Everyone in the foodie world is always looking for the newest, coolest cuisine, and these days that usually means the weirdest. Well in terms of far-out food, it’s hard to beat Filipino. If you think Korean tastes are funky, wait ’til you try Filipino. These folks eat every part of their animals, they marinate their pig in soft drinks, and they prefer their eggs, um, shall we say…developed. More on that later.
So predictably, Filipino food is having a bit of a moment, with trendy new restaurants like Brooklyn’s Umi Nom and San Francisco food trucks Adobo Hobo and Senor Sisig. But it’s not a food trend until it has a pop-up restaurant. Enter Maharlika, which started a few months ago as a Saturday and Sunday only pop-up restaurant, serving brunch at Resto Leon in New York. This week it moved to the larger 5 Ninth, still serving only brunch.
The dish above is arroz caldo — a traditional Filipino rice porridge with shredded chicken, ginger, garlic and omasum (the third chamber of a cow’s stomach, if you must know). Hungry yet? Oh we’re just getting started.
A crustacean head seems downright pedestrian after cow stomach, huh? This is eggs Imelda, Maharlika’s take on Americanized brunch. It’s a home-style pandesal (round, salted bread), topped with laing (taro root leaves, coconut milk, shrimp paste, and chillies), grilled prawn and calamansi (a Filipino citrus fruit) hollandaise, with kamote (wild sweet potato) fries.
Their answer to bacon is called tocino, a 7-up cured pork tenderloin.
Longsilog, a garlicky pork sausage
For the veggies, tortang talong — grilled Asian eggplant & sautéed onions rolled in scrambled eggs. Served with kamatis tomatoes, onions & cilantro with patis (fish sauce) & calamansi dressing. OK, not quite vegetarian, but I think as close as you’re gonna get in Filipino cuisine.
For that one person in your party who looks at the menu and says, “where the eff did you take me? I thought we were going to brunch!” Mango stuffed french toast with caramelized macapuno (a Filipino coconut).
For the record, everything at Maharlika is delicious. To say the flavors are bold would be an understatement. This ain’t your grandmother’s brunch (unless she’s Filipino), but the experience is worth a trip to Manhattan. Oh yeah, and…
Finally, available on select weekends via special off-the-menu order, balut. A Filipino delicacy, it’s a boiled, fertilized duck embryo, the inside sort of half yolk and half fully developed baby bird. We wussed out on cracking into this, but you can surf the Internets for gross-out photos, or highly appetizing photos, depending on your mindset.