JeepneyNYC is a gastropub in the East Village. “It’s a bit of a walk from Union Square, but close to the L,” friends told me.
By definition, a gastropub is a bar that serves meals. The bright yellow sign is loud. There is a chalkboard on the front with a Tagalog word on it. Words like “halo-halo” (a shaved ice dessert) are painted on the windows. At 4:30 p.m. on a Friday, I peeked through the curtains over the door. Nicole Ponseca, owner, was at the bar. She shouted, “Hello, come in!”
The elite image of an upscale gastropub is watered down by a “beer garden” atmosphere in JeepneyNYC. Nude photos of Filipinas who posed for Playboy (from the ‘80s) line the walls. Avert your eyes, Lolo, or else Lola will whack you with a copy of Playboy from the shelves for staring.
Inside the narrow alleyway-shaped eatery, the Filipino fixtures are catching: the giant “fork and spoon” on the wall, the sungka game set, the wooden naked lady in a barrel. The bar is stacked with San Miguel beer and the word “Sarap” (delicious) is on the wall.
Our order arrived in 15 minutes, piping hot. The servers knew how to explain ingredients. The waiter wailed, “Baluuuuut!” (duck’s egg with embryo) as he brought my order. When I cracked open the shell, sipped the warm, salty broth, I saw it was penoy (without embryo). This was a hybrid made in Long Island, Chef Migs Trinidad, from the Dominican Republic, told me. I like balut, but $4 is high for duck’s egg street food.
Pancit palabok negra: The huge bowl of noodles was smothered in black squid ink, topped with shrimp, egg, lemon, calamari, oysters, tinapa (smoked fish), tofu and chicharon (crushed pork rinds). It would have been delightful, but the flavor was too fishy. Price $17/ double $27.
The spicy Filipino bangers and mash was a fiery embutido (meat roll) with a vibrant red sauce of kamote (sweet potato) puree. This was suggested by friends, who were not Pinoys. Price: $16/$24.
We took home the Pampangan suman, tamales shaped in sticky rice logs with a prawn stuffing. The bold spin was unique, but lacked the milky textures from the Kapampangan tamales I knew. Price was $10 for one/ $19 for 2.
Beverages were “an interesting drink selection” from customers who said they’d be back if only for the drinks. Bar manager, Tomas de los Reyes, said, “Right now we serve beer and wine.” The “Cubao X” is a hit. It has lager, Tang powdered juice, orgeat, black walnut bitters. Price $8/32.
JeepneyNYC serves Filipino dishes with a spin. Don’t expect your mom’s cooking. You’ll be transported to an extremely different palate. The good news is they’re putting Pinoy food in the spotlight. But I hope first-timers realize the real flavors are not here.
Kamayan nights are Thursdays. You eat with bare hands, no utensils. Food is laid out a la dampa--family style on banana leaves.
Do you need reservations? I was confused. I called a day before. The female hostess said, “No need to reserve for just two. “ I called the day of, and the male voice brusquely said, “Sorry, we’re booked till 10 p.m.” I begged, “Can I just sit at the bar?” His brash answer, “First come, first served at the bar. Come at your own risk.”
I suggest you do the same when you go to Jeepney NYC : “Come at your own risk!”
Pig and Khao
Pig and Khao, on the Lower East Side, is a vibrant neighborhood restaurant offering both Filipino and Thai dishes.
Chef Leah Cohen, who is half-Filipina, is at the helm with her youthful crew of Filipino line cooks. Recently named on the StarChefs Rising Stars New York List, and rated two stars by the New York Times, this Filipino-Thai eatery also serves brunch.
Pork dominates the menu filled with sizzling, spicy entrees. Filipino food gets fiery and non-traditional here. Flavors are adventurously Asian, but not representative of our home-cooking. You’ll have a lively time though.
What we had:
Longganisa sausage--a whole piece sliced, with a sunny side egg, tomato/cucumber salad. This is a salty version, like the Chinese chorizo. Rice is an extra side order. The portion is meager if you’re hungry ($12).
Sizzling corned beef hash--fiery hot crisp cubes on a sizzling steak plate with a raw egg, spicy Thai chili and ginger flavors mixed in. They make their own corned beef, brined in-house, then chopped and deep-fried. This was a popular item among the predominantly non-Pinoy customers ($13).
There is a small open kitchen, long tables and a patio in the back for more room. There’s a choice of beers–Asahi, and San Miguel from the Philippines. Brunch customers can have bottomless mimosas at $15.
If you come for dinner, the favorites are: Curry rice salad with minced pork (Thai-inspired), grilled pork jowls sisig, crispy pata pork leg, mussels with sausage, crispy rice salad.
Reservations are efficient. It was my second visit and third time to reschedule. They happily obliged. You get energized by the hip, young feeling. The plastic serving plates and cardboard menus give a “working class” appeal to the youthful diners. Even if tables in the tiny room are tightly nestled next to each other, service is stamped with the Filipino eagerness to please.
Be bold enough for the Filipino dishes made untraditional, though.
68 Clinton St., New York, NY 10002
Near Rivington St. 212-920-4485 *Near subway stops: F at Delancey St.; J, M, Z at Essex st.
Price Range: Appetizers : $6 to $8 ; Entrees $ 22 to $28 *Major credit cards accepted
Elizabeth Ann Quirino, based in New Jersey, is a journalist, food writer and member of the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP). She blogs about Filipino home cooking and culinary travels to the Philippines on her site AsianInAmericamag.com.