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Want to culinarily confuse your pals? Take them to a Filipino restaurant—better yet, take them to KASELA GRILL in Anaheim. Before you is the cuisine’s grand turo-turo (“point-point” in Tagalog) tradition—a big buffet with no indication of what each tray holds. Ask, and the nice workers will explain each dish, but part of the fun is guessing. The long strands that look like shredded mango tossed with shrimp? Actually a type of palabok (thick noodle) cooked with Cheddar—it’s as gooey and yummy as any mac and cheese. How about those pale hunks of meat? Adobo, the nearly flaky pork that’s some of the best hog you’ll ever taste, each chunk dripping with vinegary juices. And the tray filled with a lumpy black blob that looks like black beans? Dinuguan, a zingy stew made mostly of pork blood. Mmm . . . pork blood.
The average Orange Countian will walk away from Kasela Grill in confusion, and even eaters might wonder what the hell they’re popping in their craw. Stop fretting: Filipino cuisine remains among the least-appreciated of Southern California’s common ethnic cuisines because people don’t ask. Kasela Grill can satisfy even the most finicky eaters and prove an endless adventure for food fans. Here are the basics: a Styrofoam plate, a scoop of white rice and your choice of entrées. You can substitute the rice for pansit bihon, vermicelli-like noodles cooked with celery and shrimp. Always available is at least one dish from all the major groups: chicken, pork, beef, seafood and fried. The possibilities seem endless from this registry—I’ve had chicken with pineapple, grilled chicken and chicken chicharrón; fish soup, a fried bangus (milkfish) and a funky stew of baby squid best eaten only by the bravest diners (the consistency of the mini-cephalopods is the same as, I imagine, a condom). Pork comes in skewers, in stews, or in massive, gnarled, fried chunks of leg with which you can break a window. About the “safest” dish is beef steak pared with raw onions—soft, chewy, filling.
There is hope for folks who insist on ordering from a menu, but you have to show up early. Kasela Grill sells silogs, Filipino breakfasts of eggs cooked your way, a meat and fried rice. Also available are some soups that always seem to sell out early, as well as a bunch of snacks on the walls. But really, folks, when you’re at Kasela Grill, jump into the turo-turo twirl. If you don’t like it, stick to Ritz crackers or something.
Kasela Grill, 160 W. Lincoln Ave., Anaheim, (714) 778-1250.