Don’t tell me you have avoided a restaurant just by the was the outside appears? Because I sure have.
Growing up I had the immense privilege of dining at nice restaurants. This was because one grandfather had been in the restaurant business and the rest of my family was relatively interested in exploring new places.
We had our fair share of cafes and delis but not without significant research. The one thing I admit we didn’t do was move off the known track of dining options and explore the more hole-in-the-wall joints. (*Granted, there is a lot of research that goes into the selection of restaurants and my dad did an awesome job.)
The other day of was coming home from an impromptu gala with one of my friends. She’s living the NY dream by exploring something new each day or at least each week; thriving off the nightly dance scene, living off coffee, and never (rarely) visiting the same place twice. it was nearing 9 o’clock and we were both ravenous. The Quest bar I had eaten around 6 was decent but not really satisfactory for dinner.
She recommended a Filipino restaurant that she had walked past before and read solid reviews about. Always up for a challenge and adventure, I agreed and we set off. As we walked up, I was a little skeptical. I admit that I have a problem judging some things by appearance and wasn’t sure what a relatively plain looking and somewhat underwhelming sign would lead to. Oh boy was I mistaken. The moment you walked though the door it was like you a were transported to a restaurant in the tropics or Costa Rica (my only point of reference) with the smell of something rich and flavorful filling your nostrils. The premise was upscaled and revamped Philippine street food.
There’s a sister restaurant (Maharlika) that focuses on more authentic Filipino cuisine as well. We were seated with menus and then one of the hosts (although “host” sounds a bit uppity for this place – we’ll go with locals) dressed in an Aloha shirt came over to sell us on the menu. The way he spoke about each item was as if it was his own precious creation.
NOODLES ~ KALAMANSI ~ PANCIT ~ CHICHARON
We even had the option to have a whole fish – head and all (that one turned me off a bit…still recovering from rabbit and octopus paella two years ago in Barcelona) The minute I read ribs, there was no turning back.
I listened enthusiastically to the rest of the menu but knew I had decided. I also selected their take on sweet potato fries and salivate as I saw other customers orders waft in front of us.
We asked for extra sides of the famous banana ketchup – their take on the American classic, which is truly just banana died red with a bit of seasoning. The way one local explained it was that ketchup is such an American item that Filipinos looked to replicate it at home. I guess banana was the way to go. Sorry Mr Heinz. Everything was cooked to perfection. The ribs melted off the bone and I practically licked my plate clean.
Carmen’s burger looked divine and we bother savored our sweet potato fries, which had also been crisp and flavorful. By the time we had cleared our plates, I was ready for bed. But the question of dessert arose and after hearing their verbal menu, I knew I could make room for a few more bites. Now the epic sundae of fresh fruit and ube ice cream had to be left for another date – maybe after a long run when we could pair it with bottomless mimosas. No, no sundae or flan for us, but rather a single scoop of ube ice cream, as recommended by the house and my friend back home. No regrets here.
So there are two types of travelers – those who research and those who fly by the seat of their pants. Honestly I’m surprised I’m not more of the latter. But, like everything else in life, a little dabble in everything and moderation does the soul wonders.