The Zagat Survey has given the restaurant an outstanding review:
A “bright star” in the 'burbs, this “sophisticated” Mt. Prospect New American deals in “comfort food with flair,” turning out a wide-ranging menu of “flavorful” share plates and “creative” mains, including gourmet pizzas; the stylish, “minimalist” space includes “comfy” banquettes, a bar area and a patio with a fire pit, and the happy hour is “great” too.
But when the menu has chicken sisig, crispy pata, and pork belly adobo, among others, one begins to wonder if these Filipino dishes are merely served for globalism, or if there is a Filipino connection. Yes, there isn’t only a Filipino chef but, lo and behold, the owner is a Filipino!
Guamanian-born Aeron Lancero is very proud to be a Filipino, and it is evident in the Filipino dishes that his restaurant offers. But his journey before becoming a restaurateur is interesting. When he was growing up in Guam in the ‘70s and ‘80s, there was tension between Guamanians and Filipinos, who were seemingly taking jobs on the island. This conflict was reflected in the playground, where Lancero got into fights with Guamanian boys. Being principled early on, he stood his ground and always made sure he finished any fight. Concerned with his behavioral problems, his parents sent him to Metro Manila for high school at La Salle Greenhills.
“What was supposed to be a problem,” he remembers with a laugh, “turned out to be a blessing!” Not only did he learn to speak Tagalog fluently and become attached to his Philippine heritage, but he also stayed on and finished business management at De La Salle University. He also got married. While in school, he honed his business acumen by being an entrepreneur. “I had a store and I was selling fake blue jeans. Man, did they sell like hot cakes!”
E + O Food and Drink Restaurant is the culmination of Lancero’s business endeavors. Why the environment-friendly name?
“E + O stands for earth and ocean,” Lancero explains, “and this is where we all get all our sustenance in life. E + O Food and Drink Restaurant practices a balance of food and ingredients from nature to deliver a great meal.” There is a sense of responsibility of what the restaurant uses, how it is handled, and how it is presented to a guest.
The promotion of Filipino dishes at E + O Food and Drink Restaurant starts in the comprehensive menu, in which the ingredients are stated:
*Filipino adobo style pork belly/caramelized onions/scallions
*crispy pata/confit pork shank/garlic-pepper vinegar/chicken liver pate
*chicken sisig/chicken thigh/red onion/sweet chili aioli/runny egg
The Filipino dishes served at E + O Food and Drink Restaurant are in the territory of Filipino chef Angelo Lubiano. He was in the navy, where he had a cooking position. Trained at Le Cordon Bleu in San Francisco, he “refines” Filipino dishes to make them appeal to the American palate. What makes a good chef? “Taste your food and cook it like you would cook it for your loved ones.” Filipino dishes, especially the chicken sisig and pork belly adobo, are popular among guests. Many have told him that it was their first time to eat Filipino food, and they love it!
E + O Food and Drink Restaurant has an international and environmental appeal, but is more laudable for bringing Filipino dishes to the fore. Instead of merely categorizing them as Asian Pacific dishes, they are elevated as having distinct characteristics for the world to enjoy!
Rey E. de la Cruz, Ed.D., Positively Filipino correspondent, writes from Chicagoland when he is not loving the arts and traveling. He is the author of the children’s book, Ballesteros on My Mind: My Hometown in the Philippines, which also has Ilocano, Spanish, and Tagalog versions.
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