It was a dark and stormy night….no really – it was one of the darkest, rainiest and stormiest nights that I could remember. And there I was driving to and from industrial Surrey, deep in an area that was completely unfamiliar to me. The visibility was so poor that I had to pull off to the side of the road a number of times to wait out the really heavy rains.
I did this to partake in a relatively recent trend in global Pinoy cuisine called a “Boodle Fight” – a dining tradition borrowed from the mess-halls of the Filipino Military Academy. Eating this meal, which is served as a big pile of food on top of long tables covered with banana-leaves, is an act of camaraderie and equality among the troops. Everyone shares the same food regardless of rank. In recent years, young Pinoy restaurateurs from the Filipino diaspora have co-opted the dining experience around the world. You can now have a Boodle Fight in New York, Dubai, Wellington, LA, Winnipeg, Toronto, and now here.
Grandt Kitchen is located in Whalley in the midst of some of the noisiest and rustiest industrial lands in Greater Vancouver. Heavy machine shops surround it and right behind it is a busy train yard. In the daytime, the restaurant is an old-school lunch spot serving burgers and all-day breakfasts for the area’s blue collar workers. In the evening, the restaurant shifts modes, becoming a Filipino eatery. If you book ahead Grand Kitchen will serve you a Boodle Fight served on a makeshift long table covered with fresh banana leaves upon which they will pile on a gut-busting assortment of food. It will cost you about $30 per person including tip ($100 a table; min. four people).
To assemble the Boodle Fight, the cooks begin by laying a foundation of garlic fried rice topped with deep fried garlic chips. On top of that, they pile on a cornucopia of Filipino party food classics: BBQ pork skewers, chorizo sausages, fried fish, grilled giant squid, mussels, eggplants, mango salad, corn on the cob, and more. The assembly process – which took about half an hour – was mesmerizing. Just when you thought they were done and it was time to eat, they bring out one more dish. Each diner has a serving plate of dipping sauces: soya sauce, vinegar, and bagoong – a sort of funky Filipino anchovy paste. And following tradition, you’re supposed to dig in and eat with your hands, “kamayan” style.
The meal was finger-licking, messy, and fun. We all ordered a calamansi lime juice to go with our meal. It was a perfect complement, acting like a solvent to cut through all the delicious grease. I was certain we wouldn’t be able to finish, but we did a pretty good job demolishing the giant mound. And we didn’t have to fight for any of it.
Grandt Kitchen | 12297 Industrial Rd | Surrey, BC | @GRANDTKitchen