TLO Restaurant Review: Chibugan Filipino Cuisine

Let’s be brutally honest here: many people in Oklahoma City—myself, sadly included—look at Del City as some kind of dirty joke, seemingly worthy of nothing but caustic derision and subpar punchlines. And while some of them can still draw a hearty guffaw—myself, sadly laughing—after actually venturing there one afternoon and casting myself as a true man of the people, I realized the burg was more than just a slightly misunderstood suburb of gang signs, confederate flags and payday loans.

For example, did you know that they happen to have an ultimately thriving Filipino community there with, who knew, one of my new favorite spots in Del City—or really any city—Chibugan Filipino Cuisine, 4728 SE 29th Street?

Having shamefully never fully experienced Filipino food outside of some light party snacks a few years ago that went pretty fast, I nakedly came into Chibugan a unformed virgin, but left a fully clothed, beautifully satisfied man. With the window-dressing advertising the $6.95 lunch special, as I sat down I was immediately greeted with a big bowl of a spicy soup with a twist of lime.

Excuse me…I mean a big bowl of a free spicy soup with a twist of lime.

As I was sipping the zestful flavors of the gratis soup, I asked the server what their most popular appetizer is and she heartfullly suggested the Lumpia ($3.99). Mildly comparable to a spring roll, Lumpia is filled with minced meat, rolled very tightly and deep-fried. Needing this in my life, I nodded my head in agreement, thinking I was probably going to get one or two of these things, nicely arranged on a plate with a sprig of parsley.

My bearded jaw dropped right into my free soup as I was quickly delivered twelve or so of them in a handsome basket, completely formed with an incapacitating dipping sauce.

Carefully noshing on the fried pellets of Filipino festivity, gently using the chile-encrusted dipping sauce for good and not evil, since it worked so well the first time, I asked the server which of the lunch dishes she would recommend—she motioned to the Lechon Kawali ($6.95) lunch special, to which I didn’t even ask her what it was.

As she took my menu, in between sips of free soup I slightly guzzled a slim can of calamansi juice drink—“not from concentrate” the can dutifully reminded me—a smooth liquid that deserved to be drunk like it was going out of style, cooling the tastebuds that were now gracefully singed due to the fryer-fresh Lumpia.

Made of delicately fried pork-belly cut into slight cubes, Lechon Kawali should, for now at least, be the only way pork should ever be served, to me at least. The rich cuts of the other white meat—now fried to a smoldering deep brown—were crispy and crunchy, a lot like Mexican chicharróns, but with an undercurrent of gracious meat to enjoy. Much like eating a porcine variation of cotton candy, with every morsel just melting like sugar on my tongue and I’ve just got to gimme gimme gimme some.

Once again, it was a perfect embarrassment of the finest riches, with far too much on my plate to even consider finishing, including the large scoop of rice and side of a slaw-like salad; I packed the illicit remnants in a delicately bursting box when I looked across the street and saw yet another Filipino eatery. Good on you Del City…good on you. Cómpralo ya!

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