My first kamayan feast was part of the SALO Series, a cross-country pop-up that involved chef Yana Gilbuena cooking Filipino food across all 50 states. It wasn’t my first experience with the country’s cuisine, but it was my first (and last) time having balut, the famous fertilized, bony, feathery duck egg.
Kamayan is a communal meal, served without utensils or even plates. You just dig into the varied foods with your hands, picking at rice, fish, fruit, and whatever else is on offer. For better or worse, Kamayan Fiesta in Falls Church, the new second branch of a restaurant that first opened in Springfield, is a misnomer. But while your meal will be contained in Styrofoam and presented with plastic utensils, the feasting element is still a presence.
That’s because, like most of my favorite Filipino restaurants, the food at Kamayan Fiesta is doled out cafeteria-style. And the hot line from which the counter staffer spoons out the goods is a meat-lover’s fantasia. I ordered the Chef’s Platter, which allows the diner to choose three different meat dishes, served with rice and a bottle of water, for $12.99. But selecting is no easy endeavor. From beefsteak to squid, there are just too many options for one girl to handle.
One thing that I knew was a non-negotiable was lechon. The crispy pork is kept back in the kitchen, rather than allowing it to die on the steam table with the stews, and is cut to-order. I also knew I must try an adobo, and chose the chicken version. It pulls effortlessly from the bone, but is a bit less acidic in flavor than I prefer. This is not a problem for the sweet-and-sour pork estofado, which includes almost as many plantains as fork-tender cubes of pork.
As much as I enjoyed the meats on offer, the truth is, the highlight of the meal was the pleasantly sticky, intensely allium-redolent, garlic rice, ready to soak up the sauces and juices of the flesh. OK, so it’s not really a kamayan, but there’s no arguing that a Chef’s Platter is occasion for a fiesta, indeed.
301 S. Washington St., Ste. 301, Falls Church
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