- Restaurant Maharlika
- Cuisine Modern Filipino
- Location 111 1st Avenue (at 7th Street), Manhattan
- Phone 646-392-7880
- Directions Hopstop
- Atmosphere bright, intimate, casual-chic
- Attire casual
- Ideal for small to medium-sized group dining, 1x1, foodies, full bar, dine at the bar
- Price affordable to moderate
OK, so, as much as I hate to admit this - because I'd feel a lot cooler if I weren't fessing up to the fact that I sit on my ass and watch TV all day long - it was a particularly food porn-y episode of Unique Eats that ultimately lassoed me over to Maharlika. Granted, this "Filipino Moderno" restaurant has been on my list/radar for quite some time. Doesn't that count?
Dana and I were to meet at Maharlika for brunch at 11am. On the dot. So, at 10:55am, not only was I was surprised to find that she had beaten me (no one *ever* beats me anywhere!), but Dana was already seated inside of the not-yet-opened-for-service restaurant. "You're such a baller, D. How the hell did you get in?" I loudly whispered, after I had allowed myself inside, as well. "Uh, the bar tender is giving me a weird look. Should we leave?" Dana reminded me that it was 95+ degrees outside. "You're right. We only have about a minute left, anyways."
At exactly 11am, we were approached by the hostess who asked if we had a reservation. "Uh. No. I didn't realize... Wait, you all take reservations?" She explained that brunch gets really crowded, but that she would be able to squeeze us in. Dana and I were seated within a minute or two.
Hungry patrons began arriving. Literally, in droves. *Side note: This is the East Village, folks. Most people in this 'hood don't get out of bed on Sundays until at least 1pm. People walked in from the street, without formal reservations, asking if they could leave their names with the hostess, promising to return with x-number of guests at a specific time. "Wow," Dana gasped, "this place must be amazing!"
The atmosphere at Maharlika is almost as peppy as its music soundtrack, which cranks out everything from Warren G's "Regulate" to Motown. Aesthetically, the bright space is serene and tranquil, evoking a casual, yet chic, aura of sophistication.
Because there were so many unique offerings on the brunch menu, Dana and I decided to split three dishes, two ways. We appreciated the fact that our incredibly helpful server was schooled in Filipino cuisine, so that she could both explain and recommend, in detail, some of her favorite dishes.
We whetted our appetites with fresh guava water. Sweet and dense, the fragrant juice transported us directly from Manhattan's concrete jungle to the tropics.
Before any of our dishes arrived, we were presented with a number of different sauces/condiments:
Fish sauce would bring about a distinct, salty flavor when added to the Arroz Caldo. "A little goes a long way," our server advised.
House-made suka, a coconut-sugarcane vinegar, was presented alongside sliced bird chiles. Diners can customize their individual suka portions by adding more/less/no chiles. "I like to spoon the suka over rice," said our server.
My personal favorites of the sauces/condiments we were presented were the banana ketchup and calamansi seasoning. "The banana ketchup is great with the kamote home fries," our server noted. "And the calamansi seasoning? Pssssh, it goes well with pretty much anything!"
Of the three dishes we ordered, this was my favorite. The savory porridge was thick and comforting, yet soup-y enough to where it didn't evoke the consistency of oatmeal. Personally, I found the chicken to be an afterthought, as it was the fragrant garlic/ginger and the crunchy texture from the chives that really hit home. A winner, indeed.
Note: With about 5 spoonfuls left, I added some fish sauce, per the server's recommendation. Unfortunately, I found that it completely overwhelmed the gentle balance of the porridge. I would advise any of you who order this particular dish not to add fish sauce prior to taking your first bite. If anything, add a drop or two atop a single spoonful of porridge to gage the flavor prior to dousing the entire bowl.
Maharlika's riff on Eggs Benedict: Two halves of buttery, toasted pandesal were topped with taro root leaf laing, perfectly-poached eggs, and drizzled with calamansi hollandaise sauce. Ginormous, head-on grilled prawns, kamote home fries, and a suka-dressed salad accompanied.
Dana and I each grabbed a prawn and, of course, mine had some suspicious orange goop under its head. Was she pregnant? Sigh. I loved the crispy, sweet kamote home fries, especially when dunked in to the banana ketchup! They were also a great tool to sop up all of the extra calamansi hollandaise and runny egg yolk.
The pandesal was delicious and reminded me of potato bread, in that it was sweet and pillowy-soft. The taro root leaf laing, similar in texture to cooked kale or collard greens, was uniquely pungent. However, the rich, creaminess from the both the runny egg yolk and calamansi hollandaise sauce cut in to its earthy bitterness like a precise surgical incision.
Ilog Breakfast Silog with Skirt Steak
Just bigger than bite-sized slabs of perfectly-marinated, though slightly tough, skirt steak were paired alongside a mound of crispy garlic rice that was topped with an overcooked/rubbery fried egg. A lovely, three-bite cucumber/tomato salad accompanied.
While the major components of the dish, the steak and the egg, weren't necessarily cooked to my liking, the garlic rice was dynamite. Crispy, buttery, yet sticky enough to stay in-tact, and chock-full of toasted-garlic essence. I especially enjoyed the rice topped with a drizzle of the tangy calamansi seasoning!
Ice cream trio
From left to right, the trio consisted of: Cheese - Purple Yam - and Mango ice creams. Toasted coconut flakes crowned each scoop.
My favorite of the three? The sweet and savory cheese flavor, chock-full of salty curds!
While dessert satisfied my sugar-craving, Dana wanted something more. Out of curiosity, we asked our server if we could take a look at the dinner menu. "Oh, I've had a fertilized duck egg in Japan," Dana said, as she pointed to the Balut. A bit shocked, I asked her if she was referring an actual duck embryo. "No, the one I had was kind of furry on the outside." Perhaps she was referring to the "thousand year old egg?" I explained that a fertilized duck egg contains an actual baby duck inside of it. "Oh, ya, guess not. Ha! But I would totally try that!!" Dana announced, loud enough that our server overheard. Her eyes lit up as she ran back to the kitchen to find out if the chef would prepare a Balut during brunch (only served at dinner).
Sure enough, Maharlika made it happen!
...Aaaaaaaaaaaaand, that'll do it, folks! The rest of the pictures are entirely too graphic and potentially disturbing for some viewers, so I'm going to refrain from posting any more. However, I will have you know, Dana ate the egg in its entirety, down to the duck's beak, bones, extremity, yolk, etc. While I, the food blogger of the duo, merely snapped photos and dry heaved! I guess I'm pretty lame, after all. Oh well.
Both Dana and I loved Maharlika and hope to return soon for dinner. And cocktails. I am so impressed by their entire service staff and want to applaud the owners for hiring friendly, knowledgable, and passionate employees. Bravo!
Until we eat again,
The Lunch Belle