Our latest installment of Quick Bites brings us to Bed-Stuy for some classic Filipino dishes.
If your Bed-Stuy take-out/delivery options are feeling a bit tired, you should get to know Tamá, a new "Filipino-inspired" spot on Lewis Avenue with a short but satisfying menu and an easygoing atmosphere.
Not that you have to get your food to go at Tamá; there is plenty of square-footage here to hang out, with a couple of tall tables at which you can stand and eat, as well as a counter running along the front window. The lack of any actual seating at these perches has probably more to do with DOH regulations (re: take-out vs. dine-in establishments) than the owner's design decisons. There are also some benches inside and out where you could eat your lumpia from your lap.
The decor mostly involves plants and graffiti, and the excellent hip-hop playlist, both old-school and new, greatly adds to Tamá's overall appeal. Employoees will happily answer any menu questions, and are also not timid about offering suggestions.
Tamá's proprietors plan on expanding the menu in the coming months, but for now there are a half dozen entree-sized "specialty" dishes and a handful of snacks from which to choose.
One evening I started with the Fresh Lumpia, which is simply slivers of pickled vegetables in a spongy wrap. It tasted good—the accompanying salad greens were dressed in lively fashion—but there are more satisfying snacks on the menu. The Pinoy Popcorn Chicken, for example, a large bag of tender, battered bites served with some great house-made banana ketchup for dipping.
Those same bird bits also appear in the Arroz Caldo, a bowl of thin rice porridge with chicken, garlic chips, charred bok choy and scallions, blobs of oil, and a runny egg all mingling together. Another entree, Lengwa, features some of the heftiest hunks of tongue I think I've ever been served. The mouth meat is soft and rich (though they could be salted more aggressively), and the smoked mushroom sauce adds even more earthiness to the dish.
But my favorite thing at Tamá was the Smoked Mackerel served over a thick, slightly soupy bed of cocoa rice. This is an eye-opening take on what is apparently a common Filipino breakfast dish called Champorado, though here the chef tones down the sweetness and adds spicy heat to the chocolatey porridge, which works brilliantly with the crisp-fried, oily fish.
The kitchen gave me complimentary samples of Tamá's two desserts—one featuring ube paste, the other a coconut custard—and after inhaling them both I would gladly pay the $4 per serving price next time.
With its emphasis on take-out and a limited menu, Tamá is not a destination restaurant by any means (it's also three long blocks from the nearest train, the J at Kosciusko Street), but if you're looking for something new in the neighborhood, this is a solid option.
Tamá is located at 147 Lewis Avenue between Lafayette and Kosciusko, and is open Tuesday through Sunday from 4 to 10 p.m. Closed Monday. (347-533-4750; tamarestaurant.com)