TNT Diner

First bite: Lumpia World in Tacoma’s Browns Point neighborhood

It didn’t matter that the line was five deep ahead of me. I still got my food in less than 10 minutes.

That’s the power of fast cooking, or frying in this case.

Lumpia World opened its latest Japanese-Filipino fusion restaurant May 30 at the deli counter of the Lighthouse IGA in Browns Point. Enter the grocery store and look to the right and find a half dozen tables and an order-at-the-counter deli with fried lumpia as a specialty. For the uninitiated, lumpia is the Filipino cousin of a Chinese egg roll (and much tastier).

At Lumpia World, the lumpia are crisply fried, tightly rolled, and filled with minced meats and vegetables, flavored with ginger, lemongrass or soy sauce.

This is the fourth restaurant for Derrick and Eleanor Ellis. Two are on wheels, the first of which began serving at the Tacoma Farmers Market in 2006; the second truck launched this year. Their Federal Way storefront, opened in 2013, previously served limited lunch service, but now serves only as headquarters for the company’s trucks. (Orders can be picked up there with 48 hours’ notice.)

The Browns Point store marks the first foray into a brick-and-mortar restaurant with regular hours just about every day. The restaurant is open at 5 p.m. for dinner Tuesday through Friday and 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

It appeared neighbors had discovered the deli-style restaurant in a big way on a recent first-bite visit. Derrick Ellis said diners can bypass lines by ordering dinner online at mkt.com/lumpia-world.

The menu is a la carte lumpia priced $1.25 each, with a choice of steak, pork, chicken or vegetarian; and dessert lumpia made with coconut, sweet potato or banana. Help yourself to dipping sauces, a sweet chili, savory peanut or garlic vinegar, at the pick-up counter. The restaurant is fast service, with counter ordering and pickup, and orders are served in to-go containers for takeout or dining in at the handful of tables. Beverages can be purchased at the grocery store.

A number of combination meals were listed on the ordering board, including pancit and katsu, $6.50-$10. Soba soup ($5) is a specialty, as is Spam island mac bowls (the kind you’d find in Hawaii, $5). There also were large-meal packs available for family dining.

We happily dug into vegetarian pancit ($6.50), the Filipino noodle dish, with two minced pork lumpia, fragrant with ginger. Crispy chicken katsu ($8.50) was flanked with an island-style cold macaroni salad with a shredded carrot dressing with a hint of smokiness (best salad I’ve had around here outside of Hawaiian restaurant Da Tiki Hut in Tacoma). Lumpia, as always, was tightly wound, the flavors swaying between savory, sweet and puckery, and the wrapper was shattery crisp, and delicious. If you order only one kind of lumpia, make it the steak. And don’t forget the banana lumpia for dessert.

Browns Point tip: An Indian restaurant, Hilltop Indian, is advertising its opening, in the same strip mall.

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