Lapu Lapu restaurant review: A superb antidote to the typical American breakfast

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The inspiration behind Lapu Lapu, a Filipino-inspired breakfast window in a leafy corner of Kentlands Market Square, was a 16th-century warrior who fended off explorer Ferdinand Magellan at the Battle of Mactan. It wasn’t really a fight, actually. Magellan returns home in a box while his troops are sent to pack up in the province of Cebu, where they are treated to a meal infused with a small drop of poison.

Centuries later, Lapu Lapu would become a national hero in the archipelago known as the Philippines. Depicted as young and muscular, armed only with a sword and shield, Lapu Lapu is considered a fierce symbol of Philippine independence, the first leader to oppose European imperialism.

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It’s the legend. The truth is apparently more complicated: Lapu Lapu may have been a geriatric warrior fortified by a relentless army. He may have been provoked into battle by the ruler of Cebu, who used Magellan’s troops to get rid of a fiery leader known for attacking trading ships that sailed the waters and around the islands. The Battle of Mactan, in short, was perhaps as much an internal conflict as it was a bold stand against colonialism.

But if history has taught us anything, it’s that we generally shape the past for our own ends, sometimes noble, sometimes not. Javier and Jennifer Fernandez, the husband and wife owners of Lapu Lapu, have clung to the story of this ancient warrior to more or less make a breakfast statement: they want to fortify you in the hours after sunrise so you can fight the battles that lie ahead, whether big or small. Of course, they also ask non-Filipinos to take a second – perhaps between bites of one of their superb sandwiches – to learn more about Javier’s homeland. He hails from the Visayas, a group of islands where Lapu Lapu once fought.

Personally, after eating the Lapu Lapu sandwiches, I think the owners are waging a larger, perhaps quieter, battle against the mediocrity of American breakfast menus. Much of what passes our lips in the morning – a pre-cooked egg with two slices of bacon stuffed into a pale English muffin, all of which is reheated in a fanless oven at the push of a button – is food to be scoffed at. hot breakfast idea. It’s like we’ve sacrificed an entire meal to the gods of convenience, just so we can get to work faster.

Lapu Lapu is the antidote to this.

Tucked away in a tiny space in a Gaithersburg strip mall — so small that Javier compares it to a food truck — the store sells just a handful of sandwiches, each served on soft, enriched pandesal bread, the kind typically eaten at breakfast. -lunch in the Philippines. (The buns, by the way, come from Gwenie’s Pastries, a company started by Javier’s mother and now run by his sister, Stella Fernandez.) Half of Lapu Lapu’s options are fancy interpretations of American breakfast sandwiches. -lunch. The other half are bites that draw on Filipino culinary traditions.

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Perhaps you recognize the names of Javier and Jennifer Fernandez? They’re also the couple behind Kuya Ja’s Lechon Belly, the Rockville storefront specializing in Cebuchon, a kind of Filipino porchetta but with mahogany skin and soy sauce that crackles under your teeth like brittle. Javier is a formally trained chef who has worked with some of the best French technicians in the industry, including the late Michel Richard and Patrick Orange, the former chef of the august La Chaumière in Georgetown. Javier understands how to turn end-of-service leftovers into profits the next day.

This is basically how he created the paksiw breakfast sandwich. Javier and his team take Kuya Ja’s remaining lechon; dice pork belly, skin and all; then braise the mess of meat in cane vinegar, soy sauce, brown sugar, garlic and that Filipino secret weapon known as Mang Tomas. Javier calls the results “our version of pulled pork.” I call it the perfect start to any day or, if you’re a late riser like me, a solid lunch option.

Eggs play a role in every sandwich, save for BALT, Javier’s creamy avocado riff on the classic pork jerky, a towering stack of Technicolor ingredients that will test your ability to wrap your jaws around them. You will find a way, trust me. Fried eggs, the yolks of which are still wonky, enrich a few of the Filipino sandwiches, including homemade chorizo ​​and bistek. The latter is a heap of shredded rib eye braised in soy sauce, beef broth and lemon juice, then accessorized with pickled onions, American curd cheese sauce, lettuce and an garlic mayo. garlic and adobo. It’s the Pinoy equivalent of a cheesesteak, one more ingenious minus all the angst of whether you ordered it correctly.

You will notice Javier’s French formation with his scrambled eggs, a loose and luxurious scramble, in which the line between curd, butter and cheese almost disappears. These scrambled clouds adorn classic American breakfast sandwiches, raising them far above the typical drain plugs served with a chewy round of eggs at your local coffee shop. Lapu Lapu’s egg-cheese and sausage-egg-cheese combos (you can substitute a Beyond Meat patty for the sausage) will ruin breakfast sandwiches anywhere else for you.

The same soft scrambled eggs are slipped into a pair of Filipino-inspired sandos. The one that delights me the most is the sandwich with Spam, the US military heirloom that has already won a place at the Filipino breakfast table with spamsilog. Javier takes the canned meat and, in a move that separates the chefs from the cooks, pairs it with those heavenly eggs and a solid slice of smoked Gouda cheese.

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You can accompany any sandwich with an order of tater-tot coins, sprinkled with Cajun seasoning or pecorino romano cheese. These are standard potato poppers, never as crispy and satisfying as I would like. I’d save my calories for a post-sando serving of ube soft serve, that regal-tinged frozen confection with a bewitching ability to bridge the gap between sweet and savory.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t say that Lapu Lapu doesn’t have indoor seating, which will be a problem once temperatures drop low enough that only polar bears and Chicagoans feel comfortable eating out. Plus, the patio is limited to a handful of tables, though they’re coveted seats at the moment, as the slight chill in the air makes holding one of Lapu Lapu’s hot sandwiches a comfort. mind, body and spirit.

216 Market St W., Gaithersburg, Md., 240-477-7764; lapulapubreakfast.com.

Hours: 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday to Sunday.

Prices: $2 to $14 for all menu items.

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