Chef Francis Ang has been sharing Filipino cuisine with diners via his pop-up Pinoy Heritage for several years now — in 2018, it won an Eater Award for Best Pop-Up, one of many accolades for Ang’s versions of classic Filipino dishes like lumpia, sisig, and more. Soon, diners won’t have to wait for the next pop-up because Ang and his wife Dian prepare to open their first full-service restaurant, Abacá, in early summer.
It will open within the Kimpton Alton Hotel in Fisherman’s Wharf with 50 seats indoors and about 28 on the patio, with the welcome addition of a banquet room to host weddings and parties. While there are many excellent Filipino restaurants in the Bay Area, Abacá will be the first to offer this level of service, after years of searching for the right space.
Ang has spent time in some of SF’s best restaurants over the years since he moved here from Manila at age 19, including Gary Danko, Campton Place, Fifth Floor, and Dirty Habit. He’ll bring that fine dining experience to Abacá, where California influences will mingle with Filipino flavors.
The menu will focus on small plates, says Ang, like grilled skewers of pork belly with banana ketchup to crab pancit with asparagus and brussels sprouts. “It’s been an inspiration since we created Dirty Habit. The way the menu was designed was a ton of appetizers and small plates,” says Ang. “The idea was to have guests sharing and nibbling and tasting all different kinds of plates versus ordering one big entree at a time.”
There will also be a robust cocktail program designed to highlight the flavors of the Philippines. “There’s been a shortage of representation in the use of Filipino cocktails,” says Ang. “We’re not focused on spirits so much as the flavors.” Wine and beer from all over — California, and beyond — will be available, too.
A feature that will be especially welcome to hotel guests: a pastry case filled with Ang’s creations that draw from his background as a pastry chef. Coffee from Oakland’s Mr. Espresso will accompany pastries like ensaymada that’s been laminated like a croissant for a crispy, flaky texture and filled with sweet and savory flavors like salted egg and ube.
The interior of the restaurant will feature two giant skylights with hanging plants draping down, with much of the decor composed of abacá, the restaurant’s namesake and a strong fiber that is ubiquitous in the Philippines. It’s largely sourced by Svea Villanueva-Reyes of Shelmed Cottage Treasures, a company that creates and ships abacá products all over the world. Ang and his wife met Villanueva-Reyes in their travels through the Philippines, when they visited her family’s restaurant Balay Cena Una in Bicol — a region of the Philippines — to learn more about Bicoli cuisine. “When we were thinking of names for the restaurant, we knew we wanted to fill the restaurant with abacá,” says Ang.
As for the future of Pinoy Heritage, which sold at-home kamayan feasts during the past year, that’s to be determined, though Ang says it’s the original and mother of all future concepts down the line. Stay tuned for updates on Abacá going forward.