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If necessity is the mother of invention than crisis is the mother of reinvention. COVID-19 will permanently alter the dining scene here in St. John’s, but the speed with which local restaurants have revamped (or straight-up invented) their take-out and delivery options has been astounding.
From jumping on the Skip the Dishes bandwagon to restaurant owners jumping into their own vehicles to provide contactless dropoffs, there is no shortage of dining-in options available.
But Friday night dinner with friends looks pretty different now, as does my restaurant reviewing. Instead of visiting the city’s newest Filipino restaurant on Duckworth Street for the first time with my husband, we ordered contactless delivery from Sinaing Home of Filipino Cuisine.
Sinaing brings it home, literally.
Co-owners and chefs Richard Alata, MariChris Francisco, Milky Pan and Allan Matuto first came to Canada as skilled workers, cooking in different restaurants throughout St. John’s. Connected through the tight-knit Filipino community here, they decided to open a restaurant together to bring the flavours of their childhood to St. John’s.
Sinaing is only the city’s second Filipino restaurant, squeaking in a soft opening at the end of 2019 in the space that used to house J Korean Restaurant. “Sinaing” is a word that means to braise fish for a long time; a cooking method Newfoundlanders are familiar with.
After carting our desktop down the stairs to the dining room table, my husband and I convened virtually with another couple who also ordered dinner from Sinaing over FaceTime, and we enjoyed a meal together.
After all, their family-style plates are meant to be shared.
Dinner arrived in the typical styrofoam and plastic containers, but there was nothing typical about the presentation of Sinaing’s dishes.
Chefs around the world lament over placing their perfectly plated dishes in to-go containers, claiming what you ordered could never look the same as it did in the restaurant — after all, diners eat with their eyes first — but Sinaing has their takeout presentation nailed.
Dish after dish, we opened the steaming packages unleashing mouthwatering smells, setting our eyes onto wonderfully presented Filipino food, resting atop swaths of banana leaves.
We dug into the Filipino Pork Barbeque ($12) first. The two juicy skewers adorned with sweet and spiced pork marinated in brown sugar, banana ketchup and calamansi juice (Filipino lemonade made with lemons and limes) served with papaya atsara, the popular Filipino pickled green papaya condiment.
The bountiful serving of Pancit ($13.75), the iconic rice noodle dish and a Filipino favourite the world over, was dressed with chicken, veggies and cilantro and tossed in a soy sauce with just the right amount of funky savoury flavour.
The rich peanut sauce of the Kare-Kare ($23) was equally pungent in the best kind of way. Another classic Filipino dish filled with stewed oxtail, tripe and cow skin along with banana heart, eggplant and baby bok choy, this dish was tasty but didn’t have the intensity of flavour I expected.
I needed more sauce to soak up the mountain of rice it came with.
We finished the meal with our virtual dinner mates over Chilled Buko Pandan ($6.50) a dessert bowl filled with shredded coconut, pandan jelly (made from pandan, the tropical plant), tapioca pearls, condensed milk and whipped cream. It reminded me of my childhood when nan would serve lime Jello with whipped cream for dessert, but a more grown-up palate-pleasing version.
Since our tantalizing to-go dinner, Sinaing has decided to close temporarily until the COVID-19 threat has passed.
For now, I’ll continue to order take-out and delivery from my favourite restaurants and once Sinaing reopens, I’ll be the first in line (along with my virtual dinner dates) for a sit-down meal of crispy pata.
Sinaing Home of Filipino Cuisine
194 Duckworth St.
St. John’s, NL
Hours (currently closed due to COVID-19):
Tuesdays to Saturdays 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 5-9 p.m.
Sundays 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Accessibility: Set of stairs leading up to the front door, no ramp. Washrooms on the second floor.
Noise level: N/A
Take-away and delivery: Yes
Meal for two with tax, delivery fee and tip: $72