Cocktails + Kimonos + Kamayan

Beloved Filipino Pop-Up Returns to Houston

Nomadic chef Yana Gilbuena and Kimono Zulu reveal the ties that bind Filipino and Japanese cultures.

By Alice Levitt June 14, 2018

Yana Gilbuena serves food worthy of getting your hands dirty.

Few things are more refreshing on a hot summer day than calamansi juice. If you're Filipino, you're likely nodding your head at this statement. If you're not, you should be. Some compare the citrus-kumquat hybrid fruit to limes, but that's oversimplifying matters. The bracingly acidic fruit has its own personality, and the best time to try it is in a new cocktail at Batanga. The sip is just part of an event taking place at the restaurant on June 20.

Cocktails + Kimonos + Kamayan combines the powers of three Filipino women, Batanga co-owner Ianne Fasthoff, Kimono Zulu founder Tina Zulu, and Salo Series chef Yana Gilbuena. Fasthoff's contributions are, as noted in the event title, partly liquid, but she also provides her giant patio space and Filipino appetizers, which are slowly being added to her Latin tapas menu.

The event begins at 5:30 p.m. with drinks and light bites, as well as a summer trunk show from Kimono Zulu, featuring lightweight cover-ups for days when the air conditioning proves to simply be too much. Many Houstonians met Gilbuena during her 2016 kitchen residency at Boheme, when she served utensil-free meals on banana leaves for two months. She's popped up elsewhere in town since but hasn't returned since 2017. Guests can meet and greet Gilbuena during the trunk show and talk to her about her upcoming book, No Forks Given, a collection of tales of the road from her pop-up stops in 50 states, as well as recipes. 

But the dishes she'll prepare for the 7:30 p.m. dinner at Batanga aren't featured in the book. That's because they're brand-new interpretations of Filipino dishes inspired by Japanese settlers. The three-course meal will include a poke dish in miso sauce inspired by Filipino soup, sinigang. Of course, there will also be Filipino classic halo-halo, a shaved ice dessert that's dotted with jelly and beans, which betrays its descent from Japanese mitsumame.

The evening is sure to be a warm one, so the menu's reliance on cold dishes will be welcome. All the same, Gilbuena says she'll be wearing a kimono over her tank top and shorts. If you don't have one yet, we know where you can get one. To buy tickets to Cocktails + Kimonos + Kamayan, click here.

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