A new cuisine with Spanish and Asian influences has hit the scene in Ocean Beach.
Freshly minted restaurateur Anna Santos Hamilton opened Starfish Filipino Eatery at 1830 Sunset Cliffs Blvd. a month ago in the space formerly inhabited for many years by Pepe’s Italian.
Santos Hamilton is on a mission to introduce beach residents to Philippine cuisine, which she noted is an amalgam of tastes and spices from the 7,000-plus islands of the Philippines' archipelago and other Asian nations, as well as Spain, which ruled the archipelago for some 300 years.
“Before I even thought of this crazy idea of starting a restaurant, I’d been thinking, ‘Why do I have to go to National City or Mira Mesa to get Filipino food?” asked Santos Hamilton. “So I ended up cooking it myself.”
Santos Hamilton had been doing catering for private clients, before opting to become a full-on restaurateur. “I found this place and it was perfect,” she said of her new storefront. “So I just said, “I’m going to do Philippine cuisine. And here I am.”
She completely remodeled the old Pepe’s giving it a fresh look and feel. “It’s like a more modernized Manilla,” Santos Hamilton said. “The décor is Eurasian style, like being somewhere in a cosmopolitan hotel or restaurant. This is what you’re going to see.”
Philippine delights on the menu of Starfish include pancit (noodles), adobo (raw food in marinade), lumpia (pork, beef and carrot rolls), island garlic prawns, Dulce de Leche cheesecake, silog (Filipino breakfast), sabaw (soups), matamis (sweets/desserts) and vegan dishes. Most of the daily menu items are made from scratch.
“Lumpia is my in-house special recipe, and it goes as fast as we can make them,” said Santos Hamilton adding, “I learned how to make many of my dishes from my grandmother years ago.”
Added Santos Hamilton, “I want my menu items to change seasonally. I don’t want the menu to be static. I want it to be more organic and flowing through the seasons.”
Born and raised in the Philippines, Santos Hamilton moved to the States in the San Francisco Bay area with her family at age 16. She previously lived in Ocean Beach on Niagara Street by the OB Pier.
Her business name has nothing to do with her menu, noted Santos Hamilton, speaking of its origin.
“It’s like you go to the beach when you’re on vacation and you stumble on a starfish,” she related. “You look at it and go, 'Oh my.’ To me, that’s what Philippine cuisine is, just starting to get discovered, like a starfish.”
Starfish Filipino Eatery has been well received by Point Loma residents.
“OB has been very welcoming and supportive,” said Santos Hamilton. “People have even come in and thanked me for starting a restaurant that has something different. That made me feel good. That makes my heart full.”
Concluded Santos Hamilton of the impact she wants to make, “I really want to showcase the cuisine because nobody really showcases it the way I want to. I want it to be more accessible to everyone, not just Filipinos.”
STARFISH FILIPINO EATERY
Where: 1830 Sunset Cliffs Blvd.
Hours: Noon-7 p.m., 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Thursdays.