Archipelago Offers Diners a Taste of Filipino-American Culture
A new Hillman City restaurant explores the Filipino-American experience through story and flavor
By Chelsea Lin June 28, 2019
Archipelago, open since December, is more than just a restaurant; dinner here, more than just a meal. Its a story, a lesson, a dance a multicourse exploration of the history and flavors of the Philippines, translated through Pacific Northwest ingredients and the personal Filipino-American experience of husband-and-wife owners Aaron Verzosa and Amber Manuguid. When youre there which requires planning ahead, as the eight counter seats are only available by pre-paid reservation, at two seatings Wednesdays through Saturdays you feel like youre really getting something special for the price: $126 including gratuity; beer/wine or juice pairing optional (and additional cost).
First and foremost, the food which will vary from night to night is excellent. Verzosa is a former chef in Nathan Myhrvolds Modernist Cuisine kitchen, and though his narrow, open kitchen at Archipelago doesnt have the same scope of gadgets that Myhrvolds kitchen holds, his command of cooking techniques is admirable. On the night I visited, it started with the first bite of pillow-soft pandesal a Filipino bread roll served here with salmon butter and sustainable sturgeon caviar and continued through chewy handmade noodles, complex sinigang broth made sour with local cranberries instead of the traditional tamarind, perfectly seared dry-aged rib-eye and a subsequent parade of seasonal foods that touched every taste bud.
Each dish comes with a story sometimes told as the dish is being served, sometimes recounted after youve already marveled at the taste about its origins, the liberties Verzosa is taking with ingredients in order to keep everything local and how the food being served is rooted in personal history. Manuguids day job is in user experience at Nordstroms corporate office, and she has curated not just the restaurants cozy, cool-toned space, but (together with Verzosa) also the dinners experiential element: when and how stories unfold and the formally orchestrated presentation of dishes. They want guests to interact with them, the food and the space.
TASTE OF THE ISLANDS. Three of the dishes youll regularly find on the multi-course tasting menu (clockwise from left): handmade noodles, pandesal and their riff on sinigang.
Manuguid says theyre the first to admit that a high-end Filipino restaurant concept is risky. But if reviews and online reservations are any indication, so far, the restaurant has found plenty of fans. Whats being shared feels so authentic and specific to this couple (yet also representative of the community) that you cant help but fall in love with what theyre offering. We want to be able to do more than just feed, but provide context and provide history, Manuguid says. Thats why its so risky, but thats also why we decided that was a risk we were willing to take. Adds Verzosa: Whats important to us is having delicious food first and then having the stories, giving you context to what youre eating.
Archipelago; Hillman City, 5607 Rainier Ave. S