There’s a ton of things that we, as Pacific Northwesterners, do to show our PNW pride. We compost and use reusable bags when we grocery shop, we have unapologetic opinions about espresso, own tricked-out REI tents, stock our fridges full of honeycrisp apples and cans of Bodhizafa, and we’d happily let the windy mist drench our faces instead of using an umbrella.
As much as we love to flaunt our Pacific Northwestern pride, Archipelago one-ups us all. This upscale Filipino restaurant in Hillman City only uses PNW ingredients that are sourced locally to make outstanding Filipino food, and everything, down to a torched pine garnish from the owners’ backyard, is from our region. Along with that, every dish on the menu comes with an explanation about how it connects to Filipino history and the chef’s heritage. It’s an extremely memorable meal, and one that’s only possible to have here in the PNW.
The best thing you’ll eat during your 10-course, $125 tasting menu is the incredible banana ketchup. It’s a Filipino staple, but Archipelago’s is made without bananas at all since they don’t grow here. Their version, made with caramelized squash, is f*cking amazing. It’s featured in the “Maria Orosa” course, which is named after the Filipino woman who invented banana ketchup and coincidentally studied food technology at the University of Washington. The course consists of either pork belly or seared ribeye with some wild Oregon rice, but as you find yourself swiping every last piece of meat through the charred squash, the Orosa sauce absolutely steals the show.
Similarly, their sinigang features a plum or green apple broth instead of the traditional tamarind since you won’t find tamarind here. And when their creamy melon ice dessert features ginger, it’s because they finally found a farmer here who grows it. One of the rocks used for plating was foraged from a hike the owners went on. Every aspect of this restaurant is a reminder that this little, seemingly-insignificant blip on the globe we know as the Pacific Northwest has a kickass bounty.
Even though this dinner is two hours long, you’ll feel relaxed sitting at one of the eight seats in the dining room. You might listen to 90′s hip hop in the background, and the owners will crack UW vs. WSU jokes while asking if you want more sliced steak. After you go home with the pasalubong, a traditional Filipino thank-you gift (which here is in the form of a baked good or spiced popcorn), you’ll realize that your meal at Archipelago is just another reason to be immensely proud of this coffee, rain-soaked place.
The format of a meal at Archipelago remains the same, but specific ingredients like cuts of meat and produce will change seasonally.
This is something light that will get the meal started - it’s usually a small bite of something cold on an endive leaf. One time we’ve had this leaf topped with salted watermelon rind and eggplant, and another time we’ve had it with pickled plum and smoked chicken.
This excellent housemade pandesal roll is topped with ground wheat berries from Washington alongside butter with little flecks of white truffle (yes, they grow here).
Kinilaw is raw fish that’s been cured in vinegar. Whether yours is made from tuna and nectarines or king salmon with Asian pear and ginger, it’s always refreshing and flavorful. The fish is piled on top of a rock, which is then placed on an empty sardine can to pay respect to the Filipino canning workers who lived in the PNW. The finishing touch is a pine leaf from the owner’s backyard that gets a quick sear with a blowtorch, making the smoke smell like an autumn hike.
Anak ni bet is their take on pinakbet (vegetables in shrimp sauce), and Archipelago’s version usually involves some charred vegetables, like wild mushrooms, in a bowl with escabeche, their housemade shrimp sauce, and a squash broth.
If Archipelago opened up a noodle shop exclusively serving their rye miki, we’d spend all of our money there. In fact, we hope they read this and seriously think about it. These chewy noodles are outstanding any way they’re prepared, whether they come served on top of velvety soft scrambled eggs or tossed in an herby eggplant sauce. What you’ll always find in this dish is a crunchy fried-shallot topping and smoky bacon longanisa crumbles.
This soup is traditionally made with tamarind, but since that doesn’t grow in the Pacific Northwest, Archipelago uses stone fruit like apple or plum to give the broth its signature sour flavor. Poured over seared fish (usually something like salmon or black cod) and some wilted greens, it’s the perfect transition between your previous bowl of noodles and entree of meat and rice.
This dish is named after the inventor of banana ketchup, a Filipino woman who studied food technology at the University of Washington. That’s because in addition to some fluffy Oregonian wild rice and a perfectly cooked portion of ribeye or melty, crispy pork belly, you get a healthy dollop of Archipelago’s take on banana ketchup. Since bananas aren’t native to this region, the sauce is made from caramelized squash, and the result is an incredible spicy/tangy/savory/sweet concoction.
The first dessert is a fantastic set cream (which is kind of like a cross between pudding and panna cotta) flavored with something aromatic like lavender or ginger and topped with diced pear or apple and a little scoop of melon ice.
The last official bite of food here is suman, a steamed rice cake that gets torched before being topped with a nut crumble and a bit of dairy-free, pumpkin-hazelnut ice cream.
Pasalubong is a Filipino tradition where you’d show up to someone’s home with a gift to thank them for hosting you. They do this a little differently at Archipelago - they give you a “thank you” gift to take home. Whether you receive a spongy mamón muffin stuffed with honey butter or a kettle corn mix with pumpkin seeds, you don’t have to eat it on the car ride home, but chances are you will anyway.