Food & Drink

The First Upscale Filipino Restaurant in San Francisco Is Drawing Raves—and Crowds

Abaca Restaurant serves Sisig Fried Rice.
IMAGE FACEBOOK/ABACA RESTAURANT
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An upscale Filipino restaurant that just opened in San Francisco, California in the U.S. has been drawing raves from diners in the food-mad city. 

Abaca opened just last August and already it was named one of the city’s “four hottest new restaurants” by San Francisco magazine.

“From grilled skewers like the chicken pyanggang with burnt coconut and aromatic turmeric to vegetarian dishes like the squash okoy fritter with asparagus, Abacá’s menu stars a slew of inventive offerings,” the magazine said. 

Abaca Restaurant's interpretation of bistek

Photo by Facebook / Abaca Restaurant.

The new restaurant also attracted the attention of Eater magazine.

“Though Abacá has been heralded as one of the first, if not the first, San Francisco restaurant to serve Filipino food in an upscale setting, there will be dishes on the menu you might not even recognize as Filipino,” Eater said. ‘The whole idea is to make things approachable,’ Chef Francis Ang says, including for diners who may or may not have experienced Filipino food before. ‘We want to be approachable and at the same time helping to educate and spreading our culture and our cuisine,’ he says.”

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There are tons of Filipino restaurants in San Francisco, but Abaca, which is located inside the  Kimpton Alton Hotel in Fisherman’s Wharf, seems to be the first that elevates the cuisine to fine-dining levels in the city. In an interview with CBS News in San Francisco, Ang said it took him years to open the restaurant. 

Chef Francis Ang being interviewed by KPIX / CBS News in San Francisco

Photo by Screenshot / KPIX / CBS News.

“I mean the restaurant industry itself is really hard, and then to gamble a very specific cuisine into it is even harder, and that’s why it took us seven years to build this,” he said.

According to his bio, Ang was born in San Francisco but grew up in Manila, where he was exposed to the culinary traditions and unique flavors of Filipino cooking. He flew back to the U.S. when he was 19 and pursued culinary arts and hospitality at the City College of San Francisco. Apart from earning his stripes working for various fine-dining establishments in the city, Ang had also opened a pop-up called Pinoy Heritage, which Eater awarded Pop-up of the Year in 2018, and whose popularity extended far beyond the area’s Filipino residents.

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Pork Lumpia

Photo by Facebook / Abaca Restaurant.

Ang and his team also made several trips here to the Philippines over the years learning the local cooking styles and techniques.

Crowd favorites include Ang’s Sisig Fried Rice, which he has been making since his Pinoy Heritage pop-up days; Pork Lumpia; Chicken Palabok; and Seafood Chowder with Coconut Milk. Abaca also serves cocktails like the Ube Colada (rum, pineapple, and ube coconut cream) and Pandan-quiri (milk-washed rum, pandan, and calamansi).

Longganisa Pork Sausage

Photo by Facebook / Abaca Restaurant.
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Response from diners has been overwhelmingly positive, judging by the jampacked restaurant, especially on weekends. One diner that CBS News interviewed said she even drove two hours just to sample the food at Abaca.

“It’s exciting to have it be mainstream, and in town, it’s major,” Grace Gomez told CBS News. “It pays homage to what I know.”

Ube Colada

Photo by Facebook / Abaca Restaurant.

If you have relatives and friends living in San Francisco, tell them to check out Abaca and support Filipino-American Chef Francis Ang and Filipino cuisine making it to the mainstream.

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Paul John Caña
Associate Editor, Esquire Philippines
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