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Kuya Ja's Lechon Belly - Chef Ja Fernandez's Filipino Roasted Pork Belly Specialists on Nicholson Lane, Rockville

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The restaurant will be opening this Friday.  I had read about it in Bethesda Magazine when it was a pop-up in Gwenie's Pastries on Nebel Street.  I went there a few times for lunch and enjoyed the limited menu.  The lechon was generally tasty.  There was a good quantity of moist pork.  The skin was like the Golidlocks story- some was too hard, some was too soft, but most was just right.  It came with lumpia and rice.  I also tried the pancit.  I didn't care for it- a generous amount of a lot of different things but bland.  The sisig was delicious.  It's described as head cheese but it wasn't a loaf- it consisted of bits of the different components- some bits were squashy, some were crispy, some were chewy, some were fatty, all stir fried with onions and hot peppers.  The beef empanadas were decent.  The pastry was flaky but the filling was a bit bland.  The cassava cake was outstanding; I'm a sucker for eggy, condensed milky things.

The staff at the pop up were very friendly and helpful.  I've attached the menu for the restaurant.  I'm looking forward to trying the expanded offerings.

KJ Menu.pdf

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Just tried this place.  Absolute star for me was the adobo wings.  Crispy and bursting with flavor.  Sisig was nothing like the description in Sietsema's review--he called it fiery.  It was still delicious, but not spicy at all.  The lechon itself was glorious too.  Lumpia were perfectly crispy but the filling was pretty bland.

I just learned I am working nearby a few times per month, so I will definitely work through the menu.  Tons of tantalizing dessert options I didn't notice until after I had paid.

Edit: turns out the vinegar comes on the side for the sisig if you get carry-out.  I still wouldn't call it fiery but I get it now.  And it's even more awesome. 

Edit2:  an hour later, there is significant though diminishing burn in my mouth long after eating.  Still not fiery.  But I find that from his reviews, TS's limits for spice and heat are rather low compared to mine, so I get why he would call it that.  Delicious, satisfying dish.

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I had dinner here with Warren Rojas not long after it opened - the table consensus (there were three of us) was that the pork belly by-the-pound was the clear winner. That's also something you could grab to-go and eat at home.

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The sisig-rito on their menu is a gut-busting exercise in indulgence; sisig as a burrito filling makes complete sense (I could easily also envision it on top of nachos, on in a New England hot dog bun).

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Had lunch here yesterday. The lechon is good - great crunchy skin, fatty meat. I got the combo and substituted the white rice with garlic rice - a mistake, as the latter is pretty greasy. I definitely felt like I had overindulged afterwards...thank god it was a sunday and i could take a nap. The kids had crispy chicken adobo sandwiches accompanied by some great fries - I may also have sampled those excessively too, now I think about it...Next time i might focus on the papaya salad as a side, otherwise the whole thing can become a grease-fest. 

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On 10/7/2018 at 4:19 PM, DonRocks said:

I had dinner here with Warren Rojas not long after it opened - the table consensus (there were three of us) was that the pork belly by-the-pound was the clear winner. That's also something you could grab to-go and eat at home.

+1.  Order the pork belly and atsara to go, steam some rice at home, pair it all with an off-dry German riesling, and you've got yourself a great meal.

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Our son had a friend's birthday party nearby last weekend so I took the opportunity to get some of the pork belly to go -- in terms of flavor, it reminded me a lot of Hong Kong/Cantonese-style pork belly, except for the different sauces and crispy skin.  Both styles are equally great IMO.  My only complaint was that the portion size of the garlic fried rice was quite tiny for the price.

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