food

Kuya’s Kusinang Pinoy, Bugis: “High-spirited and hearty Filipino cooking.”

Last Updated: March 27, 2021

Written by Basil

Adorable straw hats by the entrance and a tiny six-table space will pique my interest any day of the week. All the more when it’s smack in the middle of Bugis, where quiet and small don’t exactly fall into place. But good cooking is far more than bustling kitchens filled with spectacle. Kuya’s Kusinang Pinoy is a fine example of that.

Shopfront of Kuya's

It’s stuffed into the burrows of North Bridge Centre, an ageing establishment that’s peppered with boutiques, antique shops, and the occasional Filipino restaurant. I know there’s a lot of pork headed my way—I just don’t know what kind. It doesn’t help when half the menu is in Tagalog, though some spirited conversation with the staff is always fun.

Image of restaurant menu

That’s where I learnt that Kuya’s is family-run. Raymond is the head chef who is helped along by his wife, Sandra, and their two daughters. They’re cheerful and eager with the regulars, a number of whom are fellow Kabayans (Filipinos)—a term I picked up on from speaking to the Bonus family (yes, that’s their surname). 

We aren’t all that familiar with things like kare-kare, a hearty stew of vegetables, oxtail, and tripe soaked in peanut sauce. Still, no one’s stopping us from waddling up to the doorstep and having some. After all, I’m here as much to eat as I am to learn.

What I tried

Image of Bulalo Special

Not all foods can wow on the first try. Then there are some that do, like this terrific Bulalo Special (S$28) that floors us with a collagen-packed, fat-laden broth. It’s an unblushing bowl of wonderfully rendered shank and bone marrow. You’d sip on the broth till you vow to swear off cows for a while, but more so out of guilt for the animal as opposed to jadedness. Of course, we take a spoon to the marrow anyway. 

Sizzling Pork Sisig

The rest of the afternoon isn’t any less hearty. Lunch gets frighteningly nose-to-tail with a Sizzling Pork Sisig (S$12) which I love a little too much for my own good. We hear its pop and crackle before it settles down on the table and by then, the smell had already cuffed our senses. 

It’s the very best version of chopped pig on a hotplate, with the face, ears, and belly all punched up by squeezes of lime and flecks of chilli. The Bonus family tells me Filipinos love their rice. I ask for two servings for my sisig. Yes, this is a tasting and I need to watch myself, but Kuya’s Kusinang Pinoy is making things very difficult.

Image of Lechon Kawali

Chef Raymond is especially proud of his Lechon Kawali (S$12). Our impression of lechon is one of whole Spanish pigs roasted on a spit, but this one’s a little more unique to the Philippines. You get chunks of pork belly that are first boiled then blasted on a pan till crispy. There’s a sweet, tangy dip on the side which is ominously dark and equally tantalising. The meat itself is magic. Pleasing bounces of fat and cheerfully crisp edges are all recipes for addiction, and I’ve fallen prey. Most places don’t do their pork this well, but they should.

Image of Chicharon Bulaklak

That should have been enough pig for a week, but we’re still stuffing ourselves silly with a Chicharon Bulaklak (S$10). I wasn’t sure of what was on the plate at first, but I got down with it anyway. Here, pig mesentery (small intestine) is steeped in frying oil till cracker-like and playfully springy. We enjoy it, even when tainted with the idea of piggy poo having been in our food. I’m saying pig a lot, aren’t I?

Image of Mais con Hielo

Desserts at Kuya’s Kusinang Pinoy are thankfully much less assaulting. We pick away at a cup of Mais con Hielo (S$3) with long dessert spoons, like jumpy children around a sundae cup. Not all desserts need a thumping sweetness to succeed. They have it spot-on with these refreshing layers of creamed corn and shaved ice. There are golden, melty nuggets of leche flan (caramel custard) inside which you’d be lucky to snatch up. The alternative, of course, is to get a cup for yourself and skip all of that overrated sharing nonsense.

Image of Halo-Halo

Seven-year-old me would leap at the Halo-Halo (S$6). This one’s a summertime treat and luckily for us, it’s always summer around these parts. A scoop of house-churned yam ice cream rests atop, and it’s delicious. We jostle our spoons about to mix-mix (halo-halo) all that vibrant gelatin goodness together. Bubble tea parlours wish they were this colourful, and this rejuvenating. As far as sweet things go, Kuya’s gently sweeps me off my feet and livens up my afternoon.

Final thoughts

Three porcine plates and one serving of bulalo down, I’m verging on uncomfortably full. Looks like I’ll stay off meat for a while. But dissatisfied I am not. Kuya’s Kusinang Pinoy is chock-full of hearty, aggressive flavours that the average hungry Bugis window shopper should stop to taste. If you have yet to taste authentic Filipino fare, come here. Don’t be shy. Or if you are already a fan, all the better.

Expected damage: S$7 – S$15 per pax

Price: $

Our Rating: 4 / 5

Kuya's Kusinang Pinoy

420 North Bridge Road, North Bridge Centre, #01-06 , Singapore 188727

Price
Our Rating 4/5

Kuya's Kusinang Pinoy

420 North Bridge Road, North Bridge Centre, #01-06 , Singapore 188727

Telephone: +65 8950 1873
Operating Hours: 12pm - 8.30pm (Sun to Fri), Closed on Sat
Telephone: +65 8950 1873

Operating Hours: 12pm - 8.30pm (Sun to Fri), Closed on Sat
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