Years ago I wondered where all the Filipino restaurants were. Now there’s one in Madison! Mabuhay, at 1272 South Park in the same strip mall with the Taj, is a small operation, no waiters, just a husband-and-wife team and a small buffet. The atmosphere is very casual (mismatched plates, bottles of sauce still with the price tags on them from the supermarket) but the food is pretty serious. Not fancy, but homey and good. I liked a fried, smoky fish something like a big sardine, and the split pea soup with fish chunks and vegetables, but my favorite dish was a simple one, just little chunks of grilled meat in a sweet, dark brown glaze. I could have eaten three plates of this stuff (where I hope it’s understood that “could have eaten” means “did in fact eat.”) None of the dishes are labeled so I don’t know what it’s called, but it looked a lot like the Filipino barbecue described here; if that’s what it is, then the glaze is made of soy sauce, brown sugar, lemon juice, ketchup, and a lot of 7-Up.
Now that is home cooking.
Update: On my last trip I asked the chef and she confirmed, yep, it’s 7-Up barbecue I was eating. While researching this point I also learned that 7-Up contained the mood stabilizer lithium citrate until 1950, which makes you wonder why they didn’t call it 7-Neither-Up-Nor-Down.
Mabuhay also sometimes serves laing, which is much better than the linked photo makes it look.