Modesto, CA

This New Restaurant in Modesto’s Century Center is Offering Filipino Style Combo Meals

Jhemmylrut Teng

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Halo-Halo dessert of Kusina Restaurant(Source: Kusina FB Account)

A new Filipino restaurant in Modesto City has been taking names since its opening last month.

Kusina, which literally means "kitchen" in English, would let you have a taste of authentic Filipino dishes and other fusion fares.

It is also Modesto's only dedicated full-service Filipino restaurant, where you can enjoy delicious food and buy Filipino products, particularly, quintessential ingredients you need in your kusina.

Turning Dream into Reality

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Kusina restaurant in Modesto City, CA(Source: Modesto Bee)

Tatum Hontiveros has opened Kusina in east Modesto's Century Center. The new eatery, which had its soft opening last month, serves lunch and dinner with a menu full of authentic and fusion Filipino dishes.

Since Kusina is the only Filipino restaurant in the city, residents of Modesto don't have to travel to other areas in California to try this unique Southeast Asian cuisine.

Hontiveros and her husband, Dr. Vic Pidlaoan, moved to Modesto about three years ago after Pidlaoan became a physician with Sutter Health. She moved to the United States from the Philippines in 2008. Then as Pidlaoan pursued his medical career, they lived in a succession of cities, including Detroit, Dallas, and Columbus, Ohio.

When they came to Modesto, Hontiveros got serious about opening a restaurant after having to always drive to Tracy or Stockton to get their Filipino food fix. But as a first-time restaurateur and mostly home cook, she faced a significant career change.

"I was thinking, there's a lot of Filipino population here in Modesto. And I think non-Filipino would also love our food so why not open a Filipino restaurant in the area." -- Tatum Hontiveros, Owner of Kusina

Like her husband, Hontiveros also has a medical degree. However, being a mom raising two kids, their children became her priority. Therefore, she wanted to start her new venture but not diving in without thorough preparation.

Currently, she is working on her master's degree in the food business from the esteemed Culinary Institute of America and expects to graduate later this summer.

She planned to open Kusina in 2020, but then the pandemic hit. With her background in medicine, she knew how life-threatening the virus is. So, she decided not to push through with her dream to have a restaurant until the outbreak was more under control.

What's on the menu?

She has opened with a small menu, including a choice of plates, platters, appetizers, and desserts. In the coming months, she will add more items, including family-style spreads and new entrees. But for now, the selection provides both an accessible and more advanced take on Filipino food.

Lechon Belly

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Lechon Belly(Source: Kusina FB Account)

She has opened with a small menu, including a choice of plates, platters, appetizers, and desserts. In the coming months, she will add more items, including family-style spreads and new entrees. But for now, the selection provides both an accessible and more advanced take on Filipino food.

This type of Lechon Pork belly is cooked using the oven. It is different from the traditional way of preparing Lechon by roasting over a hot charcoal bed and continuing rotating until the skin gets brown crunchy.

Some people love this version of Lechon compared to the conventional one. As they say, Lechon belly is tastier than the whole roasted pig because the meat absorbs the flavor by marinating and stuffing it with aromatics and spices. Thus, it's boneless, so it is easier to dig in.

Lechon is an all-time favorite of Filipinos, especially during special occasions.

Dinuguan

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Dinuguan(Source: Kusina FB Account)

Dinuguan is rather similar to European-style blood sausage or British and Irish black pudding in a saucy stew form. Its primary ingredients are pork, vinegar, and blood.

Dinuguan is usually served with steamed rice or the Philippines' rice cake called puto.

Lumpiang Sariwa

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Lumpiang Sariwa(Source: Kusina FB Account)

One of the Filipino dishes that are familiar to Americans is Lumpia. But there are several Lumpia varieties, one of which is Lumpaing Sariwa (Fresh Spring Roll).

Compared to the famous Lumpiang Shanghai, which has pork filling and deep-fried in cooking oil. The Lumpiang Sariwa is a vegetable dish composed of different vegetables with a soft unfried wrapper garnished with sweet sauce and crushed peanuts.

So, if you are not into oily food, this delicious Filipino appetizer is just right for you.

Sinigang

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Sinigang(Source: Kusina FB Account)

Sinigang is a sour soup native to the Philippines. This recipe uses pork as the main ingredient. Other proteins and seafood can also be used. Beef, shrimp, fish are commonly used for cooking sinigang.

In Kusina, you can order this warm soup in a bowl for $8.95 each or in a pot for $14.95.

A combo meal (combination plates) is also available in this restaurant, so you get to try all the Filipino food you want on the menu. Each combo plate runs for $10.99 and includes fried lumpia, pancit bihon (stir fry noodles), rice, and choice of meat, fish, or vegetarian main dish.

These include chicken or pork skewers, chicken or pork adobo, grilled pork belly, grilled milkfish, pinakbet (a mixed vegetable dish), and dinuguan.

Hontiveros plans to expand the menu with less traditional items like a pork belly sandwich and possibly add a Sunday brunch. In about a month, she'll start to serve beer and other cocktails, thanks to a full liquor license.

Even though Kusina is new in the city, the restaurant is always packed every lunchtime.

"If you haven't tried Filipino food yet, we have the perfect food for you. We all have different Filipino foods that are familiar to your palate. It has a distinct Filipino taste, and I am sure you will love them." - Tatum Hontiveros

The restaurant also has a small selection of Filipino pastries, sweets, snacks, sauces, and other essentials for sale that Hontiveros said can be hard for those in the community to find.

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Mini grocery shop inside Kusina restaurant(Source: Kusina FB Account)

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Kusina Filipino Restaurant(Source: Kusina FB Account)

Check out Kusina restaurant at Orangeburg Ave., in Modesto, which is open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday.

For more information, call them at 209-432-3636.

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I am a PR officer and a professional journalist with a master's degree in international development. I write history, geopolitics, food, and culture. Since I am a member of the API community, I make sure to highlight our stories to promote diversity and create awareness for cultural understanding.

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