The second I read the inspiring Serious Eats post about Nicole Ponseca, brains behind Filipino pop-up Maharlika, I wrote her an email to score a table for my mom, my sister and me. As a half Filipino raised in a very American household, I’ve been dying for an excuse to explore the cuisine of the Philippines. I’ve always been stunned by the lack of good Filipino restaurants in the city that is known to be the country’s biggest melting pot, and after reading about Nicole’s dedication to taking on the task of opening one, I knew the food would be soulful, authentic, and delicious.
Unfortunately, after a weekend of gorging ourselves, my mom and I decided to cancel the reservation. Huge mistake, because I finally got a chance to try Maharlika today and was blown away by the experience.
Our reservation was for 11am, quite early for a Sunday, but in retrospect the best possible time considering the crowd in the restaurant steadily grew from that point on. To start, we munched on the complimentary garlic corn nuts which were incredibly addicting.
The menu has about 10 options of well rounded, egg-focused dishes, as well as a standard French Toast for those intimidated by the mention of pork snout and shrimp heads. With garlic rice in mind, I ordered the Ilog Breakfast, which came with rice, a fried egg, cucumber salad and three huge longsilog-longanisa, garlicky pork sausage. Mixed with vinegar and soy sauce, my egg over rice was exactly what I imagined, and the sweet and salty pork sausage made the entire meal complete. I couldn’t get over the amazing flavor combination that brought me right back to home – a sentiment the host mentioned he hears daily.
Though I had enough sausage to last all day, I was with a group of food sharers, so I fortunately was able to try the Eggs Imelda and the Corn Beef Hash as well. The Eggs Imelda, with two huge prawns and spinach, served on top of pandesal, had an incredibly unique seafood flavor with a touch of sweetness from the homemade bread. Though filling, it was well rounded and beautifully presented. The corn beef hash came with a generous portion of meat, two eggs, and a heaping of fried taro and plantain, which were perfect for dipping into the coco jam and guava paste. The coco jam became an obsession at our table – with a deep buttery, burnt caramel flavor, it was an awesome sauce for the pandesal, but would have been even better on top of vanilla ice cream.
corn beef hash
Though modernized, the meal was quintessentially Filipino in execution and flavor complexity – vinegary, salty, sweet, tangy and incredibly delicious. And though we were stuffed by the end of it, we still had room to taste the fried chicken skin – something any fried chicken lover would eat religiously if they could. Who needs potato chips when you have this stuff?
not your typical fried chicken bucket
Our experience at Maharlika was nothing short of amazing – from the food to the service, it’s hard to believe that this place is planning on closing in a few months. Fortunately, they’ll be opening up a new spot in Dekalb, and now that I’m on the mailing list, I’ll be one of the first to know when and where it is! I promise to divulge when I get the inside info.
Definitely come here if you want a unique and unforgettable brunch experience – but be sure to book far in advance and confirm with the reservationist via email.
Location: 351 E 12th St btwn 1st and 2nd ave