No Worries: Vegan Filipino Restaurant in Oakland Still Evolving
It was already past the lunch rush when we arrived at No Worries, the new Filipino restaurant in Oakland's Uptown District. There was a group of six ahead of us waiting for a table and a few others waiting for take-out rice plates. The space was bustling with both Filipino and non-Filipino diners, a sign of the good ― if not great ― meal to come.
Jun Belen A lunch plate at No Worries featuring afritada made with soy "chicken."
No Worries is Jay-Ar Pugao's month-old Filipino vegan restaurant (described as "vegetarian" on the sign out front, though in fact vegan), the first of its kind in the Bay Area. We first met Pugao back in spring at a Filipino food symposium hosted by the Asian Culinary Forum, where he introduced his plans to open a Filipino vegetarian restaurant. He said he hoped to take Filipino food into the mainstream by offering vegan and vegetarian versions of traditionally meat-laden dishes. Imagine adobo without the chicken and kare-kare without the oxtail!
At No Worries, Pugao successfully recreates Filipino favorites like adobo and lumpia using meat substitutes such as soy protein, tofu, and seitan. A lunch plate for $7.95 gives you a generous choice of four entrees and includes a serving of either white or brown rice. Two-item and three-item plates are also available. For dinner, the menu expands to include other classic dishes like sinigang, tinola, and kare-kare. Dinner entrees are $8.95 each.
Jun Belen The month-old restaurant is in Oakland's Uptown District.
We loved Pugao's version of afritada, which is traditionally chicken slowly stewed in a rich, tomato-based sauce. Pugao's afritada with soy "chicken," potatoes, red bell peppers, green peas, and garbanzo beans was not only vibrant in color, but vibrant in flavor as well, as richly comforting as a perfectly homecooked meal. We also enjoyed his mung bean stew with squash, green beans, and tofu. We were so entranced with the flavors that we didn't miss the strips of pork and chicharron that typically come with the stew.
Pugao is in the process of fine-tuning the menu. He says he plans to offer more vegetable dishes in the future to complement his current soy-based offerings. We're confident he's headed in the right direction, creatively making Filipino food more accessible.
No Worries: 1442 Franklin (at 15th St.), Oakland, 510-444-4466. Lunch: Mon.-Fri. 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Dinner: Mon.-Sat. 5-9 p.m.