A Place to Call His Own, Gaya Gaya Officially Opens in June
Chef DJ Tangalin has been looking for the right home for quite some time and he may have finally arrived. DJ spent the last year bringing Bivouac Cider into the light with his Filipino slant on the North Park restaurant’s menu. He designed menu items that introduced Filipino flavors into a food-centric neighborhood, bringing the essence of the cuisine out of the shadows.
Make no mistake though. Chef DJ did this carefully and with finesse. He didn’t ambush an unsuspecting guest with a flavor profile they may not have been familiar with. He methodically indulged the mainstream palate while infusing hints of exotic, vinegary, sweet, umami tastes (and colors) that Filipino foods are famous for. NOW he is on to writing his own story.
Today I walked in late from a meeting into the largely blank space of Miramar’s Sarap, which Chef DJ recently took over. I greeted the table of food-thusiasts that accepted an open invitation from myself and friend Jonathon, which we posted on the Curious & Hungry Group & SD Food Fanatics Facebook Group pages. Luckily, everyone was still looking over the menus.
I maybe spent 2 minutes looking at the menu then got a little frazzled with making a decision and my hangry pains kicked in. Breakfast was not in my time management schedule today so by 12:45pm I was in need of food. The waitress came by with two bowls of garlic salt roasted peanuts for us to snack on and take the order but it was clear we all just preferred to have DJ send out his favorites. Chef’s whim it is.
San Diego Eaters are ready to eat Filipino food because the way I’m doing it is making it approachable. It’s intimidating to many because, one the language, two the ingredients, three the unfamiliarity. It is my duty and other chefs who want to pursue cooking Filipino food, to make it approachable.
~ Chef DJ Tangalin
The food was typical Filipino dishes with good balanced flavors. The Crispy Pata (pork leg with the perfect crunch to the skin) was moist & flavorful without being overly salty (this happens often).
The garlic rice was aromatic and provided a beautiful base to take in all the brothy goodness of the bowl of mussels which I sopped up to the very end. DJ sent out a whole fish amberjack, which no one minded. There was no whining about the bones in this group.
We capped off the fulfilling lunch with Halo Halo, an icy, milky dessert that is topped with a tropical ice cream and filled with beans, jelly pieces and more. It was a feast indeed.
There are a few vegetarian option on the menu right now, like the Fried Tofu Sisig and the Mushroom Empanadas and DJ assured me the Ube Pannacotta that was a family favorite at Bivouac will see itself onto the menu shortly. My friend Dee and I were overly-concerned with the lack of “real” sisig on the menu which is usually made with the pieces of a pig’s head. HEY, Filipino cuisine is the original “NO WASTE” food 😉 We were assured that indeed we may see the real thing once DJ can source the quality he needs.
While we were there, we ran into writer and friend Caron Golden which you can deduce means Chef DJ will be in some upcoming article soon. I doubt it will be just the one though. Chef DJ is bringing Filipino food away from the “2 entree special” buffet restaurant concept and moving it toward an easily acceptable family restaurant feel with real plates, beer, wine and soon… a full spectrum of ESPN Sports on the TV’s. It sounds like we’ll be back after the official opening June 12th, Philippines’ Independence Day.
GAYA GAYA SD (Signage still says Sarap)
7580 Miramar Rd, San Diego, CA 92126