Tonight for dinner I stopped at Kusina, located inside the aptly named Oriental Market on Harding Blvd. I’ve been vaguely aware of this place for a long time but hadn’t given it much thought until about a year ago when I decided I should probably add it to my list. Since then I’ve learned a couple things, mostly from Yelp reviews. First, while the Oriental Market it resides in does carry a little bit of everything, it leans towards Filipino items. Second, Kusina seems to be entirely Filipino cuisine. Besides this knowledge, I was going in blind. I have absolutely no clue about Filipino cuisine other than I know that adobo is a thing and looks pretty tasty, having seen coworkers at a previous job bring it in all the time.
I arrived at about 5:30 during a break in the rain. There were a handful of cars in the lot and the market itself was fairly quiet. From the front door you make a right and go past the registers, then another right into Kusina which has about half of the building’s windows to itself. The setup is very simple. A line of tables with skirts to the left where you order, and a grid of 9 tables in the dining area. On the tables to the left is a heated metal display case with the various items they have available. There were some cards with item names in there but I couldn’t really tell what matched up with what, not that I recognized anything other than chicken adobo. I was looking into the case for only a few seconds when a woman peeked around the side and said hello. I smiled back and asked what she recommended, then mentioned that chicken adobo was the only thing I knew about. She kind of laughed, then reached in and reorganized some things and moved the adobo card, making me think they were out of that, or that it was only available as a large take-out portion (she had repositioned and then pointed to a pre-filled carton).
I honestly can’t remember how most of the rest of this interaction went because it was incredibly awkward. Partially because I didn’t know what anything was, and partially because I’m not sure how much of the questions I asked was understood clearly. She spoke decent English but I think there may have been some bits that were getting lost here and there. She was very nice though and offered up a couple samples, both of which I ended up ordering in a 2 item combo with steamed rice [$7.50]. Also confusing during the ordering was the sign she was pointing to to help me out, the items were all referred to as sides, which threw me way off. I made it through the transaction. I ordered for dine in but she said she would box it to go, probably because she knew I had too much to eat it all there. She set the container on a tray with some napkins, a fork and spoon and my bottle of Coke [$1.83] and I took a seat at a table by the window.
One of the items I ended up getting was menudo, which I had thought, up until now, was exclusively the name of the Mexican soup. Apparently it is also the name of this Filipino dish. As I ate it I decided it tasted kind of like a stew. Sure enough now that I’m home and have looked it up, that’s exactly what it is. This had pork in it as well as onions, tomatoes, potatoes, carrots and bell peppers. It was very flavorful and quite tasty. I initially wasn’t sure what I would do with my rice but found it to go very well with the menudo.
The other item I ordered was noodles, also with pork. After a fair bit of Googling I have decided that this must be Pancit, maybe Pancit Bihon? I think that might be a brand name, I really have no idea what I’m talking about, haha. I’m not sure what the proper name is to indicate it has pork in it. Anyway, I really enjoyed this too. It is made up of thin rice-noodles, pork and a small amount of veggies consisting mostly of green beans and snow peas with some carrot slivers. I saw a red bell pepper or two in there but they may have come from the menudo.
I’m glad I finally stopped in to see what this was all about. I go by here almost every day and, aside from going in looking for some different varieties of instant ramen once or twice, hadn’t really known what to expect. It’s nice to know I can grab something a little different to take home for dinner if I’m in the mood. There isn’t much information about Kusina out there and they didn’t have a menu that I could take a photo of or take home and scan. The market itself has a website, but it’s very basic.