New Filipino restaurant has a ‘bright future’ in Utah

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Larry and Tess Malabey enjoy desert after a hearty meal at BFF Turon, a new Filipino restaurant in West Jordan that serves up turo-turo or cafeteria style food. The couple say they visit the restaurant almost daily since they only leave a few blocks away.

West Jordan • The late Anthony Bourdain, world traveler and celebrated television host, pegged Filipino food as having a “really bright future” in the United States.

Now, its time has finally come in Utah, with the opening of BFF Turon.

It is owned and operated by four women — Yaye Sherer, Loida Torres, Sonia Aquino and Edna Rubi — all born in the Philippines and focused on bringing the food of their heritage to the Wasatch Front. The eatery is an offshoot of their Star Events catering company. (The first letter of each of their last names form the acronym for the company.)

Everything at BFF Turon is served turo turo, or cafeteria style. Translated literally turo means you point to order as you might with street cart foods. The system is helpful here if you aren’t familiar with Filipino food because you’ll get an explanation — and a sample if you’d like — of items you’re interested in.

Food is served in 8-ounce containers or on Styrofoam plates. A self-serve condiment bar is nearby.

With heavy cultural influences from China and Spain, you’ll see many familiar foods at BFF Turon. Most intriguing is that pork — and really the entire pig — is far and away the favorite protein.

On my first visit to BFF Turon, I left my dinner selections to those who know the food best — the servers behind the steam table. They kindly explained each of the eight offerings and then suggested their favorites — sisig and Bicol Express.

I later found a description of sisig ($5.49) that called it a “jumble of pig parts” suggesting that ears, snout, cheek, belly and many other chopped pieces (including some organs) are traditionally incorporated into this seared meat dish seasoned with vinegar, chili, lime and onion. While I didn’t identify any particular porcine parts, I did enjoy this dish immensely with its smoky and sour undertones.

I was equally impressed with Bicol Express ($5.49), a popular dish in Manila, best described as a coconut milk stew infused with a lot of hot chilies, onion and garlic and filled with tender pork that’s typically enjoyed over steamed rice.

Continuing to make use of the whole pig, pork dinuguan ($5.49) might not be for everyone, but for those who have a fondness for blood stew, BFF Turon makes a great one. The savory gravy is made from pig’s blood, cut with vinegar and accented with garlic and chili.

Often referred to as the national dish of the Philippines, adobo is a regular offering at BFF Turon. Pork ($5.49) or chicken ($4.49) are marinated in a base of vinegar, soy sauce and other aromatics, then slowly simmered. The result is an appetizing, slightly acidic meat entrée that pairs well with the pancit noodles that accompany any combo meal or can be added as a side for $4.

Introduced by the Chinese and now localized into a variety of offerings, pancit bihon guisado is a simple, rice vermicelli noodle stir fried along with chicken, pork, cabbage, carrots and soy sauce. At BFF, these noodles are surprisingly crave-worthy — whether warm off the serving table or cold straight out of the refrigerator as leftovers.

Other protein options included a hearty beef caldereta ($5.99), a tomato-based stew loaded with chunks of tender beef, carrots and potatoes, and a rather one-note chicken curry ($4.49).

A must-have at BFF Turon is an order (or two) of savory lumpia (six for $3), another example of the Chinese influence found in Filipino cuisine. These miniature egg rolls are filled with minced pork, cabbage and carrots stuffed inside the lumpia wrappers and served with a side of sweet and sour dipping sauce you’ll recognize instantly.

The name of the restaurant pays tribute to the sweet Filipino snack called turon or banana lumpia. This deep-fried spring roll is filled with slices of banana and dusted with brown sugar. You’ll get three rolls for $3.30, and they are a slightly sweet way to end a meal.

Perhaps the most disappointing part of dining at BFF Turon is that such wonderful food is served on Styrofoam plates and bowls. No matter; get it to go and serve it at home on your own dishes — you won’t be disappointed in the interim as the flavors tend to meld together more over time.

If you choose to dine in, the restaurant is clean, bright and comfortable. It’s one of the first tenants in a strip mall, so parking is plentiful and access from Redwood Road is easy.

Adventurous diners will delight in the rotating dishes available on the hot line each day. But if you’re looking for something specific, it’s best to call ahead and confirm it’s being served. I’ve seen both a whole fried fish and deep-fried pork belly but missed out on both as they were sold before it was our turn to order.

Refreshingly, employees are knowledgeable and passionate about the food they are serving and eager to share their recommendations. BFF Turon is worth exploring for a taste of the Philippines.

Heather L. King also owns slclunches.com and can be found on social media @slclunches.

BFF Turon • ★★★ (out of ★★★★) From adobo to pancit and lumpia to sisig, get a taste of the savory pork dishes that define Filipino food.

Food • ★★★1/2

Mood • ★★

Service • ★★★

Noise • 1 bell

Hours: Open Monday through Saturday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; closed Sunday.

Entrée Price: $

Location • 8860 S Redwood Road, Unit 103, West Jordan; 385-557-2909 or www.stareventscatering.com

Children’s Menu • No

Liquor • No

Reservations • No

Takeout • Yes

Wheelchair access • Yes

Outdoor dining • No

Onsite parking • Yes

Credit cards • All