Kitchen staff Kyle Ronquillo and Gerald Gutierrez preparing for dinner service at Musang

Photo Essay: Musang — A Day in the Life

by Kyle Bender and Joshua Lee

North Beacon Hill, a Seattle neighborhood already greatly impacted by gentrification, was once the home of numerous Filipino restaurants, including Kusina Filipina and Inay’s, now all closed. For Melissa “Mel” Miranda, a Seattle chef and restaurateur, her restaurant Musang is a way to bring familiar Filipino flavors back into the neighborhood with a more modern spin.

Musang founder Melissa “Mel” Miranda sits at a table in Musang’s outdoor seating space. “I [see] that this can be an anchor for our community, building relationships … making this a very community-driven hub,” Miranda said. “Maybe [we] can inspire more folks to come out here and take the risk to be up here. [And] obviously, to be here for a while.” (Photo: Kyle Bender)

“I see it [as a] reclaiming of space,” Miranda said. “When my dad first moved to Seattle, he actually moved to Beacon Hill, so I have a lot of memories growing up here. I think there’s a part that’s like, let’s create those memories again for people.”

Musang sits on Beacon Avenue South in North Beacon Hill. Musang has dinner service from Tuesday to Saturday and serves brunch on Saturday and Sunday mornings. (Photo: Joshua Lee)

According to Musang’s website, it started off as a “series of pop up brunch and dinner experiences in 2016,” and officially opened its doors for full service in January 2020.

Pancit canton, pinakbet, and lumpiang shanghai at Musang. “A lot of also the inspiration for our menu is from our co-workers here, from how they grew up being Filipino American and trying to incorporate that in what we serve here,” chef de cuisine Jonnah Ayala said. “A lot of it is coming also from Mel, how she grew up. Some of our dishes that we are known for are directly from her childhood, like the adobong pusit pancit, which is like the most amazing thing I’ve ever had.” (Photo: Joshua Lee)

“I found out that [Musang’s building] used to be a community center for People of Color in this neighborhood who go drop off their kids here, and then go to work, and then pick them up at the end of the day,” Musang chef de cuisine Jonnah Ayala said. “And [it’s] kind of like a full circle, because Musang … is more than just a house or like a place, a location, for a restaurant. It is a movement, it is a lifestyle, it is a dream come true.”

Musang chef de cuisine Jonnah Ayala talking about Musang’s ethos. “[What’s] really important for us is to educate people [about] how Filipino food could taste, and I’ve seen a lot of folks here that have come that are Filipinos like, ‘Oh my god, it’s so beautiful. I’ve never seen Filipino food done like this, but at the same time, it tastes like home.’” (Photo: Kyle Bender)
Musang’s interior decoration. Musang officially opened its doors in 2020 after operating as a pop-up series in the area since 2016. (Photo: Kyle Bender)
According to Musang’s website, the name stems from founder Melissa Miranda’s father, whose nickname came from his black Mustang with a “T” decal that fell off. (Photo: Kyle Bender)
Bar manager and front of house manager Jesse Tiamson poses for a portrait at Musang. “There used to be, like, a bunch of Filipino restaurants right around us that aren’t here anymore,” Tiamson said. “We have to always remind people that the history of this neighborhood is very much rooted in that kind of diversity and culture. And that’s why I know that this place is going to be okay.” (Photo: Kyle Bender)
Phill Delapeña, server and bartender at Musang, poses for a portrait. “I think we have the potential to be the next Korean barbecue, or like what Thai food was,” Delapeña said. “What we have to offer, our food, is really good.” (Photo: Joshua Lee)
A view of Musang’s kitchen from the house, with kitchen staff Kyle Ronquillo preparing for dinner service. “When we got the funding, we could have opened up a restaurant anywhere in the city,” Jesse Tiamson said. “But it was really important that it was going to be on Beacon because of the history of the Filipino community up here. As long as we remember the roots of why Musang is in Beacon Hill, then [we] can still move forward.” (Photo: Kyle Bender)
Chef de cuisine Jonnah Ayala leads a dinner service at Musang. “To be a Filipino chef doing Filipino food? Honestly, it’s not a dream come true, because I never dreamed of it, I never thought it was going to be possible for me [at] the caliber that we’re doing right now,” Ayala said. (Photo: Kyle Bender)
Kitchen staff Kyle Ronquillo stirring rice. Musang’s menu includes Filipino staples, such as adobong baboy, and Korean Filipino fusion, like kimchi-nigang. (Photo: Kyle Bender)
Musang’s kitchen, with kitchen staff member Gerald Gutierrez preparing dishes. (Photo: Kyle Bender)
A passionfruit orange guava mojito. “Our food has a particular set of flavors that we hit,” server and bartender Phill Delapeña said. “And we want to make sure that the drinks don’t kind of overtake the meal. So, you know, a POG Mojito with some lumpia; it kills so good.” (Photo: Joshua Lee)
A Filipino flag and a sketch of Musang’s dining area sit on the host’s stand in Musang. “We could have been anywhere. We could have done just fine in Capitol Hill, or like Belltown, or anywhere, but we’re here,” Phill Delapeña said. (Photo: Joshua Lee)
Gerald Gutierrez prepares dishes in Musang’s kitchen. “What I learned here, and the way we still hire, is great, because we’ll hire someone who’s never worked at a restaurant before,” front of house manager Jesse Tiamson said. “It’s not about [experience]; we’re trying to create an environment here where you can learn, and we can coach people up.” (Photo: Kyle Bender)

Kyle Bender is a Seattle-based arts and culture columnist, editor, and all-around nerd. He’s written on various topics, including the Seattle music scene, food and culture, tabletop role-playing and video games, and local government. Kyle is passionate about tabletop board games like Magic: The Gathering and Dungeons & Dragons, and works as a Level 1 MTG judge in his off time.

Joshua Lee is a senior at the University of Washington studying journalism. Lee also serves as Arts + Culture Editor for The Daily of the University of Washington, covering movies, plays, concerts, and more.

📸 Featured Image: Kitchen staff Kyle Ronquillo (left) and Gerald Gutierrez (right) preparing for dinner service at Musang in North Beacon Hill on Tuesday, May 3, 2022. (Photo: Kyle Bender)

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