Eats by E Filipino Taco Tuesday Recap

Full disclosure: I was invited to attend Filipino Taco Tuesday with Chef Eric Pascual in Berekley, California. I was offered two tickets to the dinner in exchange for my opinion. These opinions are my own and do not represent Chef Eric Pascual or any affiliates.

Taco Tuesday is one of my favorite food celebrations that has been popularized in the 21st century. You might have a rough Monday and there are still a few days to go until the weekend and then Taco Tuesday comes in to save the week. Tacos, margaritas, and beer is always nice in my book.

Chef Eric Pascual and I have been connected online for a few years since he spent time in Tampa Bay in the past and followed me on social media. I actively watched the Filipino Food Movement in California and New York for years from Florida and saw him as a part of that movement.

Recently, Chef Eric Pascual relocated over to Berkeley to host his regular pop-ups and is starting over in a new part of California. He invited me to come check out one of his dinners for an article and I was more than happy to attend. The Filipino Taco Tuesday presents an appetizer, salad, numerous Filipino-inspired tacos, and dessert. His pop-ups are BYOW (Bring-Your-Own-Wine) for those who want to bring their own libations.

The evening started with lumpia. Both chicken and veggie were available and made well with a slightly spicy vinegar dip. The lumpia rolls were served on sharing platters for guests as a warm-up to the tacos.

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I enjoyed my lumpia with a Modelo beer which was a nice pairing.

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When it comes to lumpia, I judge a roll based on how packed the rolls are and how crispy the outside of the lumpia is without being too fried. Sometimes the problem with lumpia is dirty oil at restaurants that is being reused. Not the case at this dinner.

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The ingredients inside should be quality or you will most certainly taste it in every bite due to the wrapper not being as thick as an eggroll. I was happy with these lumpia rolls and felt like it was a good starter.

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Between courses a salad was prepared with organic greens, radishes, calamansi/sesame viaigrette, coconut/garlic croutons. Plenty of arugula greens were in the salad, which I enjoyed.

The Tacos

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The first taco was a Salmon Belly Sisig Taco. Sisig is one of my favorite Filipino foods and is usually made of pieces of pig ear on a sizzling platter, sometimes with an egg on-top. The Salmon Belly version took some elements of sisig and swapped it out for a salmon interpretation with tomato salsa, diced onions, peppers, and cilantro.

There was so many things going on in this taco that I couldn’t fully appreciate the salmon belly itself. In a way it reminded me a little of salmon sinigang. The taco was enjoyable, but not what I expected when reading the name of the taco on the menu.

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Next up was the Chicken Adobo Taco. Chicken Adobo is the national dish of the Philippines and there are probably over 10,000+ recipes on how to prepare the dish since there are so many islands and tribes in the Philippines. It is one of the most difficult dishes to please a diner with due to all the variations.

This taco features vinegar, Tamari, garlic, bay leaves, peppercorn, tomato salsa, diced onions, and cilantro. I expected a more soy-sauce heavy taste in this taco that was actually not too apparent here, maybe due to the Tamari use for gluten-free diners instead of soy sauce.  It reminded me more of a home-cooked chicken that my guest and I could both relate too. Delicious, but not what I expected.

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The third taco was a Veggie Taco with roasted tofu and mushrooms topped off with roasted tomato salsa, diced onions, and cilantro. This taco was really interesting and a nice middle of the way dish. I really liked the mushrooms, and am a huge fan of mushrooms in general.

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After the veggie taco the Braised Bistek Taco came out and this taco was truly the star taco of the night. The taste of Filipino Bistek was very apparent and the meat was very tender and flavorful with plenty of calamansi, garlic, tamari, black pepper, sauteed onions, tomato salsa, and cilantro.

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I would order this taco all night long. It was my favorite dish of the evening until a surprise dish was added to the menu.

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Chef Eric added a Kare-Kare Tostada to the menu made with organic peanut butter, bagoong shrimp paste, and 5-hour braised oxtail cooked in chicken stock. This was by far my favorite dish of the night and should certainly be added to the regular line-up of Chef Eric’s dinners.

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The taste of the Kare-Kare is so bold and the organic peanut butter does seem to really enhance the meat. Every time the meat touches your tongue, you get a nice feeling of flavor on the back. It isn’t traditional per se, but it is incredibly delicious. Between this and the Bistek Taco, I could eat Chef Eric’s food all night long.

Dessert

 

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Dinner ended with a Bibingka Churro Donuts. I love all three of these things so I was not surprised that it was amazing. I’ve only had bibingka once in the past with Chef Eric and it was flawless that time as well.

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The addition of a churro flavoring with cinnamon and sugar is genius. The strawberries on the side are a nice touch. The only thing I would add is maybe a dip on the side with chocolate, ube, or both. Either way still a great dish that I enjoyed.

Thus, the evening came to a filling and happy end. I asked Chef Eric to shoot a quick video with me so he could explain his background and why he does what he does. It can’t be easy to work as a pop-up chef, but Chef Eric has done this for years now and is very passionate about his craft. Hopefully he will find an audience in Berkeley that appreciates him and will support his food creations. I know I want to go back in the future for another dinner or happy hour.

If you want to check out Eats by E and the dinners by Chef Eric Pascual you can visit him online at eatsbye.com.

