A Filipino pop-up from a pair of fine dining alums has found a permanent home in the kitchen of Emeryville’s Hometown Heroes sports bar. Starting June 8, Likha will officially serve a menu of modernized Filipino classics like kare kare, and lumpia.
Bobby Punla and Jan Dela Paz are the two chefs behind Likha, which was still in its early days when the gig at Hometown Heroes was secured — they’d only held a handful of events at Starline Social Club and Ramen Shop when a mutual friend put them in touch with the owners of the sports bar, who run another location in South San Francisco, and SoMa’s Trademark/Copyright.
New menu item! Beef shortrib Kare-Kare with crispy tripe kare kare is a peanut braised stew flavored with fermented shrimp paste. Also our Grand Opening has been pushed to June 8 (we will be open all warrior games) #likhaeats #likhapopup #filipinofoodmovement #filpinofood #savorfilipino #pinoyfood #karekare #sarap #makeitpogi #makeitsarap
Punla is a first generation Filipino-American from Richmond, while Dela Paz is a native of Manila who has been living in the United States for the past fifteen years. Both chefs have extensive fine dining experience: Dela Paz spent almost a decade in the Michelin-starred kitchen of Napa’s La Toque, while Punla worked at NYC’s NoMad restaurant, from the team behind Eleven Madison Park. Eventually, the two met while cooking at the Ramen Shop, the Oakland ramen restaurant from Chez Panisse alums.
Those experiences have helped shape the pop-up, says Punla, who joined Dela Paz in running Likha after an original partner moved away. “I really look up to Eleven Madison Park and that whole fine dining scene. They really polished me.”
Filipino restaurants like LASA in Los Angeles and Bad Saint in Washington, DC serve as inspirations for Likha, pushing ingredients and old-school dishes to new heights. Punla and Dela Paz are trying different techniques they’ve picked up in fine dining kitchens, and experimenting with plating to add color and texture to classic Filipino dishes — a new shortrib kare kare, a peanut stew with fermented shrimp past, is topped with crispy, fried tripe, and a longanisa “spam,” is their take on a popular sweet and savory Filipino sausage.
“We thought Filipino food really needed a voice here, something to keep the tradition but show how we could modernize the food,” says Punla. “Filipinos are the second biggest population in the bay area but there are very few Filipino restaurants, unless you go to Daly City where food is coming out of a chafing dish.”
Filipino food is on the rise in the Bay Area, with a dedicated night market in SF’s Mint Plaza (the 2018 season launches July 21), and fellow pop-up FOB Kitchen preparing to open a brick-and-mortar in Temescal. Elsewhere, the Lumpia Company is serving up its fried snacks with fillings like cheeseburger at Oakland’s Mad Oak bar, and food trucks like Señor Sisig, Jeepney Guy, and the Sarap Shop roam the Bay Area.
Likha has been serving dinner during Warriors finals, and will do so on Wednesday, June 6. The official grand opening is Friday, June 8; stay tuned for the addition of breakfast and brunch