Kinilaw Buko in Hoxton: Filipino dishes made for East London
Perhaps not as happening as its neighbouring Shoreditch, Hoxton has still managed to hold its own over the last few years with an array of trendy cafés, pubs and bars. The most recent addition to the hub is Kinilaw Buko, a Filipino restaurant by 100 Hoxton founder Andrew Zilouf. The new venture is based on two concepts: the first is kinilaw, a Filipino take on ceviche that uses palm vinegar and calamansi instead of lime to break down enzymes and denature proteins; the second concept is buko, which translates as artisan Filipino ice cream neatly served in a baby coconut shell.
Inside the restaurant, the décor could be described as industrial with dark grey walls and a corrugated iron ceiling. A long bar took up a good proportion of the space and a variety of spirits and pickled ingredients could be found in cages on the wall. Decked out with soft furnishings and a TV in the corner playing hip-hop and R’n’B music, Kinilaw Buko definitely carried the distinct air of a laid-back lounge bar.
Once settled into our surroundings it was time to peruse the menu and order some food and drinks. The cocktail list threw open some unusual concoctions, all enhanced with a Filipino twist. We went for the Sherry Di-Vine which is perfect if you’re partial to a glass of sherry. The hint of chilli, ginger and sweet basil gave this cocktail a bit of a spicy twist to balance out the sweetness. We also ordered the Boozy Bubble Tea which is made with chai tea, coconut milk, honey, nutmeg and a shot of liquor. This one carried all the qualities of a traditional bubble tea, but it could have benefitted from a bit more of a boozy punch.
The menu is split into Kinilaw and Hot Bites, which include slightly bigger plates. We decided to start with the ceviche and ordered the vinegar-soaked oysters with avocado, onion, lime and ginger. The vinegar, lime and ginger set the oysters off perfectly and the hint of avocado cut through the tartness, leaving a refreshing aftertaste on the palate.
We then had the Kilawin Coconut Fire, which was made up of bream, mango, red pepper, jalapeño and coconut vinegar. The bream ceviche had been cured to perfection, resulting in a delicate and zesty texture and taste. The coconut vinegar also came through well and a hotness from the jalapeño gave it an extra kick, but for me, there was just too much going on with the combination of ingredients.
We also had the hand-dived scallop served with cucumber, radish, lime, fermented roe and cucumber. This dish was beautifully presented and gave off a range of salty and sour flavours that were well matched with the tender meaty scallop.
From the Hot Bites section, we had the crispy pork belly in adobo sauce with jalapeño salsa. Presented in perfect cubes, the meat was wonderfully tender but was let down slightly by the fat, which was on the sticky and chewy side. We also had the oxtail croquette with peanut and shrimp sauce. The slow-cooked meat melted in the mouth and was just the comforting winter warmer that we needed. The peanut and shrimp sauce added another layer of warmth, making this a welcome hearty addition to the table.
We also had a side of steamed rice served with small fried fish, a typically Asian dish that I would recommend to enjoy alongside the hot plates.
We finished with the buko element of the meal. We had the red bean ice cream with miso butterscotch, served with a ginger Anzac biscuit. The ice cream wasn’t overly sweet but still managed to incorporate the richness of the pulse. We also had the cherry and chocolate pudding ice cream, accompanied by maraschino cherries and a brandy snap. This dessert exploded with velvety cocoa flavours and was counteracted with a sour tang from the berries. Though not as rich as other ice creams, it was a lighter way to end a meal, with plenty of mouth-watering flavours running through.
Kinilaw Buko certainly have an original concept and vision in place, and there were a few dishes that really stood out for me (the oysters and the croquettes). I wasn’t entirely sold on all of the ceviche courses and I think a more simplistic approach could have helped here. In any case, if you’re after a cosy evening filled with quirky and inventive small dishes, it’s definitely worth stopping by.
★★★★★Food ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮Drinks ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮Service ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮
Alex Julie Woods
Photos: Cristiana Ferrauti
To book a table at Kinilaw and Buko, 104 Hoxton Street Hoxton London N1 6SG, call 020 7729 1444 or visit their website here.