Pop-ups have been an integral part of LA’s food culture for years, but what we’re experiencing right now could very well be the dawn of the Pop-Up Golden Age (yes, we’re coining it). These are lean operations where social distancing is easy, so pop-ups have become prevalent during the pandemic - with more and more spots seemingly... popping-up each week. While we hope you’ve bookmarked Burmese, Please!, Rose + Rye, and Easy Street Burgers, one place that also deserves your immediate attention is Kuya Lord.
This Filipino pop-up is run by Lord Maynard Llera, a former sous chef at Bestia, and operates entirely out of his house in La Canada-Flintridge. There isn’t a set ordering schedule at the moment, but you’ll get all the menu, payment, and pick-up location details by following @kuyalord_la on Instagram. So go ahead and do that right now - we’ll wait - because this food is simply too special to miss.
Chef Maynard grew up in Lucena, a coastal city in the Quezon Province of the Philippines, and the dishes on Kuya Lord’s shifting menu are inspired by the flavors and memories he grew up with. Think pancit topped with lechon kawali (deep fried pork belly), sauteed blue prawns in crab paste, and smoky BBQ chicken. Everything on the menu is meant to be served family-style, so while price points might seem high, just know these are portions meant to last you or your family for several days. And trust us, they will - just in time for you to reorder for the next weekend.
Pancit Chami is a signature dish of Lucena City, and with thick noodles and a starchy, gravy-like sauce, it’s fairly different from other types of pancit. Kuya Lord’s version is among the best we’ve ever had, period. It comes with either blue prawns or lechon kawali, but choosing one is a huge problem, because both are equally fantastic. Here’s our tip: Get it with the pork belly and then order the blue prawns as its own separate dish.
Sauteed in garlic crab paste and served with calamansi fish sauce, this is one of the most memorable shrimp dishes we’ve eaten in quite a while. The shrimp themselves are cooked perfectly - popping with each bite - but it’s the pungent sweetness of the calamansi sauce mixed with the sourness of the paste that take this dish to a completely different level.
Sweet, salty, and smoky, this is the kind of BBQ that’ll stick not just to your fingers, but also your mind for several days afterwards. They’re sold by the leg quarter (minimum three per order), which is a perfect size to eat at dinner - and then later at night while sitting in bed.
Made with braised taro leaves and coconut milk, there’s certainly a strong sweetness to this dish, but thanks to the umami from the tuna katsuobushi (bonito flakes) on top, it all balances out quite well. This is the ideal side dish to go with the savory pancit and BBQ chicken.
Is this the most exciting dish on Kuya Lord’s menu? Of course not. But you still need to order it, because, for one, you need your vegetables, and secondly, the kesong puti (dehydrated ricotta cheese) that you sprinkle on top is a true highlight. Honestly, if they sold it by the block, we’d buy three.
These deep fried pork ruffles are perfect for sharing, except for the fact you’re only going to want to keep them for yourself. So just do that and take full advantage of the house-made vinegar dip on the side.