Just when I thought that I, a Filipino, considered myself to be well familiar with all that my culture’s cuisine had to offer, I was introduced to Lord Maynard Llera, who pleasantly extended my Filipino food horizons past lumpia Shanghai, adobo, and sinigang.
Pancit habhab? Inihaw na sugpo sa aligue? Lucenachon? Such dishes seemed foreign to me, which I at first admitted sheepishly. And having to search through Los Angeles to familiarize myself with these region-specific dishes would likely have been a needle meets haystack scenario. But I thought to myself that swallowing my pride and hubris would go well with all that Chef Llera was about to cook up.
So here I was enjoying such delicacies, which Llera identifies as Southern Tagalog cuisine, all in one meal. The coolest part is that it all came with the if-you-know-you-know type vibe of an underground pop-up.
I had to do some digging as to what exactly Southern Taglog cuisine was, which includes a love affair with deep-fried, smoked, and grilled meats and recipes that focus on simple, straight-forward cooking.
Llera, who is the former culinary director at the The Hwood Group, an LA-based hospitality and lifestyle company responsible for a number of upscale nightlife and restaurant venues in the city, cut his teeth in fine dining, boasting a pedigree that translates to the technique-driven cooking that’s indicative of his underground pop-up, Kuya Lord. All of which is done at his home in La Cañada Flintridge, a tranquil, hillside suburb in Los Angeles.
Chef Llera is joyful in putting me on to his offerings, whether they be flavorful stir-fry noodles from the Lucban municipality in the Quezon Province or terrifically crisp, slow roasted pork belly done in the style of Lucena, his hometown. Grilled Hiramasa collar, a Yellowtail Kingfish, is smoky and robust. Java rice, a vibrant hue of 9am sunshine, is rich with garlic and annatto flavors. By the end of the meal, I’m pretty sure my face turned into the mind-blown emoji.
Kuya Lord’s menu is often rotating, a testament to the prowess of Chef Llera, and gives much reason to keep coming back for rare Filipino delights done his way. Make sure to follow the pop-up on Instagram to get the most up-to-date info on menu offerings and availability.