Elevated Eating: Francis Ang of California-based Abaca Says that Filipino Food ’Doesn’t Have to Be Inexpensive' - Lifestyle Asia

The chef and his wife Dian’s dream of opening a Filipino fine dining concept in America began while raising funds for Super Typhoon Yolanda victims.

With over a decade of working in fine dining kitchens around San Francisco, Filipino chef Francis Ang opens the Bay Area’s first upscale Filipino restaurant. Named Abaca, the dining spot is featured in US Esquire’s 2021 list of Best New Restaurants in the US, despite the pandemic harshly affecting the F&B industry.

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“I mean the restaurant industry itself is really hard, and then to gamble a very specific cuisine into it is even harder, and that’s why it took us seven years to build this,” Ang tells CBS San Francisco. 

Regional research 

Abaca, located in the Kimpton Alton Hotel in Fisherman’s Wharf, was born after the chef’s trips to different Philippine regions, where he studied various techniques and explored their local food.

His research commenced while operating Pinoy Heritage, a pop-up featuring a purely Filipino menu. Initially, Ang began the smaller venture with his wife, Dian, to raise funds for the victims of Super Typhoon Yolanda in 2013.

It became well received. Since then, it became the couple’s dream to open a full-blown restaurant, and it came to fruition when Abaca opened last August 2021.  

Quality ingredients

Ang, who has worked with Michelin Star Chef Gary Danko, says his local dishes have “a subtle Californianess.” For example, their fried pork lumpia includes homemade apple ketchup, while their best-selling sisig fried rice is topped with a poached egg. 

In fact, the recipe for the latter was created years ago, when the City College of San Francisco’s Culinary School graduate conducted the fundraiser pop-up. 

On establishing a fine dining restaurant for a cuisine known to be economical, Ang says that “Filipino [food] doesn’t need to be inexpensive.” He continues sharing in the CBS San Francisco interview that Abaca utilizes “high-quality ingredients” and that they shop at farmer’s markets “non-stop.” 

Banner photo from @restaurantabaca on Instagram.

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