I’m used to eating at Mom and Pop Filipino restaurants in the suburbs of Northern California and most recently, the Jackson Heights neighborhood of Queens. However, now it seems that Filipino cuisine is making its mark in Manhattan. Sure… there was Elvie’s and there’s still Grill 21, Sa Aming Nayon etc… but Maharlika, like Kuma Inn, is paving a way for popularizing Filipino food in a sort of posh, if not trendy, fashion.
I’ve been meaning to dine at Maharlika back in the summer when it first opened but those plans weren’t realized until this past Friday. The restaurant is located on 1st Ave between 6th & 7th Street (formerly La Vie Boheme and before that Absinthe) in the East Village. The space fits about 40 patrons. Unlike the other Filipino restaurants I’ve been to, you can tell that Maharlika was decorated by someone with style and a fresh sense of design; modern mixing it up with vintage photos. I was pretty impressed with the young and hip feel to the place.
On to the food…
Don’t be mistaken by the subtext “Filipino Moderno”. It is in no way Asian fusion. The dishes are very traditional but with a modern twist. For instance… spam fries. Yes… SPAM fries! Though spam is not traditionally from the Philippines, it is pretty common for Filipino Americans to eat it as part of breakfast. Maharlika transforms this all Filipino American snack by slicing it up into long pieces, frying it with tempura batter and there you have it… fries!
Then there is the Chicharon Manok (fried chicken skin). The more traditional version is pig skin.
These are complimentary and you can eat these and the other appetizers with the typical Filipino condiments: Calamansi seasoning (much like soy sauce), Jufran (banana ketchup) and/or suka (garlic, chili/pepper infused vinegar).
Because I love all things pork, I had to get the Lechon Kawali appetizer, which is deep fried pork belly. This was incredibly delicious and served over a bed of spinach.
One of Maharlika’s popular dishes is Sizzling Sisig. This dish contains pig ears, snout, belly which is broiled, grilled and sauteed with garlic. Talk about a feast of pigs! This was hog heaven served in a skillet!
Usually served for brunch but also on the dinner menu was their iLog breakfast. They have a few of these dishes all ending with iLog (which means with egg). I had their Tapsilog- which is tapa, shirt steak marinated with garlic rice, sunny side egg, and a veggie side. This dish totally reminded me of growing up and eating at the local Filipino restaurants around the suburbia of the East Bay.
Last but not least was the flan dessert. A traditional coconut leche flan with blue berry garnish. Yummy!
Being new and trendy, you can expect the menu to be a bit pricey. Considering that I’m used to paying much less for Filipino food, in comparison, Maharlika is somewhat overpriced. Having stated that, I will more than likely go here again because the food, ambiance and service was stellar and worth another taste.