San Francisco Filipina opens city’s first kamayan-optional restaurant

SAN FRANCISCO – The Laris siblings celebrated their father’s birthday by enjoying their first kamayan style dinner at a new Filipino restaurant in San Francisco.

Pampalasa restaurant is located in the South of Market neighborhood, an area historically known to have a large Filipino community.

Owner Jennifer Villamin and Chef Bayani Inclano, Jr. offers the City their take on Filipino culture and food.

“We’re not fusion but we’re not specifically very traditional either,” said Villamin. “It’s more representative of a lot of us, American-born Filipinos and our experience with food. Our menu is very traditional in a sense that we keep the traditional names but a lot of the ingredients are very modern.”

Pampalasa is San Francisco’s first “kamayan-optional” restaurant that aims to make Filipino cuisine more accessible for first-time customers.

“We set up this entire experience for you so that you can eat with your hands and feel comfortable about doing it and be willing to learn an aspect of Filipino culture that [you] never knew about,” said Villamin.

Other Filipino Americans say they are getting re-acquainted with their roots through food.

“I was born in the Philippines so we would eat with our hands but it was never a presentation like this,” said Nilma Rubin. “It wasn’t like a huge celebration kind of thing. It was a normal daily thing so it’s actually really cool to see that here.”

These Fil-Ams say that are proud to see that other ethnicities enjoy Filipino food and customs.

“It’s amazing that they could take our culture in, accept it and have fun with it too,” said Jasmine Tadema.

“I see a lot of different ethnicities here and the food is really delicious,” said Joanna Castillo.

And the Laris family says eating kamayan-style made this a birthday dinner to remember.

“It’s nice. It’s very communal,” said Alfredo Laris. “It’s very family oriented and there’s a lot of different flavors you can share. It’s really wonderful.”

“Going from eating with a spoon to your hands was a completely new experience but it was a really good experience none the less,” said Osvaldo Laris.

A vegan, meat and seafood option is available for kamayan dinners with the lechon kawali quickly becoming a local favorite.

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