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Bad Saint, Filipino in Columbia Heights Owned by Nick Pimentel and Genevieve Villamora with Chef Tom Cunanan

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DonRocks   

I guess this opened:

"Check Out The Filipino Menu for Bad Saint" by Jessica Sidman on washingtoncitypaper.com

Looks tasty. Anyone go yet? Is it reservation or wait list like RL/LS?

-S

As recently as ONE year ago, Filipino food was a barely existing, dying cuisine in the DC area. We had perhaps a half-dozen restaurants in the suburbs, most of them steam-table food, and some with markets in them. This has become a mini-trend.

This cuisine is very mild. No chopsticks. I'm trying to think of another Southeast Asian cuisine to compare it to, and I can't - it's its own thing. The Philippines was a Spanish colony (hence the name), and there is Spanish influence, but the same can be said for many countries. I've seen the articles: "Filipino Cuisine: More Than Just Lumpia," but the truth is that lumpia is, among many other things, a huge favorite in The Philippines.

The country consists of over 7,000 islands, and to say there's a lot of "regional cooking" would be an understatement.

And I still have not tried balut, and probably won't.

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DPop   

I've always thought that the reason that Filipino food has never caught on as a restaurant trend was the same reason that Puerto Rican or Russian food hasn't; at its base, it's just not that exciting.  One of my good friends is Filipino and I have to say, his mother cooks a mean lumpia and some tasty rice based dishes, but of the many dishes of hers that I've tried, I can't say that I've had anything that I would be hankering to spend one of my few nights out for dinner going to eat.  Maybe that's a personal preference, but I can't see myself standing in line on 11th street this Fall for a table here.

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As recently as ONE year ago, Filipino food was a barely existing, dying cuisine in the DC area. We had perhaps a half-dozen restaurants in the suburbs, most of them steam-table food, and some with markets in them. This has become a mini-trend.

This is yet another example of a "me too" DC culinary trend. It started two years prior with places like Jeepney and Pig & Khao in New York and Qui in Austin.  As a Catholic school survivor, I grew up eating lumpia and other Pinoy dishes at parties at friends' houses. I've always wondered why there weren't more (or really any) Filipino restaurants in the area.

My guess is that Filipinos were simply more willing or able to assimilate, so there wasn't the demand for the sorts of gathering places that you see with other immigrant populations.  Or maybe it's that, for this population, those gathering places are more traditionally people's homes.  Regardless, now that food generally and Asian food specifically have become cool, perhaps the new generation now looks on the restaurant profession with more respect.  Or maybe the idea of a strong family core in the Filipino community is eroding as it has just about everywhere else in America and there's more of a demand.

Top Chef could also have something to do with the recent popularity of Filipino restaurants.  Two of the three places I mentioned were opened by Top Chef alum.

Regardless, it's a welcome trend.  In a weird way, it reminds me of my own roots.  Though, every time I go to a Filipino restaurant I half expect the meal to end with birthday cake.

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Latest article:

"DC's Trendiest New Filipino Restaurant Isn't Interested in Being Part of a Trend" by Jessica Sidman on washingtoncitypaper.com

We went last night, it was utterly amazing. We had a salad, dried beef, whole branzino, and pork belly. Great atmosphere, wonderful staff/owners. It probably shouldn't have been a surprise to see some Komi staff there. It's tiny, they already have lines every night. I'm already plotting how to get back.

In terms of planning- they take your name and number, tell you about how long they think it will be, and will text you when your table is ready; you need to get back within 10 minutes. We were told about an hour; Nick and I took a stroll around, had a drink at Room 11, and then got texted as we were finishing our drinks.

There are only two 4-tops, the rest is bar stools. So if you are a party of 4 and can't cope with being in a line on barstools you'll need to be first in line.

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How early does the line start these days?  And what are the chances that this is Tom Seitsema's #1 favorite restaurant?

ETA, #1 turned out to be Rose's - not too shocking.  Hopefully that means I can get into Bad Saint this weekend.

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How early does the line start these days? 

Recently early in the week there were 4-5 people in line at opening; the restaurant was full about half an hour later.

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How early does the line start these days?  And what are the chances that this is Tom Seitsema's #1 favorite restaurant?

