Not even 10 days into 2020, the year’s biggest restaurant may already have arrived. Musang — a spinoff from rising chef Melissa Miranda’s popular pop-up of the same name — opens tomorrow in Beacon Hill with Filipino dishes, a warm, welcoming space, and plenty of hype (a wait for a table during preview dinners last weekend was over an hour and a half long). If it lives up to aspirations, the restaurant could not only be a star in a burgeoning dining neighborhood, but may be one of the top destinations in a vibrant Seattle Filipino food scene and stake out a spot that few have tread as a cultural touchstone as well. “I don’t want this to just be a restaurant,” Miranda says. “I want it to be a community space. That aspect is so important.”
It also may provide a roadmap for smaller operations nervous about opening a permanent outpost in a city that seems increasingly challenging for restaurants. Ever since Miranda launched her successful Kickstarter campaign to turn Musang into a restaurant, raising over $90,000, all eyes have been on how things would translate from the pop-up. And it starts with simplicity. Most of the dishes — from the rich beef mechado to the tender adobong pusit pancit — have just four-to-five key ingredients, many of them locally sourced. In fact, Miranda’s dad catches the squid for the adobong pusit pancit himself at a Seattle pier with other Filipino fishermen, while smoked oysters come from Taylor Shellfish.
Pacific Northwest vegetables and fruit show up in many other dishes as well, particularly in the pork sinigang, a soup traditionally soured with tamarind, but here made with Granny Smith apples. Fans of the hyperlocal movement will also be cheered to know the apple ketchup used as a dip for the bola bola (bacalao and rockfish fritters) is made from produce plucked from a tree in the restaurant’s front yard. And there’s even a vegan version of bagoong (a Filipino shrimp paste) created in house with fermented black beans and mushrooms.
Miranda and her staff hope to surprise those already familiar with Filipino cuisine, while also providing an education for those who aren’t. “Our childhood memories show up in the menu,” she tells Eater, adding that she hopes to stake ground among the newer Filipino dining trailblazers, somewhere between the high-end tasting menu elegance of Hillman City’s Archipelago and the modern vibe of Hood Famous Cafe and Bar in the International District.
That spirit applies to Musang’s approachable setting too, a design influenced by the Heritage Homes in the Philippines, houses that have been passed down through many generations and have great cultural significance. Like those structures, the restaurant — in the former location of the much-loved Travelers Thali House — is decked in dark wood accents and decor that reflects Miranda’s heritage, including lamps made with capiz shells and a recreation of a painting from a Filipino artist made by Musang’s pastry chef.
There’s seating for 50 inside, and another 20 outside when the weather eventually cooperates for the front patio this spring. On opening night, local musician Orlando Morales will play Filipino folk music. And there could be more performances down the line, including daytime DJ sets when brunch service starts up January 25.
After things settle down, Miranda will use Mondays and Tuesdays to open the space up for classes (some focused on the Tagalog language), events, and even pop-ups for staff and other aspiring chefs, an opportunity to continue the cultural education process and pay things forward.
Hours will be 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday to start. Walk-ins only. More information can be found here.