Colonia Restaurant Dishes Filipino Cuisine That Taste Like Home

La Parrilla de Manila's menu offers a range of authentic palate-pleasing faves, plus Asian and ethnic-fusion fare.

La Parrilla de Manila is a dining mecca for Filipino diners among others. Friends who live in South Jersey tell me that their Filipino friends from North Jersey regularly implore them to meet in Colonia at La Parrilla de Manila, when they are jonesing for food from their homeland. That wasn’t possible several years ago, my pals tell me, when the original restaurant was a shoe-box in New Brunswick, with barely a table for a party of two, let alone a couple of families.

This mecca is still owned by Francis and Marie Grace Ponce, but today their spacious, free-standing building on St. Georges Avenue (Route 35) has a diner-sized menu of lunch and dinner offerings that span traditional Filipino and Asian fusion genres, with a smattering of other ethnic touches thrown in to acquaint Filipinos (the Ponces say) with a variety of cuisines. There’s even a short-stack listing of classic Filipino breakfast foods for those who have taken to a certain American sensibility and order breakfast at lunch or dinner.

No matter the time of day, as long as it’s hot outside, order the calamansi juice. It’s a kind of cross between limeade and lemonade, here slightly sweeter than the puckering-tart versions I’ve had elsewhere. A large glass goes down in about seven-tenths of a second.

Tacos, anyone? Sisig is a dish served open-face style, its flour tortillas spread thickly with coarse-ground pork that folks who appreciate nodules of fat will double-love. It’s a simple, basic and mild affair, with shredded greens peeking out from under the pork and a zig-zag of creamy, cheesey sauce on top.

Sisig (tacos)

I’ve puzzling over the langka—a curry made with jackfruit and shrimp and bound with coconut milk—ever since I tried it at La Parrilla. Turns out the jackfruit used here is the kind found in Java, and has a rosy hue. Langka partners the subtle, fibrous fruit in a meaty casserole plump with shell-on shrimp.


Speaking of homey fare, the kare-kare classic is well turned out here, with a lush peanut sauce embracing chunks of beef, tripe and loads of vegetables: eggplant, green beans, bok choy. Spooned atop the garlic rice (my new favorite food), the sauce takes on a whole new dimension. I could do the peanut braising sauce with rice straight, no chaser.

Kare kare

Garlic rice

It takes some work, but adobong alimasag transports: Suck out the crabmeat from the shells, eat in do-si-do fashion with the onions, peppers and leeks that complete the pile, and enjoy the feisty broth made from a simmer of oyster and soy sauces, rice-wine vinegar and a few shots (at least) of calamansi juice. If you’ve saved some garlic rice, grab a spoon and try it with this sauce. Fun stuff.

Adobong alimasag

Pancit bihon, a traditional Filipino noodle dish, is heavy on the noodles and scallion-cabbage-celery component, with nuggets of pork, chicken and shrimp as scant accents. It’s a tad Americanized—or maybe pad Thai-ized.

Pancit bihon

Order another round of calamansi juice to keep you company as you pack up leftovers to take home. Once there, find a hammock or a chaise. Or even a swath of green grass. Recline. It’s summertime.

La Parrilla de Manila, 1159 St. Georges Avenue, Colonia section of Woodbridge Township. Open for lunch and dinner daily. 732-510-7033.

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