Wednesday, March 06, 2013

The Chicago Dining World Tour: Filling Up on a Filipino Buffet

Sariling Atin
8702 W. Golf Rd., Niles

What I ate: Weekend buffet items, including pork, beef, shrimp, noodles, fried plantains

In profiling the various ethnic cuisines I've sampled so far as part of my Chicago Dining World Tour--including Argentinean, Cuban, Cajun, Lebanese, Thai, Korean, Ukrainian, Greek, Afghan and Jewish--I've tried to be rather specific in citing the native names of what I (and, in some cases, companions) have ordered.

Regarding my visit to Sariling Atin in Niles for a late lunch on Sunday, I am unable to do that.

Although the young woman at the counter spoke clear English and amicably ran through the items on the buffet for me, other than knowing that there were several pork dishes, one with beef, some shrimp that had to be peeled, chicken (which I don't eat due to allergies), a curry, noodles, fried plantains and another dessert item called bilo-bilo, I can't really tell you exactly what I ate.

But in a way, I think that made the experience all the more authentic.

In the small storefront restaurant along Golf Road, a television loudly played programming from the Philippines, while all the other patrons were presumably Filipino. 

There was no menu--on weekends, only the buffet is served--and no cards on the buffet describing each of the food items.

During the week, Sariling Atin serves menu items (and seemingly not the buffet), but there are apparently only two entrees: Silog, with one of four protein choices accompanied by a fried egg, and Mami, which looks like a soup entree with perhaps beef or chicken in it. 

Especially as I don't care for eggs any way but scrambled, but also wanted greater variety, the weekend buffet seemed like the smarter choice. And it proved to be quite satisfying.

On my first plate, I got two kinds of pork, one on small bones, the other with fruit and vegetables. The latter was especially good, but so was a beef item, pork spring rolls and noodles.

My second helping included more noodles, peel-and-eat shrimp and some kind of vegetable concoction. But I should alert my sister and other herbivores--even if only of the Lent variety--that when I asked the attendant if there was much there that vegetarians could eat, she clearly told me, "No."

I also had some curry (I believe with pork) over rice and some soup--a bit akin to Chinese egg drop soup--neither of which are pictured.

 Dessert was a bit more hit and miss.

Long being a fan of plantains, which are essentially bananas, I absolutely loved the fried plantains, even getting a second batch after the four shown at left.

I don't know if there's a more proper name for these coated fried plantains, but I would return to Sariling Atin on a weekend just to have more of them.

Less appealing for me was the Bilo-Bilo, which are glutinous rice balls served in a warm liquid.

Though I was willing to give them a try, as I somewhat suspected, I didn't care much for the consistency. I think I may have enjoyed bilo-bilo more had it been cold, but I didn't wait around long enough to find out.

OK, so I'm not going to quite love everything I sample on my gastro-ethnic excursion, but that's worth learning, too.

Still, for non-vegetarian diners of any persuasion looking for something a bit different, I definitely recommend the weekend buffet ($10.99 for adults from 10am-7pm; $5.50 for kids; free for those 5 and under) at Sariling Atin.

You won't even need to know what to ask for.

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