With The Opening Maharlika, A Filipino Food Resurgence

Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR. Photos: Noah Fecks.

The closing of Elvie’s Turo-Turo a couple of years ago left East Villagers starved for Filipino food, but earlier this summer Sa Aming Nayon opened across from where Elvie’s once stood, and now Maharlika, the brunch pop-up that was first at Resto Leon and then briefly at 5 Ninth, has found permanent residence at 111 First Avenue. Noel Cruz, a partner in the operation along with Nicole Ponseca, Enzo Lim, and chef Miguel Trinidad (all have family ties to the Philippines except for the chef, who is Dominican but has traveled the country extensively) tells us that dinner and brunch service quietly started a week ago. In the next weeks, lunch will also be added and the menu, below, will expand to include a mix of “really approachable things and really deep-rooted traditional items.”

Actually, there are already more than a couple of traditional items on the menu— most notably balut, a fertilized, 17-day-old duck egg that’s boiled for twenty minutes and served in its shell. “If you’ve never experienced it before, it can be off-putting,” Mr. Cruz admitted. “But for us, we’ve eaten hundreds of them.”

Additions to the menu will include a sausage version of the popular blood stew, dinuguan; noodle dishes such as pancit Malabon (which is intensely flavored with shrimp sauce); and tapsilog (the name of the dish plays on its ingredients of marinated air-dried beef, or tapa; garlic fried rice, or sinigag; and egg, or itlog). At a makeshift sari-sari (variety) store at the DeKalb Market this weekend, Maharlika will also debut its siao pao— steamed buns that will be filled with beef, vegetables, or whatever happens to be in season.

Mr. Cruz said the food will eschew pre-packaged seasonings for fresh ingredients like bitter melon and upo, a green gourd. “People associate Filipino food as very pork heavy, but there are regions in the Philippines that don’t have a lot of access to livestock.  There’s more diversity to the cuisine than just fried pig.” That said, diners do get complimentary chicharrones as a meal starter.

So are Maharlika’s pop-up days over? Apparently not. Aside from the stint at DeKalb Market, the crew is also doing a “similar concept” at a new Williamsburg bar and café, Kinfolk Studios, that will be partly owned by Mr. Cruz. Look for that in September. In the meantime, here are Maharlika’s current menus.