Filipino food is a melting pot of different cuisines. Having been colonized by multiple countries and having served as a former point of entry into the Far East, the Philippines has incorporated Spanish, Chinese, and American influence into its food. My friend, who is Filipino, tells me that the combination of sweet and salty on one plate is characteristic of Filipino food. Knowing that everyone that day was a Filipino-food virgin, she took us to one of her favorite joints: Maharlika.
Maharlika has an interesting blend of old-style yet modern décor. It also does a Filipino-inspired brunch. One thing to note, though, is that everyone in your party has to be present in order for you to be seated. So if you have a large group and made reservations like we did, be prepared to pester any late sleepers. The waiter sounded extremely robotic and scripted, and he offered to clarify anything, as the menu has a lot of Tagalog. We preferred to use our Filipino friend as a translator.
She ordered the Longsilong Breakfast ($12), which comes with garlic rice, a sunny side up egg, and sausages. Apparently, in the Philippines you are supposed to use your spoon as a knife. Only my Filipino friend managed to do this successfully. The rest of us just created piles of mash on our plates. I felt this dish was on the expensive side given its complexity.
Someone else ordered the Mango Stuffed French Toast ($13), which comes with fruit and young coconut jam. I liked how the French toast was made with thick pieces of bread – that way you get crunchy yet fluffy bites. My friend noted, though, that he definitely got some bites that were extremely bitter. After I tried a bite, we both agreed that the French toast had been overcooked and the bitterness came from the charring. The bitter taste was unfortunate because the young coconut jam, which has slivers of coconut, gave the dish a unique extra depth.
Two people ordered the Barrio Breakfast ($13). It comes with two eggs cooked to your preference, a bread roll called pandesal, corned beef hash, kamote home fries, and a small salad. The bread roll, despite having salt in its name, was actually slightly sweet. The best part of the dish, though, was the kamote home fries. Those potatoes were cooked to perfection, with each uniformly cooked to that happy state between crispy and soft. Not sure why, but they both didn’t eat their salad.
Two more people ordered the Eggs Benigno ($13). It’s a Filipino take on eggs benedict, except instead of English muffins and ham there is pandesal and Spam. The sauce was also a kalamansi hollandaise – kalamansi is a type of citrus fruit that looks like a mandarin orange but is stronger than a lemon. It’s apparently very common in Filipino cooking. We didn’t taste too much of a difference in the hollandaise, though. The poached eggs were slightly overcooked. They didn’t have a fully cooked center, but they weren’t runny either.
I ordered the Flip’D Chicken and Ube Waffle ($17), the Filipino take on chicken and waffles. You might be wondering why a Southern staple is on the menu of a Filipino restaurant; I suspect it’s because of the sweet-salty combo. The dish comes with two fried chicken pieces, a purple yam waffle, compound anchovy-bagoong butter, and caramelized macapuno syrup. I loved the crispy skin on the chicken, but one piece was a bit undercooked. The meat near the bone was slightly pink, indicating that the chicken could have used some more cooking time. The purple yam waffle was good, and its chewiness made me think that it was made with tapioca flour. The syrup was addicting and had a maple flavor. Macapuno is a type of coconut that has a soft flesh. Pure macapuno is supposedly hard to find, as the variety is rare.
In addition, we were each given a small sauce-dish of garlic-infused vinegar. We all agreed it was too strong and didn’t dip any of our food into it.
Overall, Maharlika is a solid choice if you want Filipino food; there’s a good mix of traditional and modern dishes. The restaurant gets points for successfully putting Filipino twists on traditional brunch fare, but I ended up giving it a lower score due to inconsistency of the execution of the food and the uneven price/quality ratio for some of the dishes.
111 1st Avenue
New York, NY 10003
Brunch and Lunch Hours
Monday – Sunday 11:00 am – 3:30 pm