) swimming with fruit, jellies, flan, and evaporated milk.
The full bar offers Filipino-inspired cocktails like the Banana Mary (a Bloody Mary with muddled basil and spicy ketchup); the Rufio with mango puree; and the Lou Diamond (a complex blend of passionfruit, agave, muddled jalapeños, and tequila served with a skewer of salty feta). San Miguel, the unofficial national beer of the Philippines, leads a craft beer menu that includes a few local selections, some Spanish brews, and a few surprises.
The space made good use of Rebel’s clean, industrial lines and expansive renovated patio, replacing the former’s graffiti with family photos, a portrait of Filipino writer and nationalist José Rizal, and a reinterpretation of one of Andy Warhol’s famous soup cans. The restaurant will serve lunch and dinner Tuesday through Friday, with a happy hour featuring light bites from 4-6:30 pm. The dinner menu will be made available all day Saturday, with Sunday brunch promised soon.