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Island Cuisine

Golden Girl: The neon image of its namesake lights up Goldilocks.

From deep-fried fish to Filipino lumpia, Goldilocks serves up bargain culinary diversions

By Andrew X. Pham

AT LUNCH, Goldilocks is crowded with Filipino-Americans. Around dinner time, a similar crowd swings through for take-out meals. Brightly lit, the place has the feel of a high-end fast-food restaurant. But this branch of the Goldilocks franchise, based in the Philippines, doesn't serve ordinary fast food. Goldilocks delivers real home-style Filipino grub in its spotless and spacious dining room. Cushionless booths and dinettes separated by small plant islands square off the place to decent effect. Besides the litany of standard items, a board announces daily specials, everything under $5 per serving. Diners line up along the counter, cafeteria-style, and place their orders.

Many dishes suffer from too much time on the steam table, followed by a forced microwave rejuvenation, so the best time to sample Goldilocks' bounty is at lunch, when most of the food is cooked fresh. Goldilocks woks up a huge variety of true Filipino fare at rock-bottom prices. In addition, its bakery displays all sorts of toothsome sweets, including eclairs, fruit tarts and birthday cakes.

One taste of longanisa ($2.50 for three links) demonstrates what happens when Chinese sausage meets Mexican chorizo. The links are sweet, peppery, fatty, hot and slightly chewy--colonial influence in a bite. Though definitely an acquired taste, the dish is a big Filipino favorite, and a must for the curious.

Fans of glutinous rice will prefer the rice cake, steamed in banana leaves and served with sweet red bean sauce ($3.70). Very plain except for the bean dip, this "pastry" consists of a flat green square of gooey short-grain rice that works well for breakfast or lunch.

The beef afritada ($3.60) is a fatty stew with bits of carrots and potatoes. Another popular stew, pork and chicken adobo ($3.25), bears, without much finesse, the salty signature of many Filipino ragouts. Cooked with fish or shrimp extracts, these sauces acquire a deeper flavor than Western stews, which rely more on herbs for taste. Both the afritada and the adobo are eaten with steamed white rice (80 cents a serving). Too bad the kitchen cooks rather dry, lusterless rice.

Most educational is the pancit palabok ($2.99): short rice noodles topped with a head-spinning garlic sauce, ground pork (overcooked), shrimp bits (not enough), tofu cubes, mashed hard-boiled eggs and fresh green onions. Before eating, the diner squeezes a few wedges of lemon over this bright and lukewarm ensemble. Tangy, sour, bland and salty all at once, this dish will give the uninitiated an overview of this particular island cuisine. It's the next best thing to a home-cooked meal.

Goldilocks is located at 6098 Hostetter Road (in the Pacific Rim Mall), San Jose; open Tuesday­Sunday, 9am­7pm; 408/453-2537.

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From the March 6-12, 1997 issue of Metro

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