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May 4, 2010 > Restaurant Review: Tribu Grill

Restaurant Review: Tribu Grill

By Denny Stein

America used to be known as a "melting pot," a place where people from many lands came together and amicably "melted" into one way of life. In more modern times, America has been described as a "salad bowl," meaning a dish with multiple and distinct flavors, mixed together and good for everyone. Writing local restaurant reviews has convinced me that both of these metaphors are splendidly exemplified in our part of the country. The richness of the culinary scene here is a testament to the entrepreneurs, the cooks and staff, and the diners in the Tri-City area.

Which brings us to The Tribu Grill. Tribu serves classic down home Filipino food in Union City's Union Landing. Sitting between a Sushi bar and an Italian restaurant just down from the movie theatre, Tribu's flavors and seasonings are traditional Filipino, but the Executive Chef and owner, Happy Santana, likes to give some dishes her own special twist.

Tribu Grill is a good place to eat before or after the movies or shopping. But before you go, check out their web site, www.tribugrill.com. Here you'll find stunning photographs of all the dishes and get your first glimpse of their names. For example there is Bagoong rice, Inihaw na Baboy, Kare-kare, Chicken Inasal, Pinakbet and Bibingka cupcakes. Don't despair, the pictures will whet your appetite and servers will explain everything. Anyway, who doesn't love a cupcake? If you are too shy to ask for an explanation, you can play it safe and order Chicken or Pork BBQ, Sweet & Sour Fish Filet, Chopsuey, Mongolian shrimp, or the yummy Tilapia Fiesta bowl.

On our second visit I ordered The Original Tribu Bagoongan Fried Rice, which looks and tastes delectable: chopped mango, pork, tomatoes and scrambled egg laid in stripes over seasoned rice. After admiring the presentation, you mix it all together (reminiscent of Korean Bi Bim Bap). It has a lovely palate with a pleasing progression: sweet, chewy, rich, fresh, and piquant, each bite slightly different from the last.

Bagoongan Rice is one of Tribu's customer favorites. We also had the very tender Inasal Chicken which resembles Tandoori Chicken but seems less spicy and is served with a bright tasting citrus sauce. Many of the dishes are garnished with a small serving of grated ginger and carrot salad. I'm not sure what seasonings are used, but it is just plain crisply delicious. You can also season your food with Tabasco sauce or Knorr's Liquid Seasoning which adds a depth, like a meat version of soy sauce to the meal.

Just the drinks menu alone makes Tribu Grill a happy place: Mango Freeze, Coconut Chill, Chocolate Milk Shake, Melon Shake, and the Gulaman Cooler, complete with gulaman jellies and a Deep South kind of molassey soft sweet flavor - unexpected but welcome. And lest I forget, desert is unforgettable, whether it's the Frozen Brazo de Mercedes (graham cracker crust, vanilla ice cream, frozen mango puree and whipped cream), or a Triple Fudge Brownie.

Tribu Grill has large windows onto the street so you can watch folks coming and going around the plaza. The bright orange-red back wall makes a great backdrop for woven textile wall hangings and two flat screen TVs featuring sports games of the moment. Families love Tribu Grill because it has trencher tables with benches that can seat 6-8 people, three generations of family. Couples and groups of friends can also dine at regular tables or the banquette seating along the side. Filipino art and crafts hang along a sidewall; there is plenty to interest your eyes and mind while your taste buds are being surprised and pleased.

I have not met Happy Santana, but all the Tribu Grill employees that I have met are enthusiastic and helpful. To my mind, a happy staff is proof of a good owner and a first-rate establishment. Tribu Grill gives you a fun and delicious meal for a good price, in a central location. This restaurant is worth the trip, even if you're not going to the movies.


Visited April 20, 1010


Tribu Grill
Union Landing Shopping Center
32208 Dyer St.
Union City
(510) 675-0111
www.tribugrill.com

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