A search for Filipino pop up restaurants in my area led me to Timpla’s website. The home page is a black and white picture of a smiling boy standing by a long dining table. The way the dinnerware is set up with each of the plates and bowls turned upside down, is reminiscent of the old fashioned ways. As a young child, I remember asking my mom why dinnerware had to be turned upside down and she said it’s to avoid dust or flies from landing on them. The similarities between Timpla’s picture and my parents long dining table was uncanny.
What or Who is Timpla? It is a supper club created by four young Filipino American millennials from the Washington D.C. area, each with food industry backgrounds as well as various experiences growing up in or moving to the USA. Filipino Food was the common connection that brought the group together during parties and gatherings, and became the precursor to successful tasting menus served at Timpla’s supper club.
But to really experience Timpla’s vision of Filipino Food breaking through the hearts and palates of mainstream America is to attend one of their events. Which is what we did.
Walking up a set of concrete steps of a house I’ve never been to in D.C metropolis, I was excited and anxious. A fine dining tasting menu with recommended wine pairings are not the social events we’re accustomed to but I was curious and I want to know what this group had to offer in promoting Filipino cuisine. Once we entered the house, we were warmly greeted by Katrina, one of the creators of Timpla. The other dinner guests were already there and after the initial introductions, we were asked to find our place cards in the dining area and take a seat. The supper club has begun. As each plate was served, Katrina and Kristina would tell us snippets about their experiences growing up as Fil-Americans.
Our menu: Kinilaw, Monggo, Adobo, Menudo, and Ginataan
Here are some comments from guests at the dinner:
On Filipino Food:
“I would definitely go back to Timpla. The food was amazing, wonderful presentation, and I really enjoyed the community dining experience. This was my first time having Filipino Food and everything was unique and delicious. I was able to learn about each dish, try a variety of new things, and learn from the other chefs, hosts, and other diners. Very unique experience and I’m looking forward to going back again soon!” – Pamela
On Timpla’s menu as New Filipino Food:
“I prefer and use the term “Modern Filipino” or “Contemporary Filipino” cuisine. These terms pay respect to our Pinoy heritage but also emphasize that it is updated to today’s trends.” – Rodney
The diners I met at Timpla that night were full fledged foodies, some of them familiar with Filipino Food and some not. I tuned in on what everyone thought about Timpla’s tasting menu and it was a crowd pleaser. The food was delicious, but it was also a conversation piece. The discussion around the table revolved around Filipino Food, those of us who grew up eating it shared our stories and our views on traditional Filipino cuisine. One of the guests asked me what I thought of the food and I remember not being able to answer right away. Honestly, I was bewildered, perplexed, baffled (and all the other synonyms that google search provided when I typed in the word confused).
Born and raised in the Philippines, I’ve come to know what to expect when eating Filipino Food even when it is a regional version of a traditional dish. My experience at Timpla however, was totally different. The raw Cobia fish in the Kinilaw was delicately flavorful, instead of pickled or tart since the vinegar is poured right before eating the dish. The Monggo beans were in a salad, tender and with fresh greens instead of the traditional mushy porridge. The Menudo did not have stewed pork in it, instead it was fried crispy pork belly in a thick rich sauce. After the event, I posted this comment on my Facebook page about Timpla’s tasting menu : “It’s a fresh, new, thought provoking take on Filipino Food. Familiar ingredients in traditional Filipino cuisine were presented in a new way. It had me thinking why not? It was delicious.”
Timpla’s dishes were not the kind of Filipino Food I was familiar with and I wondered, what’s the story? Could we really call this Filipino Food? I asked the chefs JR and Paolo if their dishes were influenced by their Filipino parents being from a specific region in the Philippines? Their answer startled me, but it made a lot of sense. It had nothing to do with region and familial influence. The food was their own creation, drawing on what they gathered growing up as Fil-Americans. It’s true isn’t it? Chefs are artists and ingredients are their medium. Timpla in Filipino means “to mix”, and in true form, these four friends have come together to create and share their experience through food. It is astounding when the younger generation still wants to share the history, culture, and heritage of a country thousands of miles away.
My dining experience at Timpla was thought provoking, it got me thinking what the future of Filipino Food in America will be. Filipinos wonder why our traditional cuisine has yet to gain its predicted popularity and after sitting down to a new take on Filipino Food at Timpla’s supper club, I wondered if Filipinos are headstrong traditionalists when it comes to our cuisine.
Do the majority of Filipino expats, immigrants, and Fil-Americans prefer the steam tables where our plates are laden with rice and meat heavy stews? Is our food not able to break into the mainstream simply because we don’t adjust it to the American palate? If this is the case, then the future of Filipino Food are in the hands of the few visionaries and creators who want our cuisine and culture to be shared in the way that us immigrants have assimilated in the US. Food, like music can be universal.
The Timpla Team, Katrina, Kristina, JR, and Paolo are visionaries and creators that call attention to our heritage. Their passion for sharing the culture of a country that they know mainly from their parents, relatives, and Filipino food is opening the doors to Philippine cuisine. Timpla is making history, adding their story, along with other Filipino expats and immigrants all over the world to keep Philippine culture alive.
Timpla website: http://www.timpladc.com/timpla-stories/
Food Photos by Costa Photography (as labeled): https://www.facebook.com/costadphotography
*this article is unsponsored, all opinions are my own