DC - Kuya Ja’s Lechon Belly

DC - Kuya Ja’s Lechon Belly
It’s late Saturday afternoon and as we finish our walking tour of Alexandria, VA we are now headed to Rockville, MD to have our lechon belly fix at Kuya Ja’s which is located at 5268-H Nicholson Lane inside the White Flint Plaza.

I’ve been texting for the past 2 days now with Chef Javier Fernandez and coordinating a schedule to visit him largely thanks to Chef Patrice for making the introduction and being Vizayan myself I was so excited to be meeting a chef from Cebu who cooks lechon.


As we walked in the front door of Kuya Ja’s restaurant I could already smell the aroma of lechon in the air and the staff greeted us so kindly and welcomed us inside. Chef Javier met us and gave us a quick overview of the place and the history of his roots in Cebu and here in Maryland. He had a vision of showcasing the dishes from back home that his family ate and wanted to share that here in his own neighborhood. A trait that I myself emulated from our ancestors as well, something that most Filipino chefs share in common.


The first dish that Chef gave us was the beef empanada which had a perfect flaky crust and crisp fried to golden brown perfection while the filling was an umami bomb, already I knew that we were in for a delicious evening. Beef skewers followed next with a sweet and savory glaze and garlic rice that was perfectly seasoned and complemented the skewers well.


Chef was just warming us up with the apps that the big guns now started coming out from the kitchen and the lechon belly made its appearance on the table. The sight and smell of the dish already made me feel that I was back home and that first bite reminded me of what Christmas or New Years or any other special occasion tasted like, the fattiness of the pork dripping down, the crispiness of the skin and the richness of this delicacy is just the epitome of perfection.

Papa B’s fried rice was given to us as well and this was my favorite dish for this dinner, yes fried rice with the cumin crab fat butter was so decadent and succulent with the homemade longganisa and veggies was perfectly paired with the lechon belly and the lechon manok which was the last dish we received that evening. It was a perfect version of another traditional visayan classic dish which is normally eaten at least once a week at home. This meal has completely transported me back to my roots and gave me a fresh new insight on how our cuisine in the central Philippines could be adapted and served here in the U.S.

This weekend has been such an amazing experience coming out here to DC and meeting all my fellow Pinoy chefs and restaurateurs and hearing all their stories. The truly unique thing about the hospitality industry are the people that work it and their personalities that they bring to the table daily, the craftsmanship, creativity and unrelenting passion for perfection and this #KulinaryaTravels trip is a true testament to this. I came here to DC on a rainy Thursday afternoon not knowing anyone and come Sunday morning as I headed back to NY I felt like I’ve known these people for years after sharing a meal and conversation with them. One of life’s greatest treasures is the sharing of food and culture between strangers that create a bond amongst brothers and sisters, one that is dearly remembered forever. Maraming Salamat sa inyong lahat D.C.

As this journal ends, the story is not over yet for now we shall see you at Tsismis...

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