By Desiree Dylong – Copy Editor
Students looking for something different to fill their bellies with in between classes should check out Merla’s Kitchen, which provides a unique experience and quality Filipino cuisine. At first glance, Merla’s Kitchen is rather small, but sometimes the best food comes from this kind of Mom and Pop shop. Despite its small outward appearance, the inside of the restaurant offers an expansive sense of warmth and welcome with its friendly staff, earth-colored décor and the rich scent of spices in the air.
For anyone who is familiar with Filipino cuisine, there is a variety of traditional favorites offered such as Siopao, Pork Menudo and Chicken Adobo. For those who are experiencing the cuisine for the first time, a good choice is Merla’s Signature Platter, a sampler of the kitchen’s signature dishes for $8.99, which consists of Chicken or Pork Adobo, Pancit Bihon, Steamed Rice and the choice of an Empanada or Siopao. The highlights of the signature platter were the Pork Adobo and the Siopao. The Pork Adobo, marinated with vinegar and garlic, was tender and had a mild flavor with enough tang to make the dish memorable. The Siopao, a steamed bun filled with chicken or pork, was soft on the outside while being warm and richly marinated on the inside.
Along with its food menu, Merla’s offers a large selection of traditional and unique beverages. On the conventional side, one can enjoy a Sprite but for something different, Merla’s also has a ginger beer which is a soda that has a kick of sugar and sweet ginger.
For dessert, customers can pick traditional staples such as Turon, Champorado, Leche Flan and Halo Halo. Some of the ingredients in Halo Halo are shaved ice, flan, tapioca, kidney beans, evaporated milk, vanilla ice-cream and coconut. Halo Halo, which in Tagalog means “Mix- Mix,” is a national favorite in the Philippines and is well known throughout the Filipino community. Jeffrey Javier, a customer at Merla’s Kitchen who was also born in Tarlac, a province the Philippines, said, “If you bring up Halo Halo in a conversation with someone who is Filipino, most likely they know what you’re talking about. It’s a favorite dessert in the Philippines.” The Halo Halo was sweet and offered a unique experience with its variety of textures and flavor.
Merla’s Kitchen offers a starting point for those who have never experienced Filipino cuisine. The food was reasonably priced given the filling serving sizes and the quality of the dishes. For a platter and dessert, students can expect to pay around $13 for a filling meal served by welcoming staff, in a warm atmosphere. Merla’s Kitchen is located at 5207 N. Kimball.