Maybe we can chalk it up to the kick-your-shoes-off comfort that can only be experienced inside of a cozy home, but there’s something exciting about a house that contains a restaurant instead of a residence. That’s how we feel about Musang, a periwinkle craftsman on Beacon Hill that’s filled with incredible Filipino food instead of vintage loveseats, a cat you’ll never see, and that under-the-sink stash of plastic bags stuffed inside of another plastic bag.
While we maybe have the occasional judgmental thought about our friends’ apartments, we wouldn’t change a thing about a meal at Musang—an evening spent under this roof is so much better than even the dreamiest of intimate dinner parties.
Swinging open the front door of their rickety porch feels synonymous with busting into a pal’s place, only without a regifted bottle of wine and an “Oldie But Not Moldy” playlist at the ready. You’re immediately pummeled with an energy that’s palpable, but not overwhelming—throughout our many visits here, we’ve clinked glasses for inspirational dining room-wide toasts and joined in on “Happy Birthday” singalongs, which alone would be enough to make this place a pretty cool restaurant. But you’re not just here for the complimentary mood boost or to belt in eight different keys alongside total strangers. You’re also here to eat extremely well while doing those things.
The servers will typically describe these outstanding dishes as Filipinx classics, but with plot twists here and there. You’ll find Musang’s interpretation of Jollibee fried chicken, featuring a buttermilk marinade, delicate rice flour dredge, and a thick, sharp, bouillon-seasoned gravy that you can drape over the brittle shell like hot fudge on a banana split. But what really makes this house a home is the short rib kare kare. A thing of beef-based majesty, it flakes like pot roast in the center while sustaining the flame-slapped swagger of a steakhouse ribeye on the outside, the whole thing bathed in a peanut butter bagoong sauce that’s rich and creamy with a touch of fermented funk. Pair these with tasty pandan-infused cocktails, crackly pork lumpia, phenomenal vegetable dishes spiked with vegan shrimp paste, and springy garlic rice to sop up every last lick of coconut sauce and stewed meat.
Individually, each course of food here succeeds on their own. Lumpia swirled in a chive-forward dipping vinegar? Excellent. Custardy ube flan with coconut caramel? Magnificent. But together, all of these bites accumulate to create one of the greatest Seattle meals you can experience. It’s the kind that makes you a little nostalgic, even if it’s only been two days since you were at the restaurant. It’s really too bad this house doesn’t have a guest room.
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Peppery pork, shrimp, and water chestnut combine forces to be stuffed into these crispy cigars, complete with a stellar juiciness and flaky crunch. The included saucer of sawsawan is steeped with snippets of chive that add a grassy bite to the vinegar as it weaves some tang throughout the filling. Snag two orders for the table and don’t look back.
Daing Na Talaba
A half-dozen Taylor Shellfish-sourced oysters, smoked just enough to be cooked a smidge while still remaining all custardy and oceanic. Drizzled with garlic oil, they’re slick, buttery, and delicious.
Get acquainted with Musang’s vegan bagoong, a savory shrimp paste that’s engineered sans crustacean. It has a King Midas effect on any vegetable dish it touches. In this case, it’s giving its golden blessing to a platter of haricot vert on a creamy-squashy kabocha puree topped with frizzled shallots. This is without a doubt the most outstanding plate of green beans that we’ve had in Seattle.
Another banger of a vegetable dish featuring the vegan bagoong, this one consists of a pool of yellow coconut sauce with parsnips, delicata, and sweet potato. Not only do the caramelized roots and squash perfectly give way to soak up the rich, “shrimpy” coconut milk, but the sauce also tastes phenomenal spooned over some rice.
Short Rib Kare Kare
Much like Meryl Streep or an innocent baby bulldog, the short rib kare kare at Musang can do no wrong. The overnight braise gives these bone-in rectangles of meat a rosy tint and a texture that forks as easily as chocolate cake, while a sear on the grill renders the exterior to a crusty, fire-smooched char. The accompanying sauce made from the drippings, peanut butter, and bagoong (with real shrimp this time) tastes wonderful mopped onto the beef and roasted okra underneath. Like a run-in with a femme fatale, eating this dish almost doesn’t feel real. It’s Musang’s best item, and failing to order it would be similar to the tragedy that The Bee Gees sang about.
Musang Joy Fried Chicken
The name of this dish isn’t meant to be ironic—this buttermilk-marinated, rice flour-dredged fried chicken emanates joy. But their gravy is the true Martin Short to the poultry Steve Martin. It’s thick enough to not penetrate the bird’s delicately crisp shell, and has a sharp, chickeny bouillon flavor. The homemade atchara on the side adds some much-appreciated tartness to all that terrific heaviness.
This rich stew has a roasty sweetness from slow-cooked tomato and red pepper that coats every square inch of chuck and waxy potatoes, and it’s all very comforting. While the mechado isn’t as mighty of an entree as the kare kare, order it if you can’t have peanuts or shellfish, or if you just want a second beef dish.
Why order a bowl of plain steamed white rice when you could get one filled (and topped) with garlic crunchies? The garlic content is not so potent that you’d obliterate your breath or ward off a vampire, but it has just enough toasty flavor to give those fluffy grains protagonist energy.