Maryland diners got a new fast-casual destination for crispy Filipino pork belly when Kuya Ja’s Lechon Belly opened earlier this month.
The pop-up turned brick-and-mortar restaurant (5268-H Nicholson Lane, Rockville. Md.) is from Javier Fernandez and his wife and business partner, Jennifer. Javier used to work at the late Michel Richard‘s short-lived restaurant at the Ritz-Carlton in Tysons Corner.
Kuya Ja’s focuses on traditional roasted pork belly but also serves other dishes including chicken wings and and Filipino-style burritos. It was previously doing weekend pop-ups at the his sister’s bakery, Gwenie’s Desserts.
Read on to hear what the public is saying, just a few days into service:
The Tastes Like Home News: Yelper Aaron A. calls it the “best place in the DMV for some authentic Filipino food without the overhype or diminishing American ‘twists’ on taste.” Yelper Madison B. concurs. “I would highly recommend this restaurant for people looking for quality, authentic Filipino food, savory or sweet,” she writes. And Instagrammer @sumo_eats dubs it, “bomb ass Filipino food. Crinkles, pork belly sisig and lechon belly sandwich A1 .” [Yelp. Instagram]
The Size Matters News: Yelper Ian T. says he had “some really good, authentic, and flavorful lechon. The skin is nice and crispy and the meat itself is tender and juicy. Portions are a little on the smaller side and I really hope they change that.” Yelper Joe D. praises the pork belly, but takes issue with the size of the meals. “The combos are $12 to $14 but The portions they give you are tiny! We left still hungry,” he writes. Yelper Roma S. was also disappointed. “The combo meal skimp a bit on the atchara. I wish the portion was a bit more than two bites,” she writes. Facebook user Filipa Vitório was more forgiving. “They are a little skimpy but I think it’s due to high demand they are getting,” she writes. [Yelp, Facebook]
The Greatest Hits News: Yelper AJ S. says the lechon belly is, “Juicy, succulent, and tender. The pancit was pretty on point. It had a nice portion of shrimp, chicken, longanisa, and egg. Lechon kawali was very savory.” And Facebook user Precy Mansueto says the “skin of the lechon we bought last Saturday afternoon was still crunchy the following day. So yummy!” Facebook user Jimena Fernandez is already looking forward to her next visit. “One of the best burgers we have ever had! The empanadas were delish and the lumpia on point. ... I cant wait to eat my way through this whole menu!!!!” she writes. [Yelp, Facebook]
The Feeling Cramped News: Yelper Christina A. notes, “There’s limited seating so it can be crowded on the weekends, but the line out the door should be a good indication that it’s worth waiting for.” Yelper Somi K. says, “There aren’t many seating areas in the restaurant so it was a struggle finding tables, especially during peak hours.” [Yelp]
The Welcome Additions News: Yelper Khoi N. is pleased to see how things are coming along. “Huge fan of their desserts and lechon in the past. Very happy to see they’ve expanded. Plenty of variety to try here from combo platters, small apps, burgers and great sides,” he writes. Yelper Mike B. reports that there are “lots of new sandwiches including a Lechon Belly Sandwich, a Chori-Burger (patty made of chorizo and beef), a sigsig-rito (burrito), and Crispy Chicken Adobo Sandwich.” And Washingtonian notes “what were once specials at the pop-up are now menu fixtures, including rice bowls, an adobo sandwich, and spiced wings.” [Yelp, Washingtonian]
The Can’t Get Enough Ube News: Instagram user @neazee proudly posted a picture of an empty dessert container. “This WAS the Ube Cheesecake at @kuyaja in Rockville. Y’all post pics of food without taking a bite! How do you know it was good? I’m showing you what I’m walking away with.” And Yelper Valina L. says, “The Ube loaf, ube pie, ube donuts and ube cake are my favorites. Ube everything is delicious!!!” [Instagram, Yelp]
The Keeping It Together News: Yelper Kaye A. praises the manager’s “great attitude and good customer service despite of your overwhelming orders, you still made the time to talk and thank your customers.” And Kenny W. says “service was pretty quick only no more than 10 mins during a busy Sunday lunch rush.” [Yelp]