Janet’s Kitchen: Filipino Fare Falls Flat

Several loosely hung, half-inflated helium balloons greeted me as I stepped toward the well-lit countertop at Janet’s Kitchen Atlanta on Wednesday afternoon. A new addition to North Decatur Road, Janet’s specializes in authentic Filipino food. Unlike regular sit-down restaurants, I was asked to order at the counter before being seated. Steely Dan’s “Deacon Blues” countered the awkwardness of the empty joint with a snazzy atmosphere. The welcoming waitress handed me the menu with a warm smile.

Although Janet’s menu is considerably simple — only filling up two pieces of paper — it is still highly diverse. Their entrees consist of chicken adobo (a traditional Filipino dish), pork ribs adobo, shrimp lumpia (spring roll) and pork lumpia, all served with a bowl of rice and all either $10 or $11. Sides include collards, mac and cheese, mango salad, black-eyed peas and cinnamon yams for only $3 each. When I visited, the soup of the day was a steal at just $5 and included two options: chicken tinola and pork sinigang.

The beverages at Janet’s were what you would expect at a typical restaurant, but you cannot order a glass of ice water. Instead, you have to purchase refrigerated bottled water for a dollar. After that little annoyance aside, I asked for a pork ribs adobo with rice and mango salad.

The waitress showed up with the food only several minutes later. To my surprise and disappointment, the meal presentation was feeble at best. All orders came out to-go style, and to eat at the joint you had to ask for styrofoam plates and plastic utensils. However, as I began to unwrap the plastic bag and styrofoam boxes, the pork ribs braised in vinegar, soy sauce, garlic and bay leaves started to give off an irresistible, savory aroma. I ripped the meat off the bone almost effortlessly. The seasoning melded well with the meat, and I could taste the rich, sweet flavor to the bone. The mango salad complemented my dish surprisingly well, as its sweet and sour seasoning was a refreshing addition to the heavy pork ribs adobo. The meal was not too overbearing. Two entrees might be necessary for those who are especially hungry.

Located conveniently behind the North Decatur Center and a few blocks away from Publix, Janet’s Kitchen Atlanta is a quick Uber or C-Publix shuttle ride away from Emory’s main and Clairmont campuses. According to their menu, Janet’s offers a variety of “soul food with a Filipino twist” from shrimp lumpia with rice to Filipino seasoned chicken tenders and waffles. Overall, I give Janet’s three out of five stars, as the cooking exceeded my expectations but the food service — uncomplimentary water and meal presentation — was so unlike a traditional dine-in restaurant.