Treasures To Be Found Inside the Attic

Earlier this year, I, like so many other foodies, mourned the passing of San Francisco’s Poleng Lounge, one of the few restaurants not only to feature modern Filipino food, but to do it exceedingly well.

So, I rejoiced when I heard that the Mosquito had landed — at least temporarily.

For those in the know, that’s the nickname of Filipino-American Chef Tim Luym, formerly of Poleng Lounge, who earned that moniker during college, when he used to deejay at club gigs by scratchin’ vinyl to create distinctive sounds. And nothing scratches more than a mosquito, right?

Luym now can be found in the kitchen at the barely two-month old Attic restaurant in downtown San Mateo, where he is the consulting chef. Whether he sticks around permanently, remains to be seen. Luym would only play coy, saying he was still exploring all his options.

For those who have missed the bold, memorable flavors of Luym’s former Southeast Asian small plates restaurant in San Francisco, you’ll be glad to know the menu at Attic features a lot of the same dishes you fell in love with there.

The vibe also is similar. Walk in the doorway, and you’ll find yourself first in the Bar under Attic — a small, bare-bones speakeasy on the ground floor that stays open late. Walk up a flight of stairs in the corner, and you’ll enter the actual restaurant upstairs, done up in warm reds and browns, and decorated with terracotta tea pots and wood crates. Dark, polished tables are set with caddies of chopsticks. Sliding glass doors overlooking the bustling street below let in a cool breeze on warm summer evenings.

Although my two gal pals and I paid our tab, Luym sent out extra goodies as a welcoming gesture because I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing him multiple times over the past few years.

The best way to enjoy yourself, of course, is to share all the dishes family-style. That’s just what my friends and I did, starting with sweet potato fries ($3.50), which were wonderfully crisp. To dunk them in, there was a spicy, house-made ketchup made with banana. Yes, banana, which lent a wonderful note of fruity, tropical sweetness, so much so that you wonder why more ketchups don’t have banana incorpoated into them.

Then came monster-sized house-made Sinigang Chicharonnes ($3.50). They looked like tortilla-sized shrimp chips. But one bite revealed their porky, fatty lushness.

For something a little lighter, there was Inihaw Kinilaw ($9) — cubes of butterfish, done ceviche-style with cooling, sweet coconut milk as a counterpoint to the bite of the shallots and Thai chillies. OK, so maybe it wasn’t quite so “light,” when there were lovely bits of charred pork belly on the dish, too.

Next, the dramatic “Beef & Bone” ($13), a riff on the bone marrow with coconut bread at Poleng Lounge. Only this also had a stew of mushrooms topping it. You take a toasted bread stick, smear it with the unctuous bone marrow, then some earthy, tender mushrooms. Pop in mouth, and smile — big-time.

Of course, we couldn’t pass up what was always one of my favorite dishes at Poleng Lounge — Adobo Wing Lollipops ($7 for a small order; $12 for a dozen). I’m not normally bonkers about chicken wings. But these fried ones, glazed in a sticky, sweet, tangy sauce are the stuff of dreams. They’re the only chicken wings I order time and time again.

“XO Scallops”  ($9.50) were tender and sweet, a nice contrast to the glass noodles underneath, heady with pungent black bean sauce and bits of Chinese sausage. Beef Salpico ($12.50) is a classic Filipino dish that’s been updated — cubes of filet mignon, cooked in brown butter, green garlic, and Meyer lemon olive oil, then showered with crispy onions.

On the side were a simple stir-fry of pea tendrils, garlic and snow peas ($7), and Crab Butter Fried Rice ($5.50) that arrived capped decoratively with a whole crab shell. Underneath, grains of rice were mixed with a lot of crab meat and tomale, making for a rich accompaniment.

The only dessert that night was chilled tapioca made with ube, a purple yam. Although my gal pals and I aren’t always the biggest fan of starchy, soupy Asian desserts, we were all surprised how much we liked this one. Cool, creamy and sweet, it was a fitting ending to a meal full of satisfying in-your-face flavors.

The newbie restaurant still has a few rough edges. Service is friendly and attentive — but maybe too attentive, as my cocktail and ice tea glasses were whisked away before I’d even finished them.

But there is quirky charm, too. When my friends and I exited the restaurant into the bar downstairs late that night, we found a lively group of Generation Xers celebrating a birthday, who promptly offered us slices of a delightful homemade, layered carrot cake to join in the fun.

At the Attic, you never know what treasures you’ll find. Let’s just hope its real jewel, Luym sticks around — at least for a little while longer.

More: My 2009 Q&A with Chef Tim Luym

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Date: Thursday, 29. July 2010 5:28
Trackback: Trackback-URL Category: Chefs, General, Restaurants

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  1. 1

    Such amazing ingredients and flavor combinations….ever knew Filipino food rocks!

  2. 2

    What great food! I particularly like the beef salpico, the chicharonnes and the scallops!



  3. 3

    The food sounds wonderful! Beautiful photos, as always. I haven’t been to San Mateo in a long time. It may be time for a visit… :)

  4. 4

    I haven’t had much experience with Filipino Cuisine but all this food loos amazing! I especially like the idea of ketchup made with bananas!

  5. 5

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by CarolynJung, Jamie Law. Jamie Law said: Yay!! RT @CarolynJung: What's Chef Tim Luym been doing since Poleng Lounge closed? Find him at the fab new Attic. […]

  6. 6

    Thanks for letting us know where he landed. I can’t wait to try Attic!

  7. 7

    I am so unfamiliar with Filipino food! Even before I taste those lollies, I am already stuck to imagining how tasty those Adobo wing lollies would be….

  8. 8

    The chilled tapioca dessert soup reminded me of the one my family used to make when I was a kid. Gotta try this place out now!

  9. 9

    I need to find a Filipino place!!! Wow!! banana ketchup?!! I wonder if I can just make my own spin of that in my kitchen! So sad that the place closed down…but I’m glad the chef is still creating such marvelous dishes!

  10. 10

    A terrific review! I’m just sad that this isn’t in my neck of the woods. Looks amazing.

  11. 11

    Aaah! Your post and pictures make me want to go back soon!

  12. 12

    ok i want to go out to dinner now!

  13. 13

    Wow! It all looks so amazing! I would have never thought of ketchup and bananas as a combination!

  14. 14

    Chef Tim’s food sure looked luscious enough, I can just sit back quietly and put on my 3rd gear acceleration and finsh all the food! :)

  15. 15

    ooh that marrow looks divine Carolyn! And I would so hone on the wings too :P

  16. 16

    Sounds like such a fun menu. And, those wing lollipops look delicious!

  17. 17

    I seriously need someone to take me to a Filippino restaurant! I have so much to learn. =)

  18. 18

    Mmmmm…I’m smiling just looking at that beef marrow dish!

  19. 19

    amazing photos. I am biting into the screen :)

  20. 20

    OK, I am so there with. Poleng was great and I am sure Mosquito will do grand where ever he lands. These pictures are just temptation on the screen, they must be checked out in person.

  21. 21

    I met Chef Tim at the Aluminum Chef finale at my school on saturday night where he was one of the judges. He is such a nice guy. I have been invited to be his guest at Attic and can’t wait to try it!

  22. 22

    Chef Barbie: That’s so great! I’m happy for you. And you’ll love hanging out with Tim at the Attic. Enjoy the eats! ;)

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