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Is National City Ready for a Filipino Fine Dining Restaurant?

Chef Phillip Esteban is previewing his menu for Well Fed next week

A plate with a crab shell holding crab meat topped with fish roe and chives.
Local crab, pork, annatto fish sauce, Meyer lemon, and chives.
Phillip Esteban

Well Fed, a genre-pushing new Filipino restaurant from chef Phillip Esteban, is trading space in a new development in order to search for a more historic National City location and adding a cocktail bar.

Though it was initially going to anchor a multi-use building in the neighborhood, Esteban tells Eater that he and his partners are now actively looking for an older, established site that they can revitalize and transform themselves. The chef says he was inspired to find a more historic setting by seeing the photos of vintage National City decorating the Market on 8th food hall where he just opened a branch of Weapon, his ramen restaurant.

Esteban, who grew up in the South Bay and still lives in the area, has spent recent years exploring his identity as a Filipino chef. Though he’s opened several casual restaurants over the course of the pandemic, his training is in fine dining. By celebrating Filipino food through a higher-end experience at Well Fed, Esteban says he hopes to make it an impactful establishment within the National City community where there are already many respected casual to mid-range Filipino restaurants. The latest iteration of the restaurant has also evolved to include a cocktail component.

Two pieces of seared fish garnished with citrus peels and a green sauce.
Baja striped white bass, pepper relish, confit citrus, and smoked coconut cream.
Phillip Esteban

The chef is going to be previewing the modern Filipino food that will eventually be served at Well Fed on Friday, November 19, with dishes like sardine with coconut milk and malunggay and kinilaw of local tuna with koji coconut emulsion, ogo, and burnt wood oil that will be served at a six-course dinner collaboration with D.C.-based Filipino chefs Paolo Dungca and Tom Cunanan of Pogiboy, who are each planning their own Filipino restaurants on the East Coast. The trio is also planning a pop-up at White Rice at Liberty Public Market, offering savory rice bowls and Filipino burgers starting at 11 a.m. on Wednesday, November 17.

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