When Cristina Quackenbush first moved to New Orleans, she found a lot to love. One thing she could not find, however, was Filipino food. Frustrated at first, soon thereafter she saw an opportunity.
“I realized I’d stumbled onto a niche market,” she recalls. At the time she was working for Adolfo Garcia at Rio Mar. She began bringing in dishes for him to taste and he was hooked. Garcia offered his restaurants as a proving ground for a pop-up concept, which was soon generating buzz. A subsequent Kickstarter campaign didn’t meet its goal, but did connect her with an investor. Milkfish opened its doors in April, and New Orleans gained its first authentic Filipino restaurant.
So, now, many people may ask, what exactly is Filipino cuisine?
“It is like unintentional fusion,” Quackenbush explains. The Philippines reflect the flavors of the nations around it, deepened by colonial influence. Chinese and Spanish are the predominate signatures and bold flavors reign. Sour notes come from vinegar, tamarind and calamansi. First timers might enjoy the chicken adobo, but more adventurous eaters stand to benefit the most, with offerings such dinuguan, a savory blood stew. Milkfish (named after the Philippine national fish) also offers an array of vegetarian fare; the unusual seasonings and condiments give meatless options a lot of complexity. And for the truly brave, ask to take the “Balut Challenge.” Bragging rights will be yours.
Milkfish, 125 N. Carrollton Ave., 267-4199, MilkfishNola.com