TNT Diner

What exactly is turo-turo? Head to Lakewood to discover the Filipino style of eating

An order of pancit from Paraiso Native Filipino Restaurant in Lakewood.
An order of pancit from Paraiso Native Filipino Restaurant in Lakewood.

The small South Sound landscape of Filipino dining grew by one restaurant when Paraiso Native Filipino Restaurant took over the Lakewood storefront that until recently held Dito Tayo.

Family friends purchased the restaurant from Dito Tayo’s owners. Dito Tayo originally opened in December 2014.

Paraiso Native is in the same neighborhood in Lakewood that Mother Lily’s Kusina recently exited. (It was replaced by an Oaxacan Mexican restaurant, Casa Mixteca.)

Paraiso Native increased the steam table offerings and added a small area with packaged items for sale. The restaurant also offers a broad selection of house-made Filipino desserts.

Here’s a quick first-bite look at the offerings.

Dining room: The restaurant’s footprint is much the same. About 10 oversize wooden tables with bench seats fit four to six diners. Tables are close together, so be prepared to meet a neighbor. The dining room was filled with uniformed visitors from nearby Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

Paraiso dining room
The dining room at Paraiso Native Filipino Restaurant in Lakewood. Sue Kidd

Packaged items: Find a small grocery section at the rear of the restaurant. Metal racks held packaged chips and snacks, boxed mixes and jars of sauces.

Turo-turo: Think of this as cafeteria style, but with spectacular Filipino offerings including rice and noodle dishes, slow-cooked stews and whole fried fish. The style of steamtable service is called turo-turo, which roughly translates from Tagalog to point-point.

Grab a tray, silverware, then peruse the steam table offerings. Service is intentionally fast to make lunch a quick, casual affair. Point at what you’d like on the steam table and a dish will be instantly and generously filled. Pay at the register. Sodas are in a fridge by the register. Find your own seat.

On the steam table: Find close to 20 dishes, although the number will vary based on demand and the chef’s whim. On an April visit, there was pork or chicken adobo, kare-kare, chicken curry, a bitter melon stew, eggplant omelet, beef caldereta, sliced Filipino sausage, whole fried fish, lumpia, pancit and more. A counter attendant told us dinuguan stew and pancit bihon were available by request.

Prices: One item with rice was listed at $6.75. Two items with rice $8.50. To-go entrees are available in small ($7.99-$8.99) or large ($13.99-$15.99) containers. Lumpia was $1.25 for pork or $1.50 for veggie. A handful of specialty dishes were priced $9.50-$9.99.

Paraiso dessert 2
Find sticky rice desserts in four-packs at Paraiso Native Filipino Restaurant in Lakewood. Sue Kidd

Desserts: A wide range, including cellophane wrapped packages holding four squares of sticky rice desserts ($3.49), plus halo-halo ($5.75) and sago gulaman ($3.50).

On a first visit: Get the pancit, a dish of thick-cut chewy noodles tangled up with thinner, wispy rice noodles and savory marinated meat and vegetables. The kare-kare was a beef stew with bok choy, eggplant and slow-simmered meat in a savory peanut sauce. Lumpia were long, skinny rolls filled with ground pork, noodles and chopped carrots, deep fried until crispy.

Weekend specials: Check the signs for weekend specials. I spotted an announcement for breakfast dishes longsilog, dangsilog and cornsilog.

Paraiso Native Filipino Restaurant

Where: 10518 South Tacoma Way, Lakewood; 253-584-6494.

Hours: 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Mondays and Thursdays-Saturdays. 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Sundays. Closed Tuesdays-Wednesdays.

Other Filipino dining: Maresol Restaurant in Lakewood, Northwest Lumpia in Tacoma, Lumpia World in Northeast Tacoma.