Monday, June 24, 2013

Pinpin Restaurant is a Win-Win with its Filipino-Chinese Cuisine

Along East Vancouver's Fraser Street corridor is a stretch of diverse Asian restaurants competing for hungry patrons. Offering the familiar tastes of Filipino cuisine with a Chinese flair, Pinpin restaurant is conveniently located on Fraser and E 45th Street. With easy access to public transit and ample free parking along the back alley, Pinpin holds its own by attracting a regular Filipino clientele, a telling sign that the food is authentically Filipino and delicious! 
Since opening its doors seven years ago, owners Joe and Virginia Lee's secret to their success is recreating memories for their mostly Filipino customers from their modern decor with iconic photos of scenes from the Philippines to the hospitable service and classic Filipino-Chinese dishes.  

Both Joe and Virginia share a deep history of family restauranteurs who ran thriving businesses back in the Philippines. Virginia's family operated the original Pinpin restaurant, named after the great Filipino printer Tomas Pinpin, for close to half a century before it closed down in 1999. While Joe's family ran both Shining Star Chinese Restaurant and Hong Ning Restaurant in Philippines. 

Joe and Virginia then ventured to the US shores to open the second Hong Ning location in Glendale Height, Illinois before moving to Vancouver to open Pinpin.

With Joe supervising the kitchen to ensure quality fresh food is being served and Virginia operating the front of the restaurant to maintain friendly and prompt service, we were quickly seated upon arrival despite the bustling restaurant during the dinner rush.

Pinpin's menu is extensive featuring many Filipino regional dishes that are prepared to order instead of "turo-turo" or buffet-style. If you're new to the Filipino cuisine and unfamiliar with the Tagalog language, be comforted to know that each menu item has English descriptions and coloured photos of the more popular dishes.

We ordered the pancit miki bihon, pan-fried noodles, and the most impressive dish on the menu, inihaw fiesta, assorted grilled platter.

Pancit is a Tagalog term for noodles, introduced by the Chinese centuries ago. Filipinos have adapted and improvised the Chinese noodle recipes by integrating them to use locally-available ingredients.
The pancit miki bihon came almost immediately after we ordered, piping hot with aromatic steam rising to meet our salivating mouths. A twist on the typical Chinese chow mein, this pancit was a mixture of thick egg noodles and thin vermicelli rice noodles with a good mix of boiled cabbage, carrots, shrimp, chicken and fresh green onions. A squeeze of lemon brightened up the flavours and helped to enhance the sweet and savoury notes from the pancit sauce.
The inihaw fiesta definitely lives up to its name, a grilled platter party! It was more than enough for two people to share and it was beautifully presented with grilled calamari, beef short ribs, mussels, barbecue pork and chicken skewers and banana-leaf wrapped tilapia.  The calamari and mussels were fresh and had a nice smoky essence with perfect tenderness. 
The tilapia's flesh was flaky and delicate but bold in flavours, with the help from the banana leaf steaming in the barbecue flavours. 

My favourites were the beef short ribs and barbecue skewers. They were gently charred but still kept their sweet juiciness in each bite, flooding my mouth with summer time memories! The complementary spicy and vinegary side sauces brought more taste diversity for each grilled item, while the fresh tomatoes, red onions and bagoong, fermented salty shrimp paste, balanced out the smoky flavours. 
With deep family roots in the restaurant business, Joe and Virginia were destined to continue their ancestral tradition of satisfying palates with the familiar tastes from the Philippines. They have a winning formula with Pinpin offering generous portions, attentive service and delicious authentic Filipino cuisine!

Candice's Recommendations:
Pancit Miki Bihon (Egg & Rice Noodles with Vegetables) $9.95, Inihaw Fiesta (Assorted Grilled Platter) $41.95, and Leche Flan (Caramel Custard) $3.95.

Pinpin on Urbanspoon

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