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Monday, February 1, 2010


By JC Leahy
Maximum Legal Refund (TM)
Income Tax Preparation and Consulting
Silver Spring, Maryland

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There are two ways to look at the physical presence and ambiance of the Lumpia, Pansit, atbp Restaurant in Gaithersburg, Maryland. First, there is the glass-half-empty view. According to this view, the Lumpia, Pansit, atbp had the low-budget feel of a struggling restaurant started on a shoestring. The dimensions of the single dining room were modest. The lunchtime sun glared harshly through naked windows. Ceiling tiles showed old water marks. The walls seemed stark, despite a monotonous row of framed photographs arranged around the room. In short, it seemed like a low-budget restaurant in serious need of an interior decorator. However, if you have actually traveled to the Philippines and ventured outside the main tourist areas, you may recognize another view. The glass-half-full view maintains that the whole physical presence and ambiance of the Lumpia, Pansit, atbp authentically evokes the feel of small-town main-street restaurants in the Philippines. Furthermore, the restaurant appeared clean and the food was both authentic and delicious. I, personally, am a glass-half-full kind of guy.

The food surprised me. I opted for the buffet. The buffet consisted of 12 entrees, 7 or 8 other dishes, and a few dessert items. It was the kaldereta that made me pause, raise my eyebrows, and say to my table mates, "Hmm...this kaldereta is really....rather good! You should try it.!" The adobong manok followed, and chicken curry, lumpia, and fresh lumpia. All were very satisfactory. I finished with halo halo. There were six diners at my table, and all were impressed with the food.

It was charming that the owner and founder, Cho Ortega, visited our table to chat. Cho is a gifted talker. She was ebullient with the saga of her professional development.  Her brown eyes waxed wide as she talked. She was eager to share her experience in catering for the past ten years, and restaurant management for the last two. Food is clearly her passion.

There were a couple of quirky things about the restaurant. For one, the waitress insisted that we pay before we eat. This struck me as bizarre at first -- as though we might refuse to pay after we had tasted the food. I thought about this and discussed it with my table mates. We rationalized that many buffet-style chain restaurants - Ponderosa Steak House comes to mind for example -- make you pay before you eat. Another oddity is that the tables are set with forks and spoons, but no knives. You have to ask the waitress if you need a knife. This is not an omission, but a touch of authenticity, as many restaurants in the Philippines set their tables with no knives.

Bottom line: Check this place out if you want some good Filipino food in an authentic setting, but it's no place to impress a date with ambiance. Here's the address:

Lumpia, Pansit, atbp
213 Muddy Branch Road
Gaithersburg, MD 20878
Tel. 301-527-7788
Web site:

Check the hours of operation before you go. They're closed on Tuesdays.

1 comment:

Marie-Tess said...

As a Filipino married to an American, your observation of the quirkiness of Lumpia Pansit is a bulls eye. For one who is not familiar with the traditions and customs of our country, it may seem odd that fork and spoon are the only utensils laid on the table for customers. However, for Filipinos, it would be the other way around. I myself ask for spoon at restaurants that serve rice. For me, it's convenient and comfortable. For the price you pay ala carte, the restaurant was not designed for a romantic evening with a date. The price and the type of food is what attracts Filipinos and other nationalities that go there. My personal opinion is the ambiance reminds me of home. I would not have it any other way. I could just go down the corner restaurant and get food if all I want to satisfy is my hunger. You are right again in noticing that most buffet restaurants ask you to pay up front. I've been to other ethnic and American buffets and they all have the same practice. One thing I have to say is the warm and hospitable customer service is a very big plus. It shows the culture of the Filipinos. Did you try the Escabeche and fresh lumpia? Dude, you'll love it!