Pica-Pica Restaurant: A Taste of the Pacific Here in The Kingdom| 07.28.19
Pros: Comfortable Space, Close to Good Parking, Close to Shops and Entertainment; Nice Atmosphere, Delicious Food, Beer and Wine, New Experience
Downside: Service Can Be Slow
Note: This is Authentic Cuisine so be Aware That Some Items Are Not What You May Expect
ountain Rating: 7.2/10
Pica Pica Filipino restaurant in St Johnsbury Has added an entirely new dimension of flavor to the Kingdom. Introducing ingredients, and interesting meat cuts, that many local diners have never tried before, the dishes are exciting and a bit exotic.
This little eatery is located right on Main Street in St Johnsbury across from the Saint Johnsbury Athenaeum.
There is great parking nearby, and it’s in walking distance to other restaurants, the movie theater, Catamount Arts, and so many other St Johnsbury attractions – making it the perfect stop for a night out.
The restaurant is quaint and quiet, a little on the smaller side but very comfortable. On entering, we were immediately greeted by a hostess. We were meeting some friends for dinner, but they had already consumed an order of assorted dumplings by the time we arrived. They were hooked – having not been to this restaurant before they were pleased and pleasantly surprised to find ethnic cuisine so close to home. They told me about their experience with the dumplings and couldn’t stop raving about how delicious they were or that every dumpling had a different, flavorful filling.
The Menu at Pica-Pica Restaurant, St. Johnsbury, VT
We browsed the menu, looking for a few authentic items to try. Having been here before on our Adult Dinner Tour, we wanted to try something new. But we also got an order of the spring rolls. We loved them the first time we came, as they have a slight difference in the filling versus that of spring rolls from a Chinese or Thai restaurant.
For the main course, my husband and I split an order of monk fish. It came to the table, smelling divine.
Now, fair warning, this is served whole – with the head still on it. While this is an unusual plating presentation in America, it is standard in much of the world, especially for small fish. The fish was butterflied and filled with a fresh salsa, and served with a healthy portion of rice and stir fried vegetables.
Filipino Cuisine is an interesting blend of culinary experiences. The Philippine Islands are located in the South Pacific, so there is a shared Asian influence that comes through in the cuisine. But, the Philippines were also a Spanish colony and so many culinary ideas entered the culture but were made unique by the availability of ingredients and traditional cooking techniques of the Filipino people.
One of the most notable differences in Filipino cuisine is the use of vinegar. All dishes have a rich, yet sour, quality that is balanced out by saltiness and protein. This creates a flavor profile that is surprising at first, but definitely speaks to the brain and the base needs of human nutrition, and so you are quickly addicted to the flavor.
The monk fish was cooked wonderfully – nice and flaky with a crispy skin. The vinegar marinade permeated the meat, but wasn’t overpowering – it added a slight sour and citrus note to each bite. The salsa was made of tomatoes, mango, onions, and tofu – a blend of ingredients that speaks to the varied culinary influences of this region. The fresh fruit blended with the crunch of the onion, and dressed with a vinegar to liven it up, all worked together to add another level of fresh and sour to the protein.
Served with rice and stir fried vegetables, as is common in Asian cuisine, the plate was well balanced and very filling.
Our friends ordered the adobo. From the word you can see the Spanish influence. But Filipino adobo incorporated ingredients of the region giving is a unique and distinct flavor profile. Adobo is an authentic Filipino dish, cooked throughout the country, in all regions, and in all economic classes.
It is a dish cooked as comfort food in every home. Here at Pica Pica, they use a chicken leg and a piece of pork as the proteins. Adobo is a cooking process and require marinating the meat in vinegar, a salt (often soy sauce), some brown sugar and spices. The meat is then slow cooked, or stewed, in the marinate. When finished, the meat melts in your mouth but instead of being greeted with a gamy flavor, or the spiciness of a Spanish dish, you are treated to a sweet sourness I’ve never experienced from any other cuisine. Because we were sharing at the table, our server brought them a large bowl of rice and vegetables to share.
The staff is quite wonderful. We have now dined here a few times and the owner, his family members, and the rest of the staff are all eager to please and enjoy discussing the food. On this visit the chef /owner wasn’t present as it was his day off. But on previous occasions he’s been happy to come out and talk about the food to us which is how he found out about the adobo dish.
And while we didn’t try dessert on this occasion, it is on my list of things to do. The beautiful presentation of exotic fruits and the unique flavor profiles presented in some of the dessert options that I have seen come over their Facebook feed (and brought to other tables) are so intriguing and always look beautiful and appetizing.
If you’re in St. Johnsbury and I’m looking for something a little bit different check out Pica Pica Filipino restaurant. You are sure to be in for a surprise.
If the items on the menu at little outside of your comfort zone don’t hesitate to at least try one and then pair it was something like the spring rolls or stir-fry for a menu option that’s a little more familiar and yet will give you a soft introduction to the flavor differences.
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