Let me say up front that I’m not used to going to Filipino restaurants and having people who aren’t Filipino there. I’m used to going to places where the food is served buffet-style and the tables are packed with Filipinos speaking Tagalog, watching Filipino shows on the TVs. Coming to New York City though, where people really get a chance to be exposed to all different cultures and food, definitely made me rethink all of that.
I knew about Maharlika because I recently dined at Jeepney, which is their sister restaurant that also serves Filipino food. I was meeting up with a Filipina, who wanted to discuss my experience with Filipino food for a project she was working on, so we thought it would be appropriate to be eating some as well.
The restaurant is small, but the workers are extremely friendly and helpful when explaining the menu items to you, which I thought was great since I know not many people are exposed to traditional Filipino food as they are to say Chinese or Thai cuisine.
When you sit down at your table, they serve you an order of extra crispy cracklings/rinds with dipping sauce to munch on while you order. I also ordered a cocktail, because I just couldn’t resist after looking at the menu as many of the drinks were named after famous Filipinos like Pacquiao’s Punch, Lea Salonga, and Pops Fernandez. I ordered the Sharon Cuneta, named after a Filipino actresses and celebrity, and has rum, coconut milk, nutmeg, and cinnamon. It was delicious on that cold night, but I can see how it would be refreshing on a warmer day as well.
For our appetizer, we ordered the lechon kawali, which is salt cured crispy pork belly (and one of my absolute favorite Filipino foods) served with some greens. I know I haven’t told you about my main dish yet, but this appetizer was definitely my favorite part of the meal. The skin was had a great crunch to it but then you get the delicious fatty part of the pork and ugh I’m drooling now. Pork belly anything please.
For my entree, I got the Filipino pride chicken and ube waffle, which definitely isn’t a traditional dish but plays with some signature Filipino flavors in some really fun ways. The waffle is made from purple yam, which I loved eating in the form of ice cream or in halo halo growing up, and has anchovy bangoong butter on top. Now, bangoong is fermented fish and salt, normally served as a paste with a VERY strong smell. Needless to say, I was NOT a fan of this growing up. But having it in the form of a whipped butter was really interesting, and it also worked well in the dish because its saltiness was offset by the caramelized macapuno syrup, which is basically super sweet coconut syrup. And the chicken, which is actually batterless, was also seasoned well and tender.
I’m loving these trendy Filipino restaurants here in NYC. It’s about time people were exposed the flavors of the Philippines!
Lechon kawali, Sharon Cuneta, Filipino pride chicken and ube waffle
111 1st Ave
New York, NY 10003