1577 King Ave.
Columbus, OH 43212
websiteA brand new concept from experienced Columbus restaurateurs known for the popular Red Velvet Cafe downtown, Bonifacio is a full dive into Filipino cuisine, something very unusual in a full service restaurant in Columbus. For many this will be one of the first times they can try the specialty dishes offered here, and that’s a good thing. The East Asian and Spanish influences on The Philippines have always meant delicious food combinations, and the different way of thinking plays very well here.
The menu at the moment focuses on modern interpretations of classic Filipino dishes, with brunch, lunch and dinner for prices in the $8 to $15 range. Some of the things I tried in a first look:
- Chicken adobo: This is a much-loved dish in the Philippines. The chicken is marinated in vinegar, garlic and soy sauce until absolutely tender, then served with rice and an over easy egg to add a little extra flavor. the key here is to get a bit of everything in each bite, that egg adds a little bit of creamy, the chicken a little savory and the rice sucks up that great sauce. Wonderful.
- Milkfish: This fish is a staple food in Southeast Asia, and this version is smoked and served whole alongside rice. The fish’s meat has that wonderful smokiness to it, while the skin is slightly crunchy. Try to get everything in one bite, the fish meat can be a bit dry from the process. Be adventurous; the meat in the cheek of the fish’s head is some of the best. Promise you don’t have to eat the head.
- Arroz caldo: This is a chicken and rice stew, similar to the congee that can be found in many other East Asian countries, heavy with onion and garlic, a delicious way to kick off a meal nicely.
- Lechon kawali: A crispy fried pork belly. This Filipino is served super hot! Comes with some veggies and an over-easy egg. Might suggest splitting this one or getting some rice on the side. It’s very heavy.
- Chicken inasal: A marinated, roasted quarter chicken dish popular in the Philippines, lime, pepper, vinegar and spices give it a ton of character. Absolutely amazing.
- Kinilaw: A dish from the Philippines that is similar to ceviche. Tuna in a citrus juice with mango, onion, and wonton chips for good measure. A nice, light appetizer.
- Halo-halo: This Philippine dish will remind you of ice cream. The shaved ice with condensed milk is well known and loved, and the Ube ice cream gives that purple hue. Tops a crunchy flan for a little good measure.
- Bubble tea: These come in a few different varieties, on ice. Taro milk is a safe option of course, and lychee or green tea is more interesting. Nice for something simple.
- Pancit bihon: This rare dish is the signature noodle concoction of Filipino food. Chicken, sausage and chopped veggies make these oily noodles a delight.
As new restaurants go, some have their kinks to work out as time goes on and are prone to the occasional hiccup. I found none of that here, with the grand opening day bringing to bear a restaurant that already is working as a tight ship. The price points on food are pretty good, the services comes quickly and is attentive, and the quality of the ingredients is on par.
Bonifacio offers something that is very hard to come by in Columbus, and it does to very well. Definitely suggest giving this spot a try for its very good food.
- Food is pretty inexpensive, so this is an ideal place for lunch. Consider the brunch menu available at select times too.
- Seating is at a premium, so this might be the best kind of place to try during off-hours.
- The menu has a few choices if you want to avoid meat, and generally it’s got a few healthier options too.