6014 SE Foster (Creston - Kenilworth)
Portland, OR 97206
Tambayan, an unassuming, sparely-but-lovingly decorated restaurant on a visually bland strip of SE Foster. Though roughly finished, it is spacious, and the child-friendly buffer between its sturdy utilitarian tables is a bit of a luxury.

The first dish, the pata ($8.99, or $5.50 during happy hour, which runs Wednesday through Friday, 4-6 pm) is a braised and deep-fried pork hock (the structurally complex and un-sexy knuckle above the ankle and below the ham). It became a favorite item over subsequent visits. The pata features a moist, salty interior encased in a chicharrón-style crisped mahogany skin, with rich, caramelized edges on the exposed flesh. The accompanying soy-based dipping sauce completes this palate-invigorating shared starter. Also along these lines is the tokwa't baboy ($5.99, one of the menu's better values), deep-fried cubes of firm but yielding pork belly and custardy tofu, and thirsty for the sauce's sweet soy bath.

The sinigang na baboy ($7.99)—a light tamarind-broth soup generously strewn with firm, meaty eggplant, tender pork shoulder, and string beans—is pleasantly sweet and citrus sour, reminiscent of lemongrass. The more exciting paksiw na lechon ($6.99) is a soup of deep-fried pork belly chunks in a tamarind-liver broth. It has a richer viscosity, an intensified sweet-sour flavor, and is deeply infused with dried bay leaf and black peppercorn, although the flavor of liver is—to the relief of some— not obvious.

The kare-kare ($8.99), stewed beef in a rich peanut sauce with eggplant, bok choy, and green beans, is served slightly under-seasoned so that bagoong—the intense fermented shrimp paste common to this pantry—can be stirred in to taste. This presents a problem: Those not inured to the flavor of bagoong may find it not unlike an explosive mouthful of angry poultry feces. Approach this condiment with extreme caution, or perhaps just opt for table salt.

Bobis ($6.99), which is described as braised pork entrails sautéed with red and green peppers in a vinegared soy sauce, is confirmed to be pork heart. It is a coarse, meaty mince with the tender texture of a crumbled pâté, served hot. The braise mellows the organ's flavor, making it approachable even for those with a basal aversion to offal. A similarly surprising offering is the ginataang langka ($5.99), green jackfruit and bay shrimp in a rich, salty coconut cream the consistency of yogurt. It is colored bright pink with our old friend bagoong, which thankfully is added by an expert hand in the kitchen and disappears into the flavor like any good, respectful fish sauce or anchovy.

Pancit bihon ($6.99), rice noodles sautéed with pork and mixed vegetables, is a perfectly balanced and seasoned hot side dish, generous again with the meat. The pancit palabok ($7.99), rice noodles with diced pork, tofu, chicharrón, julienned egg, scallions, and fried garlic, is a less interesting option that never attains its gestalt. Another also-ran is the squid adobo ($6.99, fully intact, which I was assured is authentic to the cuisine), overcooked and inert on the tongue, and rather aquatic tasting.

Six adults ate full and well for $60, a great value for the money. Individual combo meals, at $6.99 with garlic rice and an over-easy egg, are large and served all day.

Tambayan, the only Filipino restaurant in our grid, is worth checking off your international bucket list; stray not far from the pig and coconut path for a solid, novel, and affordable initial foray.

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