New Peso restaurant in Kakaako elevates “undervalued” Filipino food

The new Peso restaurant in Kakaako serves modern Filipino-American cuisine, believed to be the first of its kind in Hawaii.
Published: May. 27, 2023 at 10:55 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The new Peso restaurant in Kakaako serves modern Filipino-American cuisine, believed to be the first of its kind in Hawaii.

Its owners hope to change the way people see Filipino food. Award winning L.A. chef Ria Dolly Barbosa’s Filipino dishes may not look like your grandmother’s but they’re inspired by the same flavors. Like the quintessential chicken adobo -- Barbosa serves it in a dry style.

“We put incorporate a little bit of chili flake not to be so spicy, but more just for like warmth and depth. And then I finish it with coconut milk to have like a little bit of richness. So the glaze is going to be a little bit different too,” explained Barbosa. “I also added in a little bit of local macadamia nut honey for a little bit of sweetness.”

“This is our crispy pata. This one we use. We’re using pork shanks. This one specifically is from our friends at Foodlink in Hawaii. So local pork, pork shanks and then we serve it with them red leaf lettuce Shizuo we make our own Achara our own pickle and then our vinegar sawsawan (Tagalog for for dipping sauce),

“Our pinakbet is actually a vegan style. So we make our own vegan bogoong (a dish typically made with fermented fish or salted shrimp paste) and super umami ingredients like shitaki mushrooms, garlic, ginger, all those like great aromatics. And then we use doenjang, the fermented Korean soybean paste.” she said. “I’m very excited to work with local farmers very excited that we can we can find and use fresh ube here.”

Barbosa’s great grandparents moved to Hawaii from the Philippines in 1932.

“They came here as the sakada plantation workers, and my grandmother and a few of her siblings were actually born here on Oahu. So my great grandfather came here when he was 21. And he was here for about 10 years, working on Oahu, Maui and Kauai,” she said.

“Part of the reason why I started cooking Filipino food, too, was because of both of my lolas. It’s definitely a sense of pride. And even though both are gone now, I hope that I’m making them proud and continuing and showing people that our food is amazing,” she added.

When asked about the Peso name and concept, Barbosa explained: “My business partner, Robert, his reasoning behind it is that for the longest time. Still today, the peso is undervalued in the world’s currency system. And so, pretty much like our food has been undervalued and you can get it for cheap.”

“We wanted to show that it is worth something that it’s worth a look, it’s worth a try. And we think that it can be just as mainstream and popular as the other mainstream Asian cuisines. It’s time, it’s been,” she said.

Peso is located at the old Piggy Smalls location in Ward Centre, 1200 Ala Moana Blvd. Make reservations here.

The restaurant also serves Filipino-inspired cocktails. A weekend brunch launches June 3, with a lumpia bar in the works.