ETA, #1 turned out to be Rose's - not too shocking.  Hopefully that means I can get into Bad Saint this weekend.

Did you go?  How was the wait?

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Went last night around 9:30. Happened to snag a table as we walked in because of a cancellation on the wait list. The vibe reminds me of Toki Underground in that it's a very tiny space around an open kitchen that fills every available nook and cranny with either tables or kooky objects. It also has a very cool soundtrack of vintage Filipino and world tunes. The wave of pungent smoke coming from the kitchen completes the assault on your senses. Someone described it as a tropical Wes Anderson movie set which is spot on. Like Toki, it has an excellent drinks program to match the unique food. I particularly liked the Balisong, a rye rocks cocktail with a tiki vibe. The beer and wine lists seem fairly imaginative.

The menu is broken into veggies, seafood, and meat, then ordered by smallest to largest dishes which don't necessarily match their cost. So it's a bit of a crapshoot to match hunger to order quantity. We got the Lumpia, Ukoy, and pancit, then added one more butter, chilis, and wood-ear mushrooms dish which I can't remember the name. The three dishes weren't quite enough, the fourth too much. Fortunately, everything was very tasty. We particularly enjoyed their version of Lumpia, better I think than Purple Patch's also excellent version. The sour-spicy dipping sauce put it over the top. The pancit was very good and a different rice noodles dish. Some of the flavors reminded me of Isaan/Northern Thai food with the focus on sour, spicy, sweet, and savory. The Ukoy, a shrimp and seafood stew in a clay pot had a very rich and flavorful broth, perfectly cooked seafood. Probably my favorite of the night. It tasted like a lot of fish sauce was in use, even for the veggie section. Any vegetarians or vegans have good experiences here?

Service was quite attentive, though by the end we were one of about five or six couples still remaining, so not prime dinner rush. Dishes came quickly as they were ready. If there was a preferred order to eat the dishes, we didn't get any indication. Besides the dish quanitity/order issue, Bad Saint was a very fun, engaging and memorable dining experience. Not a special occasion kind of place, but an offbeat, fun night out kind of place.

As I recall, Bad Saint was listed below The Coupe on the DR Dining Guide as of last night. This morning it's jumped to just behind Taqueria Habanero.. was there a visit from Don last night as well?

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Marty L.   

The Columbia Heights section of the Dining Guide needs some updating -- Thip Khao and Bad Saint ought to be way above everything else, and Habanero and Mi Cuba Cafe the clear next level.

As I recall, Bad Saint was listed below The Coupe on the DR Dining Guide as of last night. This morning it's jumped to just behind Taqueria Habanero.. was there a visit from Don last night as well?

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DonRocks   

The Columbia Heights section of the Dining Guide needs some updating -- Thip Khao and Bad Saint ought to be way above everything else, and Habanero and Mi Cuba Cafe the clear next level.

I agree, and it's not just Columbia Heights: There are several areas in the Dining Guide that need to be combed through. I'm taking on *so much* right now - I just completely updated Downtown Silver Spring two days ago with the help of a member who lives there (I'd like to thank him publicly, but don't want to violate his privacy - if you see this, *please* step forward and take a bow!) If anyone sees any glaring problems, please PM me and I will address them. I've asked this several times in the past, and I've never gotten any responses - hopefully this time, I'll get some PMs. *Just* maintaining the Dining Guide (forget the website; I'm just talking about the Dining Guide right now) is *more* than a full-time job, and that doesn't even include actually dining out. I'm doing the work of twenty people and I'm not just blowing smoke.

Peter, you're free to reproduce the PM I sent you earlier this evening for everyone to see - I think transparency is important here.

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Marty L.   

You shouldn't have to take it on all by yourself, Don! (although I imagine you want to have the ultimate say on the listings).  How can we help out?  Simply make suggestions for changes/additions?