Follow Eats by E on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/EatsByE/

Follow Eats by E on Feastly: http://eatfeastly.com/eatsbye/

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California Tacos

California Tacos is part of my USF Dining Guide.

California Tacos is a true taco stand in every sense of the name. Most people don’t know what to make of the exterior. It looks like it was shipped from Southern California and dropped on Bearss Ave. in Tampa, Florida. The name “California” itself drew me to this place because California is known for quality food and after a few Tampa Yelpers reviewed the location with positive reviews I decided to try it out for myself.

Upon parking I found myself staring at a taco stand with only a few tables and chairs around. This place was going to be a completely different experience then the Taco Bus. I was greeted by a man at the cashier window and he asked me if it was my first time. When I responded yes I was provided some surfer munchies (carrots and various other veggies) while I waited on my order. I decided to order their California Burrito with Carne Asada inside (around $8 or $9 with guacamole and sour cream). The thought of having french fries inside a burrito blew my mind. When I tasted it though I was so impressed.

The taste is completely different from anything you have probably had anywhere else. Nothing like Moes, Chipotle, TJ Flats, or authentic Mexican joints like the Taco Bus. The cheeses are clearly American cheeses (tasted like cheddar), but somehow it was just amazing. The steak wasn’t seasoned like Vallartas or Taco Bus, but man it was still good. The french fries, which had blown my mind actually tasted amazing inside a burrito. It’s like when you put onion rings in your burger for the first time or first dipped french fries in your ice cream…an unknown genius thought.

The Horchata was actually made very well. The perfect amount of sweetness, I think sometimes Taco Bus has too much cinnamon sweet taste, but California Tacos does it just right. The drink size is unfortunately smaller.

Delicious tacos! Too bad they aren’t bigger.

On my next visit I had their Tijuana Tacos (3 for $3), which are like miniature tacos with their pork. They are simply heavenly. The man at the stand wasn’t lying when he said they would leave me wanting more. I ordered two and then still decided to try their Tasty Tostada ($2.79), a huge tostada that maybe I should not have ordered because man I was going to gain some weight eating all this good food. Regardless, I was glad I tried both and after trying them I became confidant that this place deserves attention and love for making all this good food.

Their tostadas are loaded. Full of ingredients and tastes great, but hard to grab because of all the ingredients…make sure you grab a fork!

To rate this restaurant against the Taco Bus or any Mexican restaurant is simply unfair (though comparison works due to some similarities). The meats have the same names, but have different (and interestingly good) tastes. The Southern California style is something I am unfamiliar with as I was a Northern California former resident, but I am impressed with their quality of food and will happily visit California Tacos many times in the future.

California Tacos To Go on Urbanspoon

Restaurant Name: California Tacos

Cuisine: Mexican

Address: 1450 Skipper Rd. Tampa, FL 33613

Neighborhood: USF

Phone Number: (813) 971-8226

Website: http://www.californiatacostogo.com/

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/California-Tacos/75129943307?ref=ts

THE Tampa Taco Bus

The Taco Bus in Tampa is like a landmark…people are always there and it has over 500 ratings on Urbanspoon and 80 Yelp reviews, which is a huge number for this city. Foursquare shows check-ins even into the wee hours of the morning. A 24-hour taco truck is a godsend to this city where restaurants start to close up shop around 10pm on weekends. They have a great menu with a variety of choices and ingredients; several beverages as well, there is nothing that someone cannot love about the Taco Bus.

If the Taco Bus was in California, it would be just another taco truck…but it has successfully done correctly what I have often pondered was missing in Tampa: authentic tasting Mexican food. Anyone who is from California or some other state heavily populated with Mexican people knows that the majority of the places in Tampa or Florida that claim to be “Mexican” restaurants are actually using canned beans, pre-made rice, and no actual Mexican ingredients.

Everything from the cheese to the seasoning on the meat at the Taco Bus tastes like real Mexican food, and although the style is slightly different from what I’m used to in Northern California, Taco Bus still makes an authentic meal that I can actually enjoy. Their Carne Asada tastes great and I have tried their tacos, burritos, and recently I finally gave their quesadillas a shot. I wasn’t disappointed.

My friends burrito. I like my burritos with Carne Asada and some refried beans/sour cream.

The quesadilla ($4.99) was pressed perfectly to be crunchy and with all the ingredients warmed to the right temperature.

The inside of my quesadilla looked amazing. Plenty of cheese, tomatoes, chicken, and onions.

I also get their horchata on every visit. Although their horchata tastes a little different then how I prefer it, it still tastes great and you get a ton of horchata for just a few bucks. Usually the food comes out quick and although lines get long they move pretty quickly. There is plenty of space inside and outside to eat as well. I am in love with the Taco Bus and would totally wear one of their t-shirts if I had more money.

They are opening a Taco Bus out in St. Petersburg and now all I can do is hope they bring one out to Brandon!

Taco Bus on Urbanspoon

Restaurant Name: Taco Bus

Cuisine: Mexican

Address: 913 E. Hillsborough Ave, Tampa FL 33604

Neighborhood: Seminole Heights

Phone Number: (813)232-5889

Website: http://tampatacobus.com/

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Taco-Bus/151303904885189

Twitter: @TacoBusTampa