Now Open: Subo


The restaurant that took over Hell's Kitchen first space (89 South 10th St.) didn't last long--today it's being replaced by Subo, which means "to feed" in Filipino. That means spicy tofu, pork belly in ginger broth, mung bean soup, grilled skirt steak, steamed buns, and more. After my disappointing experience with the briefly-viable Mabuhay in St. Paul, I'm hoping that this means Filipino food will finally get its due in the Twin Cities.

For more info, here's the somewhat long-winded press release:

Subo features exotic ingredients not easily sourced in the Midwest to create a feast. The Filipino chef-driven menu can be sampled through its distinctly adapted foods from China (pancit is similar to lomein, only using rice vermicelli), Southeast Asia (sour broth-based dishes have a cooling effect in hot tropical weather) and Spain (unlike its Spanish name, the Adobo Chicken Wings are marinated in sweet rice vinegar and garlic with coconut milk and soy sauce.) A chef for twenty years and most recently working in Manhattan, Neil Guillen was discovered by a business man from Minneapolis who returned to his cuisine countless times (despite Manhattan's many offerings) for Guillen's addictive cooking style. Guillen was then enticed him to Minneapolis to hang a shingle and share the joy of his unique sauces, meats, seafood, and vegetables in crunchy, brothy, comforting and palate-stimulating foods. Oddly enough, the space developed resembles a Manhattan bar, long and deep with a narrow storefront.

Almost literally, the Southeast Asian adventure scene is set. Market awnings, a cobblestone style floor and dangling star shaped light fixtures frame the entrance to the restaurant and invite a romantic cultural shift. The back bar itself is constructed of aged produce crates, arranged as if they are actually hanging off the back of a truck in the Philippines or somewhere in the tropical clime where rainy and dry seasons, mountains and forests meet. Continuing toward the back room, offset by a narrow brick archway, the perspective becomes distinctly more food-centered, with Subo's iconic wooden spoon and fork logo applied to a pillar marking the exposed kitchen. The back room, whose sliding doors suggest rice sacks in their burlap panels, and skylights above, lined with sheer swags, create a tropical hideaway with delicate bamboo lights and buttresses overhead.

The approach for the "Subo Family," as Guillen calls themselves, is to offer grand scale Filipino hospitality that unites the land of 7,000 islands just north of the equator and blends flavors of its nearby China, Thailand, Vietnam and even the colonies that settled there, like the Spanish, with classical French culinary training and two decades' experience. This creates a confident use of noodles, rice, vegetables, seafood, spices and cured meats that only a cooperative approach to cuisine can deliver. The dishes are best ordered in sequence, so the flavors can remain the superstars and the "Subo Family" experience can charm any adventurer who comes in off the street. Its Chili Chocolate (Italian-named) Panna Cotta served in an espresso cup captures the "best of the best" in Subo's eclectic style. The logo captures the host's approach to the feast, with a fork in the left hand and a spoon in the right- all the better to mix and merrily combine the varied dishes with heaps of rice and accents of dipping sauces and each created by a master.