111 1st Ave
New York, NY 10003
Sauce. Lots of it. And very sweet. This is what I ate most of at my weekend brunch at Maharlika, a Filipino restaurant in the East Village that boasts a menu of hearty comfort dishes that range from traditional to newly interpreted “modern” Filipino dishes. I, again, wanted something non-traditional for brunch (no egg bennies allowed*) and found Maharlika. Pictured at the top is Jufran Banana Sauce, aka. Filipino ketchup. It is made from mashed banana, sugar, vinegar, and various spices. It seems like it is a common favorite, like Sriracha. Our waiter even informed us that he loved putting Jufran on his Big Macs. To the bottom left is the sawsawan sauce, essentially vinegar infused with chilli peppers, garlic, and whatever else you want to put in it. This sauce was particularly great because it balanced a lot of the sweetness in the meats. To the bottom right is homemade guava jelly and macapuno jam (a kind of coconut), apparently the peanut butter and jelly of Filipino cuisine.
I ordered the Pampangan-Style Sizzling Sisig with Egg ($16). I’m not too sure what pampangan-style means but sisig refers to a method of preparing meat where the meat is marinated in a citrus sauce or vinegar, then seasoned with salt, pepper, and other spices. Sizzling Sisig is a traditional dish that is made with a variety of pig parts; in this case, pig ears, snout, cheek, and belly. The belly is cooked three times (boiled, grilled, and sauteed) and then the dish is flavored with garlic and lemon. Other than a few cartilage pieces, there is nothing “strange” tasting in this dish at all. I also happen to love cartilage. You mix the half cooked egg with all the meat, which adds a bit of creaminess. I was slightly disappointed because the belly and cheek portions were not tender and despite being marinated with all those flavors, the meat generally lacked flavor. Luckily, Jufran was able to make it all better.
The meat is brought to you on a sizzling plate and served with a side of sinangag, or garlic rice. The rice was definitely my favorite part of the meal. You could taste each individual grain of rice and every bite had that amazing taste of roasted garlic. The garlic was also subtle enough that it didn’t just take over your taste buds and linger in your mouth forever. Since it is a side dish, the rice still tasted like white rice and complemented the flavors of the meat and Jufran.
LAW, N.M., and A.J. all ordered the iLog Breakfast silog (garlic rice + egg) with Longsilog ($11), a sweet, garlicky pork sausage. The sausage was extreeeeeemely soft and juicy due to the high fat content. The flavor of the sausage reminded me a bit of that Taiwanese sausage they sell all over the streets in Beijing (for those of you who have never had one, it tastes very sweet and fatty). The three little sausages ended up being very filling because they were so heavy. I liked my pig snout dish more overall because it was more interesting but liked that the sausage had much more flavor and really didn’t need much sauce (other than the vinegar to balance out the fact that it may have been a little too sweet). Again, the rice was the highlight.
M.B. ordered the Barrio Breakfast ($13), which included homemade corned beef hash, two eggs, pandesal (bread), and kamote home fries (sweet potato). The guava jelly and macapuno (coconut) jam actually came with this dish. Surprisingly, the combination of the jam and jelly really did taste a little like peanut butter and jelly. The macauno jam was very creamy and tasted slightly nutty… As you can see, Jufran is being liberally applied to the dish as everything was also a bit bland. Not bland in a bad way, just bland in that I think you are meant to use the sauces to flavor the food, rather than having cooked the food with the sauce. The kamote home fries were my favorite part of this dish. They tasted a little like fried plantains but less sweet and had the texture of a fried sweet potato. Corned beef hash tasted like corned beef hash and went well with the Jufran. Pandesal was not as soft and fluffy as the pandesal I used to have at my friend’s house (they are Filipino).
Maharlika was a great option for another brunch alternative. The place was very cute and cozy, and packed in a lot of Filipino families. The typical NYC brunch place, the kind where you have to wait in line for hours for a mimosa and some eggs, is always packed with well-dressed, young New Yorkers; Maharlika provided a nice change. The next time I go, I will definitely try their Mango Stuffed French Toast.
* turns out, Maharlika actually has a brunch dish called the Eggs Benigno. Ah well, at least it’s a fun interpretation! Two poached eggs are placed on pandesal (a soft, round, sweet flavored white bread) and served with spam, kalamansi hollandaise (kalamansi is a Filipino citrus fruit that is often mixed with fish sauces and such), kamote home fries (Filipino sweet potato), and maliit salad (small salad) with coconut-sugarcane vinegar dressing.