EDMONDS — There are chefs who are all bluster and bad attitudes, and then there’s Brian Madayag, owner of Barkada in Edmonds.
A friend and I ventured into his cozy island-styled restaurant a drizzly Sunday afternoon, and were immediately greeted by his 100-watt smile. He did all the things the best restaurant owners do; went over the brunch menu with us calling out his favorite dishes, but he talked a little about the space (there’s a downstairs complete with games) and even gave a shout-out to his wife for the impressive octopus mural spanning one wall.
In hindsight, we probably should’ve specified we meant Barkada when we asked him what the name meant. Without missing a beat, he answered “strong.” But that’s what his name “Brian” means.
After a good laugh, we found out Barkada is Filipino slang for a group of friends or a gang.
“But the good kind of gang,” he assures us.
Madayag wants you to bring your barkada to meet his barkada; that is, the small crew he has working the couple induction burners turning out an ever-changing menu of Filipino, Hawaiian, Japanese and even Pacific Northwest dishes and drinks.
He opened the restaurant late December 2017, coming straight from over a decade in various kitchens in the Tom Douglas empire, including Dahlia Lounge and Cantina Leña. Over the years, he inserted the Filipino flavors of his family dishes into various menu items wherever he worked, and Barkada is a chance for those flavors to be front and center.
The paper menus are similar to those seen at Din Tai Fung or Dough Zone; just make your choice with one of the pencils on the table and Madayag will be back to collect the menu.
Sunday is the only day of the week Barkada opens before 4 p.m. The menu hops around the islands, featuring egg dishes (with Spam, of course) alongside warming bowls of Auntie Belen’s adobo and chicken or cauliflower afritada. There’s a hamachi poke bowl, oyster shooters, mussels sinigang and ahi tuna ceviche for fish lovers and even an ube ice cream sundae complete with halo halo jellies for dessert. There’s also a kids meal that features chicken, rice, edamame, cucumbers and a probiotic yogurt drink for six bucks.
Madayag sold us on the special, a longanisa sausage fried rice, topped with a perfect fried egg and a healthy squirt of banana ketchup ($10). We also ordered the Spam musubi ($4), garlic edamame ($5), chicken afritada ($12) and two calamansi mimosas ($8 each).
While talking about this restaurant with my editor she yelped, “You ordered edamame at a Filipino restaurant?” But I stand by that decision. The dish had every little pod glistening with lemon juice, sprinkled with flaky sea salt and crunchy roasted garlic. It was cold and bright and seriously delicious.
Maybe I’ve been starved for something surprisingly good? Something better than it has any right to be? When we told Madayag how much we loved the edamame, he practically rolled his eyes as he told us to wait for the rest of the meal.
Spoiler alert, it didn’t disappoint. I loved swapping orange or grapefruit juice for the bright citrus of calamansi in the mimosa. The afritada — a traditional Filipino stew — featured tender chicken thighs and crunchy little fried garbanzo beans, tomatoes and carrots in a delicate broth, served over rice. It was warming and perfect for the drizzly day.
More assertive flavors came into play with the fried rice, shot through with garlic. Sweet peas and savory pork sausage played well with the sweet, tangy banana ketchup and rich egg yolk. The musubi also had a kick of garlic, a healthy dash of furikake and a side of pickled ginger.
Yes, simple things like edamame with lemon juice might be a no-brainer, and homestyle Filipino stews might not feel groundbreaking, but Barkada has hit on something that feels quintessential to a good neighborhood spot: comfort. The staff is wonderful, the flavors are great, and all that brunch did was whet my appetite for more garlic fried rice.
The dinner menu changes often at Barkada; it’s all about what Madayag wants to cook. The restaurant’s Instagram is filled with photos of pork sisig burritos, shrimp chips and pineapple adobo. I’m really looking forward to bringing my whole barkada in and trying it out.
Barkada, Monday-Thursday 4-10 p.m., Friday and Saturday 4-11 p.m., Sunday 11 a.m.-7 p.m.; 622 Fifth Ave. S., Edmonds; 425-670-2222, barkadaedmonds.com