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Ahoy, Pinoy! Sa Aming Nayon's Home-Style Filipino

Filipino cuisine returns to the East Village

In the 1990s, the East Village was a veritable little Manila. Filipino businesses congregated here, partly because many area hospitals had hired workers from abroad to fill their staffing needs. But over the past decade, many of the old-time Pinoy eateries—like Elvie's Turo-Turo, Krystal's Café, and Pistahan—shuttered, and getting one's fix required riding the No. 7 train to Woodside. Thanks, though, to Sa Aming Nayon (which means "in our hometown")—a new casual spot on First Avenue—home-style Filipino cooking has triumphantly returned to the neighborhood.

You won't encounter the two sparsely decorated dining rooms—each seating about 20 and painted electric red—in Architectural Digest anytime soon. But fear not. Trek to the back patio, where you'll be greeted by a pergola wrapped in verdant foliage and a resplendent selection of potted plants. This tranquil space easily ranks among the city's top restaurant secret gardens. Order a couple of refreshing coconut juices ($2.50)—which come with jellylike slivers of the young fruit—and you've got yourself a little piece of island living. Just pretend the humming of nearby air conditioners is the sound of Pacific waves.

Navigating the vast menu can be tricky for newbies. Some advice: If you're a vegetarian, eat elsewhere. Several salads are meat-free, but they don't add up to dining delight. And bring antacids, since you're bound to consume a plate or two of fried fare. Most of it, like the tasty spring rolls called lumpia Shanghai ($6.95) or the crackling pork belly known as lechon kawali ($7.95), won't cause an immediate heart attack. But steer clear of the pure grease gluts, like the ukoy fritters ($4.95) or the sizzling sisig ($11.95), a pig-head hash served with onions and an egg yolk on a hot plate. Finally, cultivate a love of the funk—the region's cooks have a heavy hand with fermented fish and shrimp paste.

You'll be safe sticking with the house specials, like the Bicol Express ($8.95), a pork-and-shrimp stew basted in coconut milk with a hint of chile, randomly named after a train in the Philippines. Or tuck into chicken inasal ($8.95), breast meat marinated in vinegar, garlic, and lemongrass before being grilled to charred perfection.

Crispy pata ($11.95), or deep-fried pork leg, is a beloved specialty, but your taste buds will be more excited by pata tim ($12.50), in which a glistening, molasses-based sauce coats the hunkering shin. Peel through the layers of bulbous fat—unless you want to turn into Miss Piggy yourself—and you'll relish the fork-tender flesh.

Not ready to claw into mountains of meat? Slurp up sinigang, a tangy, tamarind-based fish soup, chock-full of fresh veggies. Bangus—the best erotically named swimmer ever (a/k/a the milkfish)—is the most traditional preparation. Order it boneless ($13.50), though, or you'll be awkwardly spitting bits of spine into a napkin the whole evening. Ginger whips through the wet rice porridge known as arroz caldo ($5.95)—behold the comfort food you'll crave when you're home sick with a cold.

No meal at Sa Aming Nayon is complete without diving into halo-halo ($5.50)—the frozen, sweet equivalent of kitchen-sink soup. In this refreshingly delicious rendition, crushed ice, evaporated milk, sweet beans, flattened young rice, palm seeds, and jackfruit vie for attention in a large coupe, all topped with a chunky nub of purple yam, a scoop of ice cream, and a square of dulce de leche flan. Over the top? Maybe. But perhaps appropriate for a land where a former first lady, Imelda Marcos, once owned a whopping 2,700 pairs of shoes. Nothing exceeds like excess.

lshockey@villagevoice.com

Check out Fork in the Road at voicefoodblog.com. Follow us on Twitter @ForkintheRoadVV.

 
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10 comments
Mzkwooz
Mzkwooz

oh--and it's pronounced bahng-OOS. It took me a moment to figure out what was erotic about this most ubiquitous of Filipino fishes.

Thanks for the review. Love me some crispy pata and halo-halo.

Ldfine
Ldfine

Lauren please be aware that many phil readers, unlike Liza, find pinoy quite pejorative.....otherwise nice article.

Tran z.

Liza de Guia
Liza de Guia

I'm pinoy. And it felt like someone's mom was cooking it all up in the kitchen. That's what I loved most about the food. No big fuss or frills. Just familiar flavors, spot on and very friendly service. Try the oxtail kare-kare!

niaoren
niaoren

Hello,everyone,sorry take your time a min,show a good fashion stuff

website —— www (vipstores) net —— you can input on your web there,if you

do know how to do,you can click my username and you will come

our company website,maybe you will find something your like,thanks!

Rafe Bartholomew
Rafe Bartholomew

Bicol Express's name isn't totally random. The provinces in Bicol, the Southeastern part of Luzon, are known for cooking with chili. It's like the spicy food capital of the Philippines. The train is a bit more random, although I suppose you could interpret it as eating this spicy dish will carry you back to Bicol.

howard
howard

actually they were super accommodating to me as a vegetarian -- the long bean and squash stewed in coconut milk (without any pork, shrimp or fish sauce) was delicious.

Linlili32
Linlili32

Hello,everyone,sorry take your time a min,show a good fashion stuff

website —— www (vipstores) net —— you can input on your web there,if you

do know how to do,you can click my username and you will come

our company website,maybe you will find something your like,thanks!

Pinoy Baloot
Pinoy Baloot

When the word "Pinoy" was new in the 1970s, a few crusty old right-wing columnists complained. And since it was martial law, when that kind of comment could land the object of criticism in jail, people got careful about using it. But language couldn't be stopped, and even some course titles at the best universities use the word without hesitation today.

bacood
bacood

I don't understand how "pinoy" would be considered disparaging. Unlike the imfamous "n" word, no other culture's lexicon has picked it up as a slanderous slight upon the Philippines, its culture or its people.

However, good read; I'll be sure to try out and support Filipino.

Trisha
Trisha

liza! i was just reading this article and duh of course you commented on it!-trisha b

 
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