Ober Here’s late-night Filipino-style comfort food truck caught some buzz over the last year, but I never seemed to be able to find it open. That’s not the fault of Philippines-born Chef Mark Guatelara. It’s my own lack of foundational organization skills. But I finally had a day off, and I’d heard Ober Here moved into a mini food hall under Wabi House on the Near Southside. Instead of my usual dining companions (my immediate family), I took some more foodie-adventurous folks (my sister-in-law and her hubs, who have tried to make their own lumpia) to the new location.
Your sole experience with the Asian/Indonesian/Spanish blend that is Filipino cuisine might have come from a co-worker who made chicken adobo or the spaghetti-esque pancit for a potluck. If that’s true, you’ll end up scratching your head here. Guatelara could probably make those dishes in his sleep, but for his first solo restaurant outing, he went with what he calls “Filipino-style late-night comfort food.” Much of it is easy to make and easy to eat, whether you have a seat at one of the half-dozen tables in the new three-stall “food hall” or you take it to go.
Guatelara is a gregarious and generous host. He’ll walk you through the menu if you stand there looking stunned. Spoiler alert: You’re ordering rice bowls with a variety of proteins, and your bowl includes yummy fried annatto-tinged garlic, a gooey sunny-side up egg, and a sweetly sour, lightly pickled veg. Is it breakfast? Is it late-night hangover food? Answer: It’s both.
For starters, the cigar-shaped lumpia (Filipino versions of eggrolls) were some of the best products of their kind I ever tasted. The secret, Guatelara said, is pureeing the veggies so that they cook at the same rate as the meat. The result: a crispy outside and a lightly spicy inside, without a lot of chunks of vege falling out after a bite. Although the paper bag the lumpia was served in was a little greasy, the actual product was delightfully crunchy.
The absolute stunner of our shared meal was the house-made corned beef. Apparently, this dish is common enough that folks who make it stock up on the canned meat, but Guatelara has outdone himself with a fresh, perfectly salty, savory, tender version. The meat and pickled veggies came out with a little cinnamon-kissed sauce, and the gooey over-easy egg blended perfectly with the rice.
The barbecue pork butt tocino was a sweet-and-salty taste bonanza. The meat isn’t cured or made with pork belly here as may be more typical. The luscious, melt-in-your-mouth pulled pork could go head-to-head with any other barbecue joint’s in any ’cue challenge in town.
If you’re a vegetarian, you’re not out of luck either. Guatelara told us he’s working on a veggie version of lumpia, but in the meantime, either eat a whole side of the absolutely amazing, lightly vinegary papaya-onion-carrot-jalapeno pickled relish or feast on a bowl of the vegetarian picadillo. Traditionally, picadillo is ground meat with potatoes, peas, and carrots. The ground meat substitute came mixed with peas and carrots, with more of the sweetly savory sauce, a sunny-side up egg, and rice. Skip the egg and double down on the pleasantly sour pickled papaya, and you’ve got a great vegan meal.
The barbecue chicken proved to be the weak link at Ober Here. The meat was sweet, not savory, and the dish was a little dry. In fairness, we compounded the problem by not opting for the egg, which would have helped the texture if not the taste.
It’s no problem –– there’s plenty of good stuff here, including the shrimp and a house-made SPAM that we didn’t try. All the plates managed to be filling, fresh, and bright, thanks to the pickled veggies and generous servings of rice. Add a sweet, strong iced coffee for dessert, and someone might have to roll you out of the place. And at the time of this writing, Ober Here is joined by a hot-chicken joint and a yet-to-be-opened chain bubble tea shop stationed in what’s essentially the bottom lobby of the building.
At Ober Here, you won’t find a large range of Filipino cuisine, and you won’t find the novelty spaghetti with hot dogs pioneered by a more notable Dallas-based chain. What is on offer is fresh food that’s simple, generously portioned, and delicious.
Pork barbecue tocino $12.75
House-made corned beef $13.75
Barbecue chicken $12.75
Vegan picadillo $12.50
Lumpia $1.75 for two
Papaya salad $5
Filipino iced coffee $3.50
1229 8th Av, FW. 682-760-3904. 11am-11:45pm Mon-Sat.