Quantcast
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs

Let’s just stick with beef and onions

But we could try the lechon kawali or the sinigang na baboy or the...

The thin slices of sautéed beef won the day.
The thin slices of sautéed beef won the day.
Place

Zarlitos Family Restaurant

505 E. 8th Street, National City

When I sat down at Zarlitos Family Restaurant and looked over the menu, I found lots of wonderful-sounding dishes. By that I mean the words themselves sounded wonderful: sinigang na baboy, tortang alimango, daing na bangus.

I’ve heard about Zarlitos’ award-winning poke, but I had no idea what many of its traditional Filipino dishes were, and there are a lot of them. A menu explained: pork in tamarind soup, crab omelet, and fried milkfish, respectively. Any of these would have suited me just fine, but rather than blindly pick, I asked my server for a recommendation.

A modest family restaurant in National City...that serves killer poke.

She sized me up for a moment and then pointed her finger to the combination menu, number nine. Would it be dinuguan or maybe kare-kare? Nope. She suggested that I order beef steak with onions.

I get that I don’t look adventurous enough to try a stew of pork in beef blood or oxtail with peanut sauce, but beef steak and onions? How boring.

I did like the suggestion to choose a combo platter though. Most of Zarlitos' $8 to $10 entrées are served without sides, meant to be ordered and shared, family style. The combo platters, on the other hand, include sides of pancit noodles, garlic fried rice, and lumpia — a little more diversity on the plate when you're ordering for one. After discounting the familiar adobo dishes, a couple of beef options, and that bony milkfish, I opted for the most interesting sounding choice on the combo menu: lechon kawali, described as chunks of crispy fried pork belly for $8.25. I figure it’s tough to go wrong with pork belly.

Crispy fried pork belly with lumpia, rice, pancit noodles, and Mang Tomas dipping sauce.

Crispy doesn’t begin to describe its crackling skin. Inside, the melting pork fat disintegrated in a flash of flavor. Outside was all salty crunch, but that went well with a side of the house Mang Tomas sauce, a mildly sweet dipping sauce made with liver and vinegar.

Meanwhile, one of my friends ordered that beef steak with onions for $10. Here’s where I have to give our waitress credit — it was the best thing I tried. The boring name aside, the thin slices of sautéed beef didn’t taste like something usually found on this side of the Pacific. I’ve noticed a lot of bright, acidic flavors in Filipino cuisine, and this beef went that route. It was tender, pleasantly fatty, and loaded with caramelized onion flavor yet it had an interesting tang I’d like to experience again.

My friends didn’t enjoy it as much as I did, and I’d expect a lot of people might agree with them based on the amount of fried food and lack of fresh produce we encountered. Even the Vegetables section of the menu consists of pork, beef, and shrimp dishes.

But I was encouraged, and I left too many interesting sounding dishes untested. I might not like manok na luto sa gata, but if I don’t go back to try it at Zarlitos, I might never know for sure.

Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all

Previous article

We Got Beef on the waterfront

Local jerky maker spices up weekend bayside markets
Next Article

Lost Cause repeats its meads feats

Five more medals for the meadmaker, and plans to add wine to its repertoire
The thin slices of sautéed beef won the day.
The thin slices of sautéed beef won the day.
Place

Zarlitos Family Restaurant

505 E. 8th Street, National City

When I sat down at Zarlitos Family Restaurant and looked over the menu, I found lots of wonderful-sounding dishes. By that I mean the words themselves sounded wonderful: sinigang na baboy, tortang alimango, daing na bangus.

I’ve heard about Zarlitos’ award-winning poke, but I had no idea what many of its traditional Filipino dishes were, and there are a lot of them. A menu explained: pork in tamarind soup, crab omelet, and fried milkfish, respectively. Any of these would have suited me just fine, but rather than blindly pick, I asked my server for a recommendation.

A modest family restaurant in National City...that serves killer poke.

She sized me up for a moment and then pointed her finger to the combination menu, number nine. Would it be dinuguan or maybe kare-kare? Nope. She suggested that I order beef steak with onions.

