Christmas came early for my dad and me the other day. The gift? Two side dishes at Gracie’s Cuisine in Everett.
Siopao and lumpias are two of the many Filipino staples on Gracie’s menu. The new restaurant off SE Everett Mall Way blends Filipino and American cuisine with noodles, sizzling platters and special desserts, such as halo-halo, a concoction of crushed ice, evaporated milk and a dizzying variety of other ingredients.
For us, the star were Gracie’s lumpias — pork, cabbage, carrots, onions and garlic filling wrapped in a thin crepe pastry skin ($6) — and siopao ($3 per piece), steamed buns filled with pork sauteed in oyster sauce.
I’ve liked lumpias and siopao since Dad introduced them to me when I was a kid. Dad discovered them back in the 1970s, when he parked cars next to a Filipino restaurant in Seattle.
At Gracie’s, we dug into the siopao first. The thick, bread-like texture of the buns enclosed pork sweetened by the oyster sauce. My dad, Jim Thompson, remarked that it was fun to eat his way to the filling.
“It’s like finding this little gift inside the bread,” he said.
Dad said the lumpias were the best he’d ever eaten. After a few bites, I couldn’t help but agree with him.
The lumpias, all eight of them, were expertly deep-fried and the fillings had the right balance of sweet and savory. Dad said he’s been disappointed by greasy lumpias; these weren’t.
He said they could easily be his snack of choice while watching football on TV.
“They were so good that I could eat them like tortilla chips,” he said.
The rest of the menu looks expensive at first glance, but that’s because many of the dishes are meant to be shared by two to three people. For our main course, we split a sizzling platter of bistek tagalog ($22.95).
The skillet dish is thinly sliced beef marinated in soy sauce and calamansi (Filipino lime) juice, topped with onion and scallions, and served with rice. The beef was juicy and tender and the vegetables were sweet.
We enjoyed it, but it wasn’t as memorable as the lumpias or siopao. Still, we left feeling full and satisfied.
Gracie’s Cuisine is owned by Grace Correa, who emigrated from the Philippines in 2003.
Correa, 46, of Everett, learned to cook at the age of 11. She regularly sold Filipino delicacies such as champorado (sweet chocolate rice porridge), congee (rice porridge) and biko (rice cake) as a street vendor growing up.
“It was in front of my grandma’s house,” she said. “Even at school, I made my own sweets and sold it to classmates. I didn’t waste a moment.”
She previously owned a Filipino restaurant, Adobo Express, in Everett but it closed after she divorced. She was homeless for three months while trying to support herself — she slept in her car — until an insurance settlement from a hit-and-run collision helped get her back on her feet.
She opened Gracie’s Cuisine in May. All of the recipes are her own, and the dishes are made in-house.
She’s particularly proud of her adobo bery, which is a twist on a classic Filipino dish. Her variation, meant for two to three people, has a choice between pork belly or chicken marinated in vinegar, garlic, soy sauce, bay leaf, peppercorn and strawberry ($19.99).
Yes, it’s the strawberry that surprises people.
“When you combine them, it’s not too salty and not too sweet,” she said. “The sweetness of the strawberry is very subtle. It’s not overpowering the other ingredients.”
Evan Thompson: 425-339-3427, email@example.com. Twitter: @ByEvanThompson.
If you go
Gracie’s Cuisine, 607 SE Everett Mall Way, Everett, is open 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Call 425-740-9888 for takeout. Go to www.graciescuisine.com for more information.