New Restaurant Alert: Kapeng Mainit at Tropical Avenue, Las Pinas
Beignets, buttermilk biscuits, and sinigang fried chicken...comfort food comes in different languages.
Tropical Avenue, BF International Village, Las Piñas City
Open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. (Wednesday to Monday)
(SPOT.ph) Before you brush off Kapeng Mainit as another hipster joint with a cheeky moniker, you need to sit yourself down in that tiny dining room and have a bite of their beignets. In fact, every baked thing coming out of Chef Bryan Francisco's oven deserves your undivided attention.
Not that Chef Bryan is the type who craves the spotlight. In fact, when you walk in, you probably wouldn't even notice the Bouchon-trained chef behind the counter, preparing a plate of what we would call "inspired comfort food." The attention to detail—from the French-pressed coffee to the homemade jams and sauces—is the last thing you would expect from this tiny hole-in-the-wall in a quiet community in Las Piñas. However, geography doesn't seem to matter to this young chef. What he serves at Kapeng Mainit would be a hit wherever he is—even if you put him in a prime spot in Makati.
A tiny, tiny hole-in-the-wall
The menu is an eclectic mix of American and Filipino comfort food, from breakfast to dessert. Hawaii is well represented with Chef Bryan's version of Spamusubi (P135), a snack composed of fried caramelized Spam and rice wrapped in nori. This one uses kimchi fried rice for that extra kick, plus a small pool of Japanese mayo to tie the flavors together. If you want the full treatment, the Aloha Breakfast (P230) should do the trick. Think deconstructed Spamusubi—plus eggs and bacon.
The classic champorado (P145) is updated with the use of forbidden rice, which gives the chocolate porridge more texture, while the traditional topping of spicy dilis provides that characteristic sweet, salty, spicy kick.
What will make you more curious about this unassuming chef, however, are his Buttermilk Biscuits (P50/piece), which he serves with an assortment of homemade jams (add P25) and syrups, or cuddling sausage, cheese, and egg (P185). Served warm, a piece is dense yet soft; the alluring aroma of butter almost hypnotic. If there is one thing from Kapeng Mainit you must bring home with you, it's a box of these bad boys.
The chef also makes a legit salsa verde which accompanies the sandwich orders. It doesn't feature the usual tomatillo base, but this jalapeño version gives off a moderate heat that warms up as you move along. It definitely adds oomph to the Grilled Cheese Sandwich (P165). He sells it by the bottle. Take some home, too.
Sinigang Fried Chicken
Fried chicken is always a popular draw, and the Sinigang Fried Chicken (P195) is crispy and distinct with the undeniable tang of the beloved soup. The garlic rice on the side makes it certifiably Pinoy.
As for the much-heralded beignets (P125 to 185), they really do live up to the hype. Kapeng Mainit serves them straight—just a fine dusting of confectioner's sugar. They also come in chocolate, or stuffed with salted caramel, white chocolate matcha, or jam—all freshly made and fried upon ordering.
Cookies à la mode
But just to confuse you and have you questioning your choices, Chef Bryan also throws some pretty solid cookies into the mix. For dessert, he serves a selection of three (P170) to five (P290) cookies in a pan, served à la mode. The calamansi and chocolate chip cookies are standouts, but every flavor is equally gooey and decadent when warm.
Chef Bryan talks about expansion—he's looking at a bigger space nearby and also sees Makati's Poblacion area as a good fit for his brand. "I don't want it to be too commercial," he winces. "[I'd] just like to keep it like this," motioning with his hands as if he's trying to contain air. We know what he means: something this special you would want to keep to yourself and to a select few who "get it." But, then again, everybody in the universe should try those biscuits...and beignets...and cookies.
Photos by Jaclyn Clemente-Koppe