Sometimes rice is just a fixin’ that sits on the sidelines waiting to be scooped up along with a piece of meat. It’s fluffy and patient. Always the bridesmaid never the bride. At Rice Bar, rice is the main event soaking up the drippings of Filipino flavors to give balance and glory in every bite. The bowl is its stage and the spoon is its instrument.
Charles Olalia, former executive chef of Patina, and Santos Uy, owner of Mignon, partnered up to open a 300 square foot, rice-centric, Filipino restaurant in the Jewelry District. Their menu consists of a rotating selection of fair trade, heirloom rice ranging from jasmine, sticky, red and non-GMO black rice that customers choose from to accompany their “ulam,” or viand. Heapings of traditional comfort food are served atop a bed a rice such as Longanisa, a housemade sweet and spicy sausage topped off with a fried egg and pickled green papaya; Bisteg Tagalog, soy marinated angus beef tossed with braised red onions; or Dilis, crispy anchovy garnished with avocado and marinated grape tomatoes.
Charles and Santos are reintroducing traditional Filipino food to the bowl-crazy downtown palate. “This is what we wanted, and more,” says Charles. Customers chow down at the counter bar sitting elbow-to-elbow, making it all too easy to strike up conversations with fellow diners and cooks. Old school jams and laid back vibes resonate throughout the space, adding a sprinkling of soul to the hustle of 7th Street. Passersby veer off their commute letting curiosity lead them in. It’s a space Rice Bar has created all on their own — no TVs, no controversial decor, just good people cooking good food. Rice Bar is open Monday-Friday, 11AM–5PM. Stay tuned for plans for breakfast. Your morning granola is about to get jealous.
Janica de Guzman