Beacon Hill was, and remains, a neighborhood that has deep connections to Seattle's Filipino immigrant story. Though it was once a hilltop hub for white settlers, the neighborhood later became a diverse expanse of immigrants, including Filipinos who emigrated to Seattle as early as the 1900s. That's why, when Beacon Hill resident and chef Melissa Miranda decided to open a restaurant, she knew it would have to be in the place she's called home most her life. A homecoming, more especially, to her roots. Now, after three years, Miranda's popup Musang—fondly named for her father who's inspired her culinary ambitions since she was dextrous enough to clean fresh-caught squid at the kitchen sink—is morphing into a proper brick-and-mortar restaurant this fall.
The Filipina chef with a wide, infectious smile has been running a marathon, popping up across the city monthly then damn-near weekly. Musang first started consistently appearing inside Beacon Hill's Bar del Corso, where Miranda's cooked alongside co-owner Jerry Corso for years. On Sundays Bar del Corso's Italian flavors would give way to Miranda's vibrant Filipino brunches of garlic fried rice, arroz caldo (savory rice porridge) with poached chicken and delicata squash, roasted eggplant with salted duck egg, dungeness crab kare kare, which is a rich peanut stew often made with oxtail and pig parts, plus several other dishes that served as menu R&D. More recently you may have caught her food's occasional appearances at East Trading Company and the Dynasty Room. And last year Miranda joined other Filipino American chefs at the James Beard House in New York. Before Bar del Corso, though, she had stints at Bar Sajor, the London Plane, Cuoco, restaurants in New York City, and trattorias in Florence, where she earned her culinary degree.
All this hustling, Miranda says, has led her to this moment.
"I want to share our culture, I want to share our food...because our food is delicious"—something her frequently sold-out popup events can confirm. But, more importantly, Miranda wants diners to feel welcomed—"like you're walking into my family's dining room." So, to evoke that sense of comfort, Musang will lean into warmth: corals, bamboo, some light blues and greens, too, plus a floating cloud of plants maybe. A color palette of the islands. But the Philippines isn't all tropical paradise. It's cosmopolitan and urban. Miranda wants to pull from that style too, like old Manila's Escolta Street, which can feel like it's frozen in an era of art deco and '50s Hollywood glam. So expect an eclectic combo of old and new that reflects the past and present of the Philippines, sure, but of Beacon Hill.
"I think there is a huge part of it, too, of Filipino food needing to be on Beacon Hill," Miranda says. When her father first emigrated to Seattle he landed on Beacon Hill, his grandmother in tow. Miranda grew up eating Filipino meals at home, and over time Filipino establishments have come and gone. Besides Delite Bakery and Fou Lee Market, where Miranda's family would shop for groceries even after they moved out of the city, fewer and fewer Filipino restaurants have stayed in the neighborhood. The undercurrent of this whole project, from the beginning, has been about preserving and growing community.
With that in mind, Musang will be a 48-seat space casual enough for a family meal but intimate enough for date night, with a menu fueled by Miranda's childhood memories and culinary bona fides. Elmer Dulla, Edouardo Jordan's beverage director at his trio of Ravenna restaurants, will develop Musang's cocktail program and install a menu of drinks complementary to Miranda's food. (He's also collaborated on a couple of popups with Miranda, so he's plenty acquainted with her culinary modus operandi.)
Miranda and her business partners have yet to disclose where exactly Musang will pop up on the hill (this writer has her guesses). She says they've found The One, but things need to be officially locked in before they make any announcements. There's a Musang Kickstarter (with many a food-incentivized reward) to help with the construction and build-out.
But in the chaos that is opening a restaurant, what keeps coming to Miranda's mind is a simple Italian phrase, il punto di ritrovo: the point or place where you meet your friends. "And that's what I want Musang to be," she says. "Like, 'We're hungry—let's go!'"
Musang, estimated to debut sometime in the fall, will be open Tuesday through Saturday, and closed on Sunday and Monday so that the community can come and utilize the space (for events or popups), she says, "just as Jerry [Corso] has done for me."
Again, for more info peep the Kickstarter, which includes myriad rewards: a limited edition Musang tee, a chef's tasting dinner with custom menu art from Dofzy, a secret party and hug from Mel, a seat at Musang's inaugural brunch, dinner with Mel and Canlis wine director Nelson Daquip.
Then there's a fundraiser this weekend—the first of many—when you can catch Miranda and her hodgepodge crew at the Dynasty Room in Chinatown–International District throwing down food, drinks, and tunes:
Musang Fundraiser at the Dynasty Room
Mar 3, 5pm until midnight, $15–$20
And if you still want more—and we don't blame you one bit—Miranda's Sarap Sandwich is Li'l Woody's burger of the moment until March 4.