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Review: Bry’s Filipino Cuisine brings island flavors to downtown Bellingham

Farmers Market staple opens brick-and-mortar on North State Street

Bryan Matamorosa serves up a dish while working opening night of his new restaurant, Bry's Filipino Cuisine, on Friday, Feb. 23, in Bellingham. Bry's is located at 1151 N. State St. (Hailey Hoffman/Cascadia Daily News)
By Mark Saleeb CDN Contributor

With every table packed, the kitchen a blur of steam and flame, bartenders shaking cocktails and clumps of eager diners waiting outside, Bry’s Filipino Cuisine has gracefully moved from being a humble Farmers Market and food truck staple to their brick-and-mortar future at 1151 N. State St.

We dined during their soft opening — reservation-only, two seatings, two nights. It didn’t feel rarified; rather, it was welcoming and vibrant, much like the food the kitchen puts out with incredible speed.

Meals are prepared quickly yet skillfully for the soft opening on Feb. 23 at Bry’s Filipino Cuisine. (Hailey Hoffman/Cascadia Daily News)

Bry’s Filipino Cuisine has been a regular presence at the Bellingham Farmers Market since 2020, growing a greater following with every passing season. Making the move to a permanent storefront can be difficult, with new restaurant owners often attempting to include far more on their new menu than is feasible. With that (and a hankering for some lumpia) in mind, we took our seats.

The narrow restaurant, with a small upper balcony area, makes for an intimate, old-town vibe. Not much wider than Pel’meni or Cap Hansen’s, the space bustled with chatter, and the coming and going of bartenders and servers. Wasting no time, we put in an order for lumpia, the fried pork belly, beef adobo and the mysteriously named “Bry-style salmon.” In a flash, steaming plates of lumpia arrived in front of us.

Lydia Evanger serves a packed house on Friday, Feb. 23 at the soft opening of Bry’s Filipino Cuisine. (Hailey Hoffman/Cascadia Daily News)

Lumpia — fried rice paper wrappers filled tight with pork, cabbage and a bevy of seasonings, served with a beautiful mango chili sauce and citrus aioli — arrived to immediate oohs and aahs. Alongside the traditional pork was chicken lumpia, which has a lighter flavor, more redolent of the aromatics and herbs in the filling spices. Missing that day (sold out in the first seating) was the vegetarian lumpia, but forge forward we must.

Bravely, I first chomped into the pork lumpia — the most traditional iteration — and was met with a toothy crunch and a burst of delicious ground pork. With the sweetness of the chili sauce and the acid bite of the aioli, no flavor combination felt left behind. As noted above, the chicken has more intensity with the aromatic components, without losing the mouthfeel of well-cooked meat minced in.

Food writer Mark Saleeb grabs a lumpia from the lumpia sampler served with a citrus aioli and mango chili sauce. (Hailey Hoffman/Cascadia Daily News)

Next up was the fried pork belly, called lechon — ethereally light and crispy, rich and savory. Fried pork belly is hard since it, by nature, ranges from pure fat to pure meat. These were substantial, 1-inch cubes, salted heavily with a lovely flake salt. With nary another spice in play, the flavor was shockingly bold. The quality of the pork belly shined here, providing so much of that umami flavor that is the hallmark of good pork belly. Served with the same sauces as the lumpia, these are a must-try.

Up next we tried the beef adobo — not the Mexican style, but rather, the national dish of the Philippines. Beef (or pork or chicken), cooked slow in soy sauce, seasoned heavily and herbed with bay leaf provides a simply composed dish, with tender chunks of meat served atop a generous serving of jasmine rice. The beef is bursting with flavor, and as tender as it can be without literally dissolving into a fluid. 

Food writer Mark Saleeb indulged in the beef adobo, front, Bry-style salmon, back, and the kawali lechon. (Hailey Hoffman/Cascadia Daily News)

And finally — the Bry-style salmon. What makes this Bry-style? Presumably, it’s the addition of a citrus beurre blanc, a classic French sauce that involves shallots, vinegar, white wine and presumably a little rat in your chef’s hat that rides along to make sure you don’t break the sauce. The salmon itself was grilled perfectly, the beurre blanc good enough to drink, and the accompanying sweet-chili fried Brussels sprouts were out of this world. Keeping the plate funky and experimental, a mountain of curried spaghetti squash provides some savory-sweet to offset the beurre blanc.


For their first night, the kitchen was in fine form. I had the opportunity to talk to chef and owner, Bryan Matamorosa, about the process of going from a food stand to a brick-and-mortar, and the development of the concept. Importantly, he raved about his experiences at Bellingham Technical College’s culinary arts program. 

“I knew how to cook, but they taught me how to cook,” he said.

With the food truck opening in 2019, surviving COVID-19 certainly taught Bry’s how to prioritize. Matamorosa revealed some details about cash flow — seeing a nearly 800% increase in sales from 2020 to 2021, and a further doubling from 2021 to 2022 — but hasn’t allowed that to go to his head.

Orders stack up as on opening night. (Hailey Hoffman/Cascadia Daily News)

While the growth has been meteoric, it’s apparent that Matamorosa and his nine-person team have been cautious with their steps. He told me the menu was built from the ground up with production in mind, for example.

“I haven’t ‘made it’ yet!” said Matamorosa, as our conversation wound down.

But if they can keep up the quality and care that I saw at that soft open, “making it” is just a matter of when. Filipino food is generous and wholesome, without any air of pretentiousness. The portions are large, the staff on the ball, and, of course, the food excellent.

Bry’s Filipino Cuisine is located at 1151 N. State St. in downtown Bellingham. The official opening is scheduled for Friday, March 1, with business hours to be announced soon. Info: brysfilipinocuisine.com.

Mark Saleeb is a frequent enjoyer of food. Find him at instagram.com/eats.often.

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