Before you go to a restaurant, what do you want — or need — to know most? In our series, The Rundown, we’re sharing all the essentials about newly opened (as well as some of your favorite) restaurants.
This time, we’re looking at the contemporary Filipino-Californian restaurant Abacá, which opened last month at the Kimpton Hotel in Fisherman’s Wharf for both indoor and outdoor dining. Here’s everything you need to know about this exciting addition to San Francisco’s dining scene. Tara na! (let’s go!)
1. The chefs have serious chops.
Abacá is run by the husband-and-wife duo Francis and Dian Ang as well as chef de cuisine Danica Aviles. Francis has a fine-dining background, starting his career in pastry at Gary Danko before moving to Fifth Floor, where he would work on the savory side of things. He became the chef de cuisine at Dirty Habit, and punctuated each career move with culinary research trips through the Philippines.
The Angs started the much-acclaimed Pinoy Heritage pop-up in 2014, doing everything from sit-down tasting menus to barbecue pop-ups outside bars. In 2018, the San Francisco Chronicle named Francis as a Rising Star Chef; the same year, Eater also anointed Pinoy Heritage as Pop-Up of the Year.
2. Yes, of course there are lumpia.
The menu is divided into three sections: BBQ sticks; kanin and pancit (rice and noodles); and large and small shared plates, which are further sectioned by vegetable, seafood, and land animals. As such, you’ll want to order a bit from each section to get the full experience.
Chicken skin (or crinkled yuba skin if you’re vegetarian) is given an adobo gastrique to apply Filipino flavor to a Japanese-inspired yakitori snack; Ang applies a similar approach to the grilled longganisa pork sausage that’s served with egg yolk and cane vinegar — it’s shaped and served just like tsukune.
Sisig Fried rice features Iberico pork heads that are simmered, deboned, grilled, diced, then braised in soy, vinegar, and calamansi before being wok-fried with California short-grained rice.
Pancit, a noodle dish commonly made with chicken or beef, features scallop as the primary protein supplemented with mushrooms in a sauce made with fume, scallop stock, coconut milk, and butter. The real kicker is the housemade noodles, which feature that chewy QQ texture. (Note: QQ is the Asian equivalent of al dente, meaning it’s soft but offers some resistance to the bite.)
Don’t snooze on pork lumpia, which is made with heritage breed pork, served with herbs and lettuce to make wraps to dip into apple ketchup — a refreshing and unique twist on a classic dish.
And of course, you’ll want to try each and every single one of Ang’s desserts. Carioca rice donuts are chewy like mochi and served with strawberry sorbet and passion fruit, and you can’t go wrong with a chocolate mousse bombe.
3. Cocktails too have a Pinoy twist.
You’ll want to stick to cocktails, which were designed with long-time collaborator and acclaimed bartender Kevin Diedrich of Pacific Cocktail Haven, where Ang often ran his Pinoy Heritage pop-ups.
Diedrich creates cocktails with ingredients and flavor profiles that complement Ang’s fare. The purple-hued Ube-Colada, for example, is a play on a pina colada with the addition of the purple yam for color and sweetness. The Pandan-Quiri is citrus-forward, featuring calamansi and grapefruit in addition to rum and pandan.
4. Don’t sleep on the Panaderia, early risers.
Panaderia means “bakery.” From Wednesday to Sunday mornings, you can find things like ensaymadas, bibingka, ube macarons, and other baked goods and sweet treats to go with coffee and tea at Panaderia Abaca, located near the front entrance of the restaurant.
5. The restaurant’s name also signals strength.
Abacá is a plant native to the Philippines. The plant’s fibers are strong, and originally were used for making twines and textiles, and are also used to make the baskets you see in the space. But it’s also symbolic: “It represents the bond we have with the team,” says Ang. “It’s as strong as the strongest fiber.”