Rice Bar’s menu consists of Filipino comfort cuisine
In an unsuspecting location on 7th Street in downtown Los Angeles, a small restaurant stands inconspicuously except for the long line of patrons hankering for an authentic Filipino fix. Since July 6, Rice Bar has been serving up rice bowls filled with fair trade grains imported from the Philippines, a sustainable approach welcomed by Angelenos. The home-style cooking featured at Rice Bar might be simple, but it certainly brings customers a comfortable feeling.
The atmosphere of Rice Bar is cozy and humble, which is due in part to its 275-square-foot limited space. Despite being one of the smallest eateries in town, the counter seating is hardly a drawback. Customers have the fortune of watching Charles Olalia, the former executive chef at the Michelin-ranked Patina, craft traditional rice bowls packed with unique flavors. Olalia partnered with Rice Bar’s owner, Santos Uy, to create a menu with a distinct personality while maintaining an authentic Filipino flavor. Together, they are making major headway in the Filipino fusion trend that has recently overtaken the Los Angeles food scene.
The ordering process is straightforward: Choose your rice and your ulam (flavor) and finish with sarsa (condiments). Displayed on the menu are suggested rice pairings for each ulam as well as daily specials, which customers are required to order as listed. First-timers are encouraged to try the pork longgansia, a housemade sweet and spicy sausage served with garlic fried rice and pickled vegetables. When topped with a fried egg, the longgansia becomes an essential and unregrettable choice. The dish balances the flavors of the traditionally sweet longgansia and is not overwhelmingly fatty nor salty. Another menu staple is the bistek tagalog, marinated beef accompanied by a sweet Thai rice and sauteed grilled red onions. Those unfamiliar with the Filipino staple may be turned off by the intense saltiness of the meat; however, for those who can handle it, the flavor is balanced by the suggested sweeter sides.
To top off the meal, Rice Bar offers coconut ice pops called iced buko, a common corner store refreshment in the Philippines. They are a refreshing way to beat the late summer Los Angeles heat. The kitchen also serves homemade crispy rice treats as a fun play on the idea of a “rice bar.” The dessert is nothing special, but customers are tempted to indulge in interesting flavor combinations such as chocolate, coconut oil, espresso, vanilla, lime and marshmallow.
Rice Bar’s prices are comparable to those of any other customizable dining location in Los Angeles. Though they have been deemed a bit high in comparison to the amount of food given, the prices are justified for the quality and richness of the meal itself. And, because the menu is flexible, restaurant goers can pick and choose if they really need to save.
Though Filipino food might not be the average college student’s instinctual craving, Rice Bar is a must for USC students. The location on 7th Street can be conveniently accessed via the Metro Expo Line, saving students from the ever-present parking struggle in Downtown. Chef Olalia has truly taken Filipino food to new levels with homestyle meals rich in flavor and soul and created a joint that even notoriously picky Filipino foodies have come to praise.