At Lazza you’ll be served an enormous bamboo platter stacked high and wide with crisp-skinned pork, charred fish, salted egg, grilled eggplant, egg noodles and a hefty mound of rice. You will not be given any cutlery, but you will get a banana leaf to use as a plate.
Tear shards of pork crackling off a hunk of pork knuckle, pull apart the eggplant like its putty and dig into that rice hill until it looks like a crater. For $35 per person it is a preposterous and exciting amount of food.
This style of eating – called a bilao feast – is a Filipino go-to for birthdays, christenings or engagements. What you get on your platter depends on you. There are 23 dish options and you choose eight from the regular menu, with rice, fruit, salted egg, tomato and shrimp paste automatically included. Lazza’s big hitters are kare-kare (a peanut-and-oxtail stew), sisig (a sizzling plate of chopped meat dressed with citrus) and crisp pata (deep-fried pork knuckle).
For a bilao feast you need to call two days in advance. Forget and you’ll miss one of most theatrical and fun meals of your calendar year. That said, the sheer size of it probably rules it out for most people for, say, a Wednesday night meal. For that Lazza has other Filipino traditions. Oddly, the most famous of them, adobo (a vinegar and garlic-heavy marinade usually applied to chicken) is absent. Instead you’ll find bulalo (rich beef shanks stewed with bone marrow), ginisang ampalaya (bitter melon fried with egg and shrimp paste), regional specialties such as Bicol Express (a stew made with coconut, shrimp paste, pork and chilli) and various weekly specials.