If you love Filipino food, you've had more options lately in Los Angeles. Joining Rice Bar, the tiny seven-seat restaurant that opened downtown last summer, and Belly & Snout in Koreatown, comes Oi Asian Fusion.
Oi Asian Fusion is a fast-casual restaurant with the bulk of its menu made up of rice bowls. An adobo bowl piled with braised pork belly and the chicken longanisa bowl are two examples of Pinoy plates that distinguish Oi from just any rice bowl eatery. (Oi is an exclamation in Tagalog that means yo!)
For vegetarians, there's a Korean-style bibimbap bowl. If this seems very Chego-inspired, co-owner and chef Eric de la Cruz readily cites Roy Choi as a role model. However, even with all the pan-Asian flavors, de la Cruz, who is Filipino, gives the food of his heritage an emphatic nod.
Oi’s first location was a small spot in Reseda, which it quickly outgrew because of the sudden demand. The Reseda restaurant was closed and reopened in a larger Canoga Park shopping center. For the most part, Oi is a San Fernando Valley well-kept secret, with very little press coverage but a huge fan base.
Now Oi has a Hollywood shop that has been open for almost three months in a strip mall on Hollywood Boulevard near Vermont Avenue. The area is surrounded by major hospitals, which has turned out to be great for business. “Lots of nurses who are Filipino are customers," said De la Cruz.
The most Filipino item on Oi’s menu, according to De la Cruz, is tapsilog, a marinated beef dish served with fried garlic rice and fried egg. “But, you know what? It’s the most popular item with Caucasians,” he says.
De la Cruz admits that many people are confused about the concept. “We have no pictures. People walk by. They ask what we make. I educate them. Some are brave enough to try and are happy they did.”
The new Hollywood Oi location is open Tuesday to Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; the Canoga Park restaurant is open daily with the same hours.
Oi Asian Fusion, 4734 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles, (213) 458-1945; 7242 Canoga Ave., Canoga Park, (818) 776-0282, oiasianfusion.com.