Carin de Ria Opens a Second Location in Encinitas
The new location offers a taste of Filipino culture and some exceptional lumpia
I grew up in Rancho Penasquitos, a San Diego suburb with a large, vibrant Filipino community. The county has a thriving Filipino population, second largest in the United States with about 150,000. That’s why it’s always boggled me why there are so few local restaurants focusing on Filipino cuisine, with the exception of National City (Tita’s Kitchenette, Manila Sunset, etc.).
So, I was thrilled to see Carin de Ria open its second location in Encinitas (the original is in Escondido). It’s a homespun little box, next to longtime institution The Potato Shack. The menu is full of national Philippine dishes, from pancit (rice noodles with spices) and lumpia (deep-fried cigarillos filled with pork and seasonings, served with a dipping sauce) to pork adobo (pork slow-cooked in a garlic, soy, and vinegar sauce).
Carin is a clean, well-lit place. But it’s hot. This San Diego summer has done its best New York impersonation. The humidity has been ornery and abusive. And there is either no air conditioning in Carin de Ria, or they do not feel my pain enough to turn it on. Granted, the Philippines are a hotter, wetter climate. The sauna they are currently calling a restaurant is very reminiscent of the island climate. So, there’s authenticity in my sweat.
I try the pancit. The noodles have the amber hue of an oil lamp, and good flavor. If you’re disturbed by the dryness, know this is how the dish is traditionally made. The noodles are supposed to suck up all of the flavorful cooking liquid, and are served with a lemon wedge for some moisture and zing.
It’s the lumpia, though, that really shine. They are, admittedly, a tad greasy (which means the temp of the oil in their fryer may be a bit low). But inside the rolled pastry is a delicious mix of pork with carrots, jicama, cabbage, celery, onions, and garlic. I try to limit my intake of lumpia, or any fried treats. I don’t have many standards, but that is one. Yet I eat all four, dipped in a delicious cold sauce that’s sweet, sour, and spicy.
For the rest of the meal, however, I struggle. And all dishes have the same problem: The pork adobo is overcooked, and a tad dry. The spicy chicken adobo has a nice lemongrass-soy-vinegar-chile flavor, but the chicken is also dry. Problem could be using too lean a cut of meat in the stews; stew meat needs that fat to keep it moist and basted during the slow cook. The braised beef stew (onions, tomatoes, carrots, potatoes) is also overdone. They’re all served with white or brown rice, and a small salad or of jicama and mango to add high notes to the braises.
All told, the cost of five lunch dishes is $35. An absolute steal, especially in Encinitas, where coastal rents demand pricey restaurants. The staff is warm and friendly, if a little inattentive. It feels as though I’ve walked into their living room. It’s familial, but as happens in living rooms, no one is hustling.
At this point, Carin de Ria needs some work. They need air conditioning, and a softer touch with their proteins. But it’s a homey, casual place to get a taste of Filipino culture, good pancit, and exceptional lumpia.
124 W. 1st Street, Encinitas