A paper tiki mask is the only indication that the door to which it is affixed leads anywhere other than a dive bar. However, ring the doorbell and walk through the kitchen and you’ll be transported to an island-themed living room that’s both kitsch and cozy.
“This is just from people’s homes, like my mother’s,” says Allan Pineda, pointing to the wood carvings, water buffalo horns and rattan furniture that decorate the room. “A lot of the things you see here, you would see in a Filipino’s house at the time – like the second wave immigrants in the ’60s and’ 70s, they would bring these things home (from the Philippines). ”
Pineda is a local chef and part of the team behind the Bahay Kubo Tiki Bar, a pop-up Filipino drink and dining experience held weekly at an undisclosed establishment in Winnipeg.
Details are low key as the temporary restaurant is supposed to function as a sweatshop. The dinners are an offshoot of Baon Manila Nights, which Pineda launched to showcase Winnipeg’s Filipino dining scene.
The craze for tiki bars began in post-Prohibition California, where North American restaurateurs created escape lounges with appropriate motifs from different South Pacific cultures. While Pineda is aware of the place of the tiki as a divine figure in Maori, Hawaiian and other Polynesian traditions, he wanted to give the theme of the restaurant a Filipino touch.
“We have our own gods, so we prepared it that way,” he says. “We pay tribute to this.”
The name Bahay Kubo is a reference to the iconic stilt huts typically made of bamboo and nipa grass that are indigenous to the Philippines. Cultural information is presented in chalk on the walls of the pop-up restaurant.