Nestled beneath the Montrose Brown Line stop, Bayan Ko is a culinary gem that seamlessly marries the vibrant flavors of the Philippines and Cuba. This intimate 32-seat restaurant, owned by the talented husband-and-wife team Lawrence Letrero and Raquel Quadreny, is a celebration of their diverse cultural heritage. The name, which translates to “my country,” encapsulates the essence of Bayan Ko’s soulful, second-generation cooking – like a cozy culinary love letter to both islands.
From the moment you step inside, the warm, inviting atmosphere envelops you. The walls adorned with a stunning orchid mural set the tone for the feast that awaits. The service is as friendly as it is attentive, creating an experience that feels more like dining with cherished friends.
A standout feature of Bayan Ko is its BYOB policy. This means you have the freedom to bring along your favorite bottle of wine to complement the extraordinary flavors on offer. For those seeking a perfect pairing, may I suggest the Zahel Orange T – Orangetraube? This Austrian wine, with its lively citrus notes and refreshing acidity, beautifully harmonizes with the diverse range of dishes on Bayan Ko’s menu.
Now, let’s talk about the food. Every dish here is a work of art, a testament to Chef Letrero’s culinary prowess. The BBQ pinchos, succulent pork shoulder infused with a tangy-sweet marinade, are a revelation. The lumpia, delicate egg rolls filled with aromatic ground pork, are a textural marvel, especially when dipped in the piquant garlic-soy sauce.
The Bayan lechon is a symphony of flavors—a crispy fried pork belly adorned with garlicky mojo and a sweet Filipino papaya slaw. It’s a dish that perfectly encapsulates the culinary fusion that Bayan Ko is known for. Another must-try is the ube ice cream, a jewel-toned creation made from yams, elevated with sea salt, red beans, corn, coconut, and flan. It’s a sensory experience beyond words.
While the menu boasts both Filipino and Cuban delights, the adobo chicken wings steal the show. These wings are a testament to the meticulous preparation—a spicy dry rub, a lengthy marinade, and a vinegar-soy glaze result in a dish that’s nothing short of extraordinary.
The Cuban influence shines through in the garlicky prawns doused in orange mojo, and the ropa vieja—a delectable combination of succulent shredded brisket, black beans, and sweet plantains. It’s comfort food elevated to an art form.
As for dessert, the choice is simple: the ube sundae. Creamy ube ice cream, red bean, black sea salt, and coconut create a sweet symphony that leaves a lasting impression.
Bayan Ko is more than a restaurant; it’s a culinary journey that leaves you eagerly planning your return. The limited seating means reservations are a must, and if you arrive early enough, you might just snag a spot without one. Whether you’re a local looking for a new favorite or a visitor seeking a unique dining experience, Bayan Ko is a destination not to be missed. Come hungry, bring your favorite bottle of wine, and prepare to be enchanted by the flavors of Bayan Ko.