Sunday, October 30, 2011

Maharlika- Making a Mark in the East Village

Maharlika (pronounced- mahar licka) means noble in Tagalog, one of the Philippines' main languages spoken. I walked into Maharlika in the East Village and felt like it was a nice place. A little regal. It was definitely different from the other Filipino restaurants I am used to in Woodside, Queens. 

Maharlika is more current, trendy, and upscale than your regular neighborhood Filipino restaurant. There is no hot counter of food here. Nor is there karaoke available or a giant television blasting TFC (The Filipino Channel) in the background. Maharlika is a proper sit down restaurant, complete with a bar and menu that reinvents Filipino food presentation to appeal to foreigners and Filipino food lovers. The owners and management are proud of what they have done with the place. They should be. Service and food was excellent.
Sizzling Sisig
We went to Maharlika for brunch. The first dish was Sizzling Sisig with Egg and a side of garlic rice. The sisig, a pork lover's dream (chopped pig snout, pig ears, pork belly, and cheeks boiled, grilled, and sauteed) was served in a cast iron skillet. The waiter offered to mix in the beautiful egg on top with the sisig. The yolk broke and quickly cooked all while adding a creaminess to the pork.

Maharlika made it a point to introduce each and every patron to the customs and culture of the Philippines. Chicharron. Vinegar. Banana ketchup. Pork. These are a few things that characterize staples in a Filipino diet and were showcased by the waiter. We made sure we had plenty to eat. You cannot go to a Filipino home and starve. That's not how Filipinos do things. We also like to share. My group ate off of each other's plate. We weren't all Filipino but the custom of sharing transcended ethnicity. I like to think of sharing as a basic rule of manners to follow.
Tapsilog and the complimentary Chicken Chicharron in the corner
The Tapsilog was complimented with a medley of tomatoes, cucumber, sibuyas, and cilantro. The tapa, fried meat, was not too greasy. It's a sweet meat. Filipinos like their food sugary.
Eggs Imelda with Caviar
The Eggs Imelda impressed me the most. The standouts on this dish were the poached eggs on pandesal (Filipino bread) and laing (taro root) with humongous grilled prawns. We opted to get the eggs with an "accessory" of caviar. As for the prawns, the proper way to eat it was to consume the tail and suck out the fat and juice from the head portion. 
Ube Waffles and Fried Chicken
The brunch special was fried chicken and Ube waffles. Ube is a purple yam. The waffle was giant, thin, and purple. It had a hint of yam flavor and was served with macapuno syrup. I liked the chunks of young coconut and the slight sweetness of it.
Mango French Toast
We ordered Mango French Toast for dessert. This dish looked the biggest and sweetest. It was actually the perfect way to end a meal. It was slathered with the same macapuno syrup used on the chicken and waffles.

The serving size at Maharlika is just right. The food was fancified, which was different than a typical Filipino breakfast, but definitely well received by everyone. I look forward to the dinner options available. Since Maharlika is only in its soft opening stages, they do not formally have a set menu other than brunch. 

If one thing is consistent, it is Maharlika's dedication to service. A few months back, when Maharlika was doing a pop up at Resto Leon, I emailed them inquiring reservations for a party of 35. Nicole emailed me back immediately ready to make accommodations. On our most recent visit for brunch, Nicole recognized one of our party from Twitter, and made it a point to introduce herself as well as to make sure we got our French Toast because, of all the wonderful dishes offered, we really came for the French Toast! I find it so refreshing that this Filipino gem really keeps in touch with their customers. I do believe that is what is going to keep them coming back. After all, don't you want to feel at home and loved when you go out to eat? It's the Filipino way.

Photography Credits: Maharlika (logo), Stella Dacuma Schour Photography

111 First Avenue
New York, NY 10003