CASUAL Tastefully Tropical
& lt;span class= "dropcap " & T & lt;/span & he Philippines is about as culturally remote from Spokane as you can get, but Les and Marjulin Tomaszewski have brought the islands' culture closer to the Inland Northwest. Four years ago, they opened Marj's Market Place, specializing in Filipino and Oriental food products, in a north-side strip mall. Recently, they opened THE NIPA HUT, a Filipino eatery, a few doors down from their market.
"Our customers just kept begging us to open a Filipino restaurant," Les says.
Filipino cuisine has evolved over centuries, with influences from China, Malaysia, India, Spain and more recently America. Unlike other Asian cookery, which tends to be more subtle, Filipino cuisine is flamboyant, with single presentations offering an aromatic, visual and savory feast. It features bold combinations of sweet, sour, salty and spicy flavors.
Some of Nipa Hut's traditional dishes include dinuguan, spiced pork cooked in sanitized pork blood (which is very popular); longanisa, Filipino-style sausage; and galunggong, a roundscad mackerel. The Tomaszewskis offer two daily specials, ranging from chicken curry and pork afritada (simmered in tomato sauce with veggies) to menudo (Filipino-style stew) and caldereta beef flavored with tomatoes. An Inlander reader recommends the chicken adobo, stewed in a broth of soy sauce, vinegar, garlic and onions, that's available on Fridays.
Customers can get combo meals from the eatery's steam table that include up to three entrees and steamed rice. Side orders include fried tilapia fish, pork on a stick and a variety of lumpia (Filipino spring rolls). For those who want a taste of American dishes cooked Filipino-style, items range from grilled ham and cheese to Philly cheese steak and barbecue pork spareribs.
If you're throwing a tropical-themed party, Nipa Hut caters. Lumpia and pork on a stick come in increments of 50 pieces. Ten pounds each of fried rice and lechon kawale (boiled, fried pork) will feed your hungry party-goers.
If you're eating at the restaurant, don't forget dessert. Nipa Hut offers halo-halo, a blend of shaved ice, milk, coconut, purple yam pudding, caramel custard, sweetened plantains and jackfruit. With menu items averaging $5 each, Nipa Hut offers a low-cost taste of the tropics.
-- SUSAN HAMILTON
The Nipa Hut, 820 E. Francis Ave., is open Mon-Thu 11 am-8 pm, Fri-Sat 11 am-10 pm, Sun 11 am-7 pm. Call 489-1010.
DINING Spreading Liberty
& lt;span class= "dropcap " & T & lt;/span & he dining options in Liberty Lake continue to blossom, as befits one of the fastest growing communities in the state. The newest entry is STILO'S, in the bungalow-esque building behind the Albertsons plaza that used to house Caffe Libert & eacute;. Stilo's is the second eatery in town owned and operated by Rhonda Entner and her son, chef Patrick Fechser -- they opened Hay J's, on the north side of the freeway, nearly a year ago. The focus here is on seafood and steaks, with a 20-ounce porterhouse, a blackberry port New York steak, and even a Kobe beef burger. From the sea, there's grilled Hawaiian monchong, king crab legs, poached halibut and pan-fried oysters, to name a few.
"On Friday and Saturday, we have the java-rubbed roasted prime rib," says Entner. (Yes, that's java, as in coffee.) "People are just loving that."
The restaurant is currently open only for dinner ($13-$40) and Sunday brunch ($20; $13, kids younger than 12) -- the only Sunday champagne brunch in Liberty Lake, with frittatas, benedicts, pastas, roast pork and prime rib, plus bacon and sausage and an array of desserts including chocolate-dipped strawberries. On weekdays, groups may book the rooms for private luncheons or meetings prior to the 3 pm public opening.
On the north side of I-90, SUNSET IN TUSCANY has been open a few months now in the transformed Home Plate space. Warm, sun-splashed colors on the walls give the feeling of the Mediterranean, a feeling that extends to the luxuriously flavored Italian specialties on the menu. The tomato-basil soup is thick with tomatoes, seasoning and a hint of cream, and could be a meal in itself with the accompanying crusty kalamata-olive baguette. The fettuccine carbonara includes green olives and pancetta for a salty kick to balance the creamy richness; the baked raviolis rest on a base of thick marinara sauce.
Lunch includes salads, fresh pasta, sandwiches and burger options ($6-$10); at dinner, the entr & eacute;es range from pasta specialties ($9-$12) to steaks, chicken saltimbocca and grilled lamb ($17-$29). But whatever time you visit, save room for the tiramisu, a divine blend that's lighter and airier than most versions of this Italian classic.
-- ANN M. COLFORD
Stilo's, at 1400 N. Meadowwood Lane, Liberty Lake, is open Mon-Thu 3-9 pm; Fri-Sat 3-10 pm; Sun 9:30 am-3 pm. Call 891-9192.
Sunset in Tuscany, 1803 N. Harvard Rd., Liberty Lake, is open Mon-Thu 11 am-9 pm, Fri-Sat, 11 am-10 pm. Call 928-3555.