I get that I don’t look adventurous enough to try a stew of pork in beef blood or oxtail with peanut sauce, but beef steak and onions? How boring.

I did like the suggestion to choose a combo platter though. Most of Zarlitos' $8 to $10 entrées are served without sides, meant to be ordered and shared, family style. The combo platters, on the other hand, include sides of pancit noodles, garlic fried rice, and lumpia — a little more diversity on the plate when you're ordering for one. After discounting the familiar adobo dishes, a couple of beef options, and that bony milkfish, I opted for the most interesting sounding choice on the combo menu: lechon kawali, described as chunks of crispy fried pork belly for $8.25. I figure it’s tough to go wrong with pork belly.

Crispy fried pork belly with lumpia, rice, pancit noodles, and Mang Tomas dipping sauce.

Crispy doesn’t begin to describe its crackling skin. Inside, the melting pork fat disintegrated in a flash of flavor. Outside was all salty crunch, but that went well with a side of the house Mang Tomas sauce, a mildly sweet dipping sauce made with liver and vinegar.

Meanwhile, one of my friends ordered that beef steak with onions for $10. Here’s where I have to give our waitress credit — it was the best thing I tried. The boring name aside, the thin slices of sautéed beef didn’t taste like something usually found on this side of the Pacific. I’ve noticed a lot of bright, acidic flavors in Filipino cuisine, and this beef went that route. It was tender, pleasantly fatty, and loaded with caramelized onion flavor yet it had an interesting tang I’d like to experience again.

My friends didn’t enjoy it as much as I did, and I’d expect a lot of people might agree with them based on the amount of fried food and lack of fresh produce we encountered. Even the Vegetables section of the menu consists of pork, beef, and shrimp dishes.

But I was encouraged, and I left too many interesting sounding dishes untested. I might not like manok na luto sa gata, but if I don’t go back to try it at Zarlitos, I might never know for sure.

Sponsored
Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all
Previous article

The floss silk tree and tarantula spiders

Natural San Diego, October 19-25
Next Article

We Got Beef on the waterfront

Local jerky maker spices up weekend bayside markets
Comments
0

Be the first to leave a comment.

Sign in to comment

Sign in

Art Reviews — W.S. Di Piero's eye on exhibits Ask a Hipster — Advice you didn't know you needed Best Buys — San Diego shopping Big Screen — Movie commentary Blurt — Music's inside track Booze News — San Diego spirits City Lights — News and politics Classical Music — Immortal beauty Classifieds — Free and easy Cover Stories — Front-page features Excerpts — Literary and spiritual excerpts Famous Former Neighbors — Next-door celebs Feast! — Food & drink reviews Feature Stories — Local news & stories From the Archives — Spotlight on the past Golden Dreams — Talk of the town Here's the Deal — Chad Deal's watering holes Just Announced — The scoop on shows Letters — Our inbox [email protected] — Local movie buffs share favorites Movie Reviews — Our critics' picks and pans Musician Interviews — Up close with local artists Neighborhood News from Stringers — Hyperlocal news News Ticker — News & politics Obermeyer — San Diego politics illustrated Of Note — Concert picks Out & About — What's Happening Overheard in San Diego — Eavesdropping illustrated Poetry — The old and the new Pour Over — Grab a cup Reader Travel — Travel section built by travelers Reading — The hunt for intellectuals Roam-O-Rama — SoCal's best hiking/biking trails San Diego Beer — Inside San Diego suds SD on the QT — Almost factual news Set 'em Up Joe — Bartenders' drink recipes Sheep and Goats — Places of worship Special Issues — The best of Sports — Athletics without gush Street Style — San Diego streets have style Suit Up — Fashion tips for dudes Theater Reviews — Local productions Theater antireviews — Narrow your search Tin Fork — Silver spoon alternative Under the Radar — Matt Potter's undercover work Unforgettable — Long-ago San Diego Unreal Estate — San Diego's priciest pads Waterfront — All things ocean Your Week — Daily event picks
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
Close