I agree, and it's not just Columbia Heights: There are several areas in the Dining Guide that need to be combed through. I'm taking on *so much* right now - I just completely updated Downtown Silver Spring two days ago with the help of a member who lives there (I'd like to thank him publicly, but don't want to violate his privacy - if you see this, *please* step forward and take a bow!) If anyone sees any glaring problems, please PM me and I will address them. I've asked this several times in the past, and I've never gotten any responses - hopefully this time, I'll get some PMs. *Just* maintaining the Dining Guide (forget the website; I'm just talking about the Dining Guide right now) is *more* than a full-time job, and that doesn't even include actually dining out. I'm doing the work of twenty people and I'm not just blowing smoke.

Peter, you're free to reproduce the PM I sent you earlier this evening for everyone to see - I think transparency is important here.

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DonRocks   

You shouldn't have to take it on all by yourself, Don! (although I imagine you want to have the ultimate say on the listings).  How can we help out?  Simply make suggestions for changes/additions?

Yes - I know what needs to be done in Columbia Heights, but other than that, please PM me with suggestions, or better still, write reviews (I read and study every review written on this website). El Chucho has been poking me in the eye for the past two years, and I don't have a clue what it's like these days - same with Mi Cuba ever since Daniel first posted about it nearly three years ago. I've been doing the entire Guide by myself for over 10 years, and I'm so reluctant to have others work on it because then it becomes a "group publication," and loses all context: readers will have no idea who ranked what; now, at least, I am singularly responsible for the totality of the Guide, even though I physically cannot get to every restaurant (the ones that I haven't been to, I rely on research, the staff's past track record at other restaurants, and other members' opinions (with varying levels of confidence - our top reviewers (like you, Marty) simply have no idea just how much influence they have on me, where I go, and ultimately, the Dining Guide itself) - because of all these methods, I'm able to say, with assurance: The buck stops here. Our readers know that if something is wrong, it's Rockwell's fault, and that's extremely important - likewise, if they see an opinion or a ranking, they know that my name is implicitly signed to it: There's nowhere for me to hide.

One intractable problem that may never have a solution: the DC area, during the past ten years (really, the past four years), has become too large, too congested with traffic, and too populated with restaurants - especially new restaurants - for any single individual to cover. Barring another disaster like the Great Recession, which closed down an enormous number of restaurants, I don't think that anyone will ever again be able to claim a mastery of the entire DC area, including myself. I was able to do it for a long time, but the combination of the economic recovery (i.e., restaurant openings) and this (which you'll find out about soon enough) has been a 1-2 punch that I've been constantly struggling to overcome. The good news is: there are really only about twenty restaurants in the area that I need to try, preferably at least two-times each, and then I'll be pretty well caught up - not with everything, but with the great majority of places that people are clamoring to know about. Yes, I could do it in a month, but only with a steely resolve, and I'd have to shelve writing reviews because they suck the life out of me - maybe the best thing would be for me to start up another version of Lettres de mon Moulin which is a short-form serial that I can manage; writing full-blown reviews exhausts me to the core, and having unwritten reviews hanging over my head stresses me out - there are *so many places* I want to write up, and I just can't find the time and energy to do it - I cannot bear the thought of writing poorly - and then I end up spending my energy worrying about not writing.

P.S. - I'm determined to have a present ready for the community by Christmas Day.

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Destruya   

I've been looking for a place around here that sells quality lumpia.  Some *good* childhood memories of the Fil-Am Associations in the Navy lavishing me with platters of the stuff...

...could've done without the cheek pinching, though. >.>

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Per Don's suggestion, here is his PM to me on the thinking behind Bad Saint's ranking and some of the how and why of list algorithms:

But I update the guide every day, and just by chance, I happened to notice last night that I initiated the ranking WAY too low based on what I've heard, so I raised it as high as I could raise it without putting it in Italic (which I'm sure I will, AFTER I go for the very first time, or after I see another 1-2 posts like yours - honestly, if you think it should be, I may do it right now because I can sort of "feel it" - about 1 out of every 5 (non-chain) restaurants is in Italic, so the requirements are stringent, but not *that* stringent, and I'm pretty sure this is going to be a no-brainer).

