Still, the sense of being in ritz-land is pervasive. Bloomingdale's bags everywhere. Diagnosis: affluenza.
Out the back door of Westfield and just a block or so along Mission Street is another mall, less heralded the Mint Mall and within its gritty confines a restaurant, New Filipinas, that is one of the very few Filipino restaurants in the city or indeed the metropolitan area. The setting has a run-down, 1970s look, poured concrete and ceramic tiles stained by time, and if you squint your eyes you might think you were at the foot of some faceless high-rise in Manila or Taipei. The restaurant itself is about as modest as it gets: a glass counter for ordering, a clutter of tables and chairs. The feeling is (as a mean birthday card once put it) "You've seen better days, but not many."
The food, prepared and served by chef-owner Tess Tuala-Diaz, has the unprepossessing look of an Army hash line: a steam-tray selection of chunked mystery meats stewing in various sauces of varying shades of brown. (A particularly chocolaty-looking tray held, we were told, pork in blood sauce.) There are adobos of pork and chicken, spare ribs, beef with broccoli, a beef and cabbage soup. For $4.90 you get your pick of one, plus a heap of white rice, while $6.50 buys you two picks, plus rice.
An advantage of bleak settings is that, if the food happens to be good, you will not be distracted from noticing it. And New Filipinas' food is surprisingly good, its flavors deep and direct, its meats slow-cooked to a peak of moist tenderness. It is peasant food, adjusted to a greater fleshiness to reflect the biases and possibilities of this rich, flesh-addicted country. But vegetarians, I will speak frankly and cordially to you: Look elsewhere! Go east, to Westfield, even. *
OUT THE DOOR
Mon.Sat., 11 a.m.9 p.m.; Sun., 11 a.m.8 p.m.
845 Market, space 80, SF
Beer and wine
NEW FILIPINAS RESTAURANT
Mon.Sat., 9 a.m.7:30 p.m.
953 Mission, SF
Bearable noise level