With the launch of Big Boi three years ago, chef Barb Batiste brought classic Filipino cuisine to the Westside, with dishes like chicken adobo and pork tocino served a la carte, cafeteria-style. The restaurant, which you’ll find tucked into a bustling stretch of Sawtelle Avenue, features updated versions of the food Batiste grew up eating, made using her late mother’s techniques and centering the use of leaner cuts of meat and less oil.
“She never had a recipe … there was never a measurement,” Batiste says. “For her, it was always about how it tasted, how it looked. … And she knew exactly when things were done. And it’s funny because I think it’s something that’s innate.”
When she’s not busy catering for the likes of Disney, Hulu, Nike and the MLB, Batiste splits her time between Big Boi and B Sweet, a dessert bar serving up classic American goodies with a Filipino bent conveniently located just up the street (far enough that you can say you made room for dessert by walking over).
Her Tikim Fest special, pork served three ways, features lechon kawali, pork belly roasted, deep-fried, cubed and served with a liver-based dipping sauce, a house-made longaniza — of which there is a vegan version, slightly sweet and almost meaty — and pork adobo, braised for about an hour and a half to two hours in soy sauce, vinegar, salt, pepper, bay leaves and lots of garlic — a favorite of her late father, whom Big Boi is named after. (“In the Philippines, you always have an ‘uncle boy’ or ‘lola boy,’ which means grandpa,” Batiste says, “ … that’s where that came about.”)
“It was my dad’s ultimate favorite, but it had to look just like this,” Batiste says. “The color had to be just right to him. If it was any lighter, or anything like that, he was just like I’m not gonna eat it.”
The special also includes a generous serving of deliciously fragrant garlic rice. Do yourself a favor and make sure to get the calamansi juice as well; it’s wonderfully refreshing and evokes notes of citrus and watermelon — absolutely not to be missed.
“I think I chose probably the three really popular dishes in the Philippines,” Batiste says, “and if I were to start anybody off that hasn’t had Filipino food, these would be three of the things [to try].”
With these offerings, Batiste keeps alive the legacy handed down by her mother, helping cement Filipino cuisine’s place in the American food landscape while also educating those unfamiliar with the archipelago’s fare.
“So I’m really proud to have Big Boi here on a street where people didn’t really know what Filipino food was,” she says. “We have a lot of American people that never have heard of it. … And there are so many other dishes aside from, you know, the pork three ways that we’re introducing to the Tikim Festival, there’s so much more, but I think it’s a nice way to introduce it, where people will actually move forward and try other things.”
Big Boi — 2027 Sawtelle Blvd., Los Angeles, California 90025
Chef Barb Batiste is one of Tikim Fests’ featured chefs. She’s prepared a special prix fixe menu, with proceeds benefiting FilAm Arts. Los Angeleno is a proud partner of Tikim Fest 2021, co-presented by Farmfluence.