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Bad Saint is challenging to get into- much like Rose's Luxury and Little Serow.  And think twice about going with more than two people, as there are only two tables to accommodate you.  But the payoff is delicious.  The Filipino flavors are unique and bold. A couple of highlights-  Ukoy is a sticky maze of sweet potato fritters infused with shrimp and accented with cilantro. A really fun and addictive dish.  Ginisang Ampalaya incorporates bitter melon, farm egg, and preserved black beans into an interesting dish.  I'm not sure that I loved it, but my friend said it was her favorite. Piniritong Isda is whole fried branzino, blanketed with spicy greens - which was a highlight dish for me.  Here's my full post.

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I was the first person to get there at 4:30 yesterday (Friday before Easter). A person on the Wapo chat recented ranted:

However, I cannot understand why you and other professional reviewers continue to recommend Bad Saint. Our experience there includes being turned away because "there would be no four-tops for the rest of the night" when we arrived at 6:30pm on a weekday, to finally getting a table a week later and having to eat at a counter that couldn't have been more than about 10 inches deep (barely enough to hold all the plates we ordered). Not to mention we were served some kind of fritter that was essentially a basketball-sized hunk of fried something with un-cleaned, head on shrimp welded into it.


There are only 2 four-tops in the whole restaurant. If you're not a group of four, you're sitting at a counter. But there are 3 counters, facing the street, the bar seat looking at the chef, and in the back, facing a wall or mirrors. We sat facing the street, and the window ledge provided additional space, which was needed for our drinks.

As for uncleaned head on shrimp, is there such a thing as a cleaned head on shrimp? My problem with the ukoy had to do with the fact the shrimps were definitely overcooked. The fritter itself was delicious, and more food than even 2 people can eat.

The Adobong Puso Ng Saging - stir fried banana heart, tofu skin and black peppercorn had mostly a sour flavor, like eating pickled ginger.

The Kinilaw was a mixed of small chunks of raw mackerel with red grapefruit, coconut cream, and sliced radishes. I thought this was just an odd combination.

Ginisang Tulya is clams with chinese sausage and chives. This dish was especially fishy, presumably from a heavy dose of some kind of fish sauce.

Kanding Maranao is a bone on goat curry with palapa. This reminds me of Caribbean cuisine (more than anything I had at Tail Up Goat).

Lumpiang Sarina is a crepe filled with lettuce, all kinds of herbs, ground pork, and perhaps some shrimp. This was terrific, something that I've never had before but the flavor is just so bright and well put together.

We also finished with some shrimp chips & xo sauce.

This is Filipino home cooking, just like Thip Khao is Lao home cooking. One can like them or not, but I don't know how they would be any better than Hong Kong Palace, which is Sichuan home cooking. Personally I enjoy Thip Khao, Bangkok Golden, and HKP more than Bad Saint but I can't say those restaurants are better.

Someone PM me the instructions to attach photos so I can post the menu.

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dslee   

"Philippine cuisine is a crossroads cuisine. It layers Malay, Chinese, Spanish, Mexican and American influences. Bad Saint will pay homage to the deep roots of Filipino food using the bounty of the Mid-Atlantic."

As of April 17, 2016, my favorite dishes at Bad Saint:

KINILAW
mackerel, ruby red grapefruit, coconut

GINISANG AMPALAYA
bitter melon, farm egg, preserved black bean

PINIRITONG ISDA
branzino, spicy greens, maggi, vinaigrette

GINISANG TULYA
littleneck clams, chinese sausage, sichuan chile

ENSALADANG PALAPA
coconut, purple cabbage, bird's eye chilies

ENSALDANG SITRUS
blood orange, grapefruit, dragon fruit in coconut water with chia seeds

bad-07a.JPG

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dslee   

On May 28, 2016, I got to try three new dishes since my last visit in April!  The cooking at Bad Saint is insane!  Tom Cunanan & team are creating the most delicious dishes in the city!

  • ADOBONG PUSO NG SAGING
  • PORK TOCINO (pictured below)
  • PYANGGANG MANOK (pictured below)

bs-03.JPG

bs-04.JPG

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dracisk   

I went Wednesday. My group of four got there a little before 5:30pm (I was the last to arrive right at 5:30pm) and was the second party in line. Needless to say, we got one of the four tops no problem. There were several people in line behind us but not an insane number. The other four top was occupied for most of our time there (I'm pretty sure the second party was a party of three -- a couple with a toddler), but I'm pretty sure there were counter stools available for most of the time (though maybe not two or three together).

