The word kamayan means “by hand” in Tagalog, which is the traditional eating style in the Philippines - without utensils. And kamayans are usually celebratory feasts that include a massive spread of food laid out on a table, traditionally over banana leaves. They also sometimes appear on menus as a “boodle fight,” which is a reference to a former military style of eating where all the food is shared. But don’t worry, there’s no food fighting involved. Instead, it’s a fun, festive feast that typically includes rice, lumpia (Filipino egg rolls), fried seafood, and roasted meats.
What often sets one kamayan experience apart is the quality of the ingredients or a restaurant’s unique menu selections. And while Los Angeles Filipino restaurants have served kamayans for years as a dine-in option, it was only during the pandemic that many also added takeout versions to their menus, along with others now offering smaller versions of the traditional feasts - with a minimum order of three to four people. From Long Beach to Downtown LA, here are eight spots serving the most exciting kamayan spreads (both for dine-in and takeout) right now.
Chef Barb Batiste has been making homestyle Filipino food with her family since she was a little girl - the restaurant itself is dedicated to her late father whose nickname was Boi. We’re obsessed with the epic kamayan here, which comes with all the traditional favorites, but amps things up with additions like lobster tail, soft shell crab, crab legs, and bone marrow, along with turon (fried banana rolls) or cassava cake for dessert. Afterward, you get a hot pandan towel, floss, mints, and gum to make sure that you’re totally refreshed post-feast. Chef Batiste’s B Sweet Dessert Bar is located next door too if you want to order more to go.
LA Rose Cafe has served as a meeting space and celebration venue for LA’s Filipino community for almost 40 years. Their boodle menu is available for parties of six or more, is takeout-only, and the only one on this list that includes empanadas, which we highly recommend - they’re generously stuffed with chicken, pork, or vegetables. The feast also includes chicken inasal (grilled chicken), inihaw na bangus (grilled milkfish), pork tocino (Filipino cured pork), a large steamed shrimp, grilled beef tapa (dried cured beef), roasted vegetables, and pancit bihon (Filipino rice noodle). But maybe most importantly, it comes with a choice of dessert: a refreshing buko pandan (coconut and pandan custard) or cassava cake. Go with the buko pandan if it’s available.
Social media-savvy pop-up restaurants have dominated many Angelenos’ IG feeds during the pandemic, and leading the pack is one of our favorites: Kuya Lord, a Filipino-style upstart from Chef Lord Maynard Llera, a former chef at Bestia. It’s run as a takeout operation out of his home in La Cañada Flintridge and the food is available for pick-up most weekends. Llera serves a glorious deconstructed kamayan in banana leaf-lined aluminum trays, which are called pamilya trays (meaning “family”), with rotating options that change weekly. But one thing that’s always on the menu is our favorite pick: the must-order fatty LucenaChon (roasted pork belly) and the springy pancit chami (wheat noodles).
Chef Ria Barbosa opened Petite Peso in DTLA in 2020, serving (as she puts it), “Filipino food with thoughtful ingredients.” It’s a mix of fusion dishes and traditional Filipino classics, all of which feature responsibly sourced ingredients. Their unique kamayan picks include chicken or pork adobo, pinkabet (Filipino vegetable stew), and munggo beans just to name a few. Make sure to add on one of their pillowy traditional Filipino pastries for dessert.
The kamayan at Neri’s in Koreatown only became available for takeout at the start of the pandemic (it’s once again available for dine-in too), but must be ordered at least 48 hours in advance. There are three options to choose from, including the Kapamilya Fiesta set, which comes with kare-kare (oxtail and tripe stew), inihaw liempo (grilled pork belly), garlic shrimp, fried boneless bangus, and pancit bihon, along with a limited vegetarian set option. But our favorite is the Laban Tayo (“let’s fight”) set of crispy pata (pork leg), garlic shrimp, pancit canton (Filipino egg noodle), skewered chicken and pork, and inihaw na bangus. Each feast costs $80 and feeds four to five people.
We were excited when Silog in Torrance started offering kamayan quarantine kits for four last year - they’re gorgeously packaged and we still occasionally dream about the fried calamari and oysters that come with them. The kits can be customized with seven add-ons from 17 different options, including spam, longganisa, itlog na maalat (Filipino salted eggs), coconut cream tilapia, tapa (ribeye), sizzling sisig, and enseladang okra (okra salad). It’s impossible to go wrong, but make sure their juicy longganisa is part of your order.
MFK By Aysee
If you live near Bellflower and start craving a kamayan feast at any point, head over to MFK By Aysee. MFK stands for Modern Filipino Kitchen and they specialize in updated versions of Filipino classics. Their kamayan spread comes with all the basics, along with their tangy house ensaladang kamatis - tomato salad with fried garlic, chopped red onions, and cracked pepper. For the rest, you can choose seven selections from the 10 available - we like the snappy longganisa and tahong (mussels). Remember to place your order at least 72 hours in advance, and for dine-in, there’s a minimum reservation of six adults. DIY Kamayan kits are also available for a minimum order of 10 people.
At this West Covina restaurant, they call their kamayans “platters,” which we call kamayan-lite - they’re affordable sets that are smaller than many of our other picks, but can still feed up to four people. You can customize a platter or choose one of the set options, but we like the Seafood Kamayan, which comes with steamed alimango (rock crab), shrimp, fried tilapia, inihaw na tahong (grilled mussels), mango salad, and kangkong (onchoy). The Meat Lovers platter is also a great option, with inihaw na baboy (pork chops), barbecue pork ribs, and plenty more.