A 24-seater, no-reservation Filipino restaurant in Washington, DC, secured the second highest slot in Bon Appétit magazine’s annual America’s Best New Restaurants list.
Helmed by Filipino-American chef Tom Cunanan and co-owned by Genevieve Villamora and her partner Nick Pimentel, Bad Saint quietly opened in Columbia Heights in September last year.
DC diners fell hard for Filipino favorites like kinilaw (Filipino ceviche) and adobong dilaw (a tangy stew of chicken, turmeric, and burnt coconut).
Bon Appetit deputy editor Andrew Knowlton sang praises for Bad Saint’s okoy, which he said was “was as addictive as a Bloomin’ Onion but 50 times more delicious.”
Okoy is a flavorful Filipino appetizer made from shrimp, sweet potato fritters and other vegetables.
“Their food is personal, but it’s so much more than just dishes they ate as kids. Bad Saint is the kind of place I spend all year searching for,” Knowlton said.
The restaurant’s name was inspired by Saint Malo, the site of the first permanent settlement of Filipinos in the United States.
In early 2015, the team behind Bad Saint started a Kickstarter campaign which helped them raise $41,066 to build the restaurant.
Chef Tom, as noted on Kickstarter, is a veteran of the DC restaurant industry and is one of seven siblings in a working class family in Maryland.
His mother is from Nueva Ecija, while his father is Kapampangan. He has worked at Purple Yam in New York City, one of the pioneers of Filipino restaurant dining in the US that's branched out in Malate, Manila.
At Bad Saint, enthusiastic gastronomes show up even before doors open at 5:30 p.m. With the recognition from Bon Appetit, lines are bound to get even longer.
No other Filipino restaurant made it to this year’s Bon Appetit list.
This story first appeared on Coconuts Manila.