I knew very little about Filipino food before going in and greatly enjoyed my meal. I'm glad others posted the menu because I would never have remembered the names or known how to describe most of what we ate.

I really enjoyed the adobong puso ng saging (banana hearts, tofu skin, black peppercorn). This may have been my favorite dish of the night. Very rich and savory.

The pancit bihon guisado (rice noodles, wood ear mushrooms, lemon oil) was probably my least favorite dish of the night. I love mushrooms and was intrigued by the lemon oil, but it was kind of blah. Not bad, just not as delicious and interesting as everything else.

The ukoy had soft shell crab rather than shrimp, as others seem to have had. I really enjoyed the sweet potato but didn't get much crab flavor and am not sure I even got much crab in my portions, but that might have been my bad luck as everyone at my table tore up the fritter.

I enjoyed the ginisang tulya (littleneck clams, chinese sausage, sichuan chile), though I was expecting more heat given the components. I didn't find it excessively fishy. I enjoyed the interplay of the clams and the sausage.

The piniritong isda (branzino, spicy greens, maggi vinaigrette) wasn't really my cup of tea since I'm not a huge fan of fish (especially not whole fish). That being said, I tried some and thought it was pretty good, but I never would have ordered this if left to my own devices. This was a special the night we were there.

The kanding maranao (goat, palapa, tomatoes) was rich and deeply flavorful, maybe too much so on this hot night and after everything else we'd consumed (it was the last dish we received). I found the goat a bit fatty. I don't eat a lot of goat, so I'm not sure if this is common.

I really enjoyed the lumpiang sariwa (pork, shrimp, red cabbage). Bright and fresh flavors with the pork (and I assume shrimp) ground and wrapped in some kind of wrapper (rice?) with greens (and presumably red cabbage, although I don't remember that) with peanut sauce on the plate. Yum. It kind of reminded me of Vietnamese summer rolls, except without the dreaded cilantro.

I also had a cocktail that I would have liked to have purchased in a 2-liter bottle. It's unfortunately not on the menu posted above. I think it was called the Lady Pirate. I couldn't recite its ingredients (it may have had rum and grapefruit juice among other things -- it was fizzy), but it was refreshing and delicious.

The pork tocino pictured immediately above wasn't on the menu the night we went, but my party would have been all over that if it had been. It looks amazing.

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Had a very good meal at bad saint last night.  My gf got there at 530 and we sat down at 715 after getting the text.  Obviously the space is cramped, but that wasn't a surprise.  Food is bold and flavorful, reminiscent of Thai.  I was really impressed by the rye-based cocktail my girlfriend had.  I can't access their menu right now to give detailed description of dishes, but the pyanggang manok (pictured in above post--half chicken, very spicy and flavorful) and banana hearts dishes were probably my favorites.  Octopus was my least favorite--still good, just not exceptional.  Excited to go back sometime. 

Edit: I should have emphasized more how awkward the seating is.  We sat at a narrow bar in the back, facing a mirror 2 feet away, which is likely there to make the face seem bigger, but it felt strange having your reflection so close.  The seats at the front facing the street and facing the kitchen are better, but I think it's just luck of the draw.

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Marty L.   

Bon Appetit names Black Saint the second-best new restaurant in the country.  Well-deserved kudos!  And to think -- it's still only the seventh-best restaurant in Columbia Heights, per the Dining Guide.  (Just good-natured ribbing, Don!  But really, there ought to be an enormous gulf in that section between Bad Saint and Thip Khao, on the one hand, and every other place, on the other (with honorable mention to Mi Cuba Cafe).)

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franch   
10 hours ago, Marty L. said:

Bon Appetit names Black Saint the second-best new restaurant in the country.  Well-deserved kudos!  And to think -- it's still only the seventh-best restaurant in Columbia Heights, per the Dining Guide.  (Just good-natured ribbing, Don!  But really, there ought to be an enormous gulf in that section between Bad Saint and Thip Khao, on the one hand, and every other place, on the other (with honorable mention to Mi Cuba Cafe).)

"i'll go later", I said.

"it'll always be there", I said.

"the lines will die down", I said.

crap.

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