Saturday, November 29, 2014

Maharlika

I’ll never fully understand why I chose to use my phone for photos that night, but I apologize in advance for showing you photos that were taken in a too-dark space… I have to share because dinner was really quite tasty, and I can’t stand food posts without photos. (I haven’t decided what’s worse; no photos or bad photos.)

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Hungry, Dessert Zombie and I recently met up to exchange Christmas goodies. We’d talked about Maharlika many times, so it was the obvious choice for dinner… after we sat down, we were quickly brought an array of sauces to mix and match as we pleased, and a small bowl of chicken cracklin’s. Um yes. Fried chicken skin bits… lovely and delicious, especially with a bit of vinegar to cut through the fattiness.

Our server was fantastic, joking with us and appreciative of how much food we ordered.

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Our order of lumpia (Filipino spring rolls) came – super long cigars. I’ve had a decent amount of lumpia in my lifetime. It’s the one Filipino food that I’ve had many times over the years – a few Filipino friends whose parents would make these and send them to parties with containers… just, YES. While these were much longer than I’ve ever seen, they were also some of the best I’ve ever had. Properly fried, but also super, super flavorful and crisp… absolutely delicious. And yet, the perfect amount; occasionally, with a huge platter of the smaller ones in front of me, I will keep eating them until I feel sick. While I still wanted more when I was done, it was just the right amount before I’d get sick. Lovely.

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Spam fries – slices of Spam, battered in an impossibly crisp and light, airy breading – lighter yet greasier than panko – dipped in the calamansi sauce – were great. A little heavy, so while I probably wouldn’t order this again, it was pretty darn tasty. I liked them, anyway.

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We also ordered lechon, crispy fried pork belly… this was good, but I was starting to feel really greasy already. I hit a wall very quickly when it comes to oil/fat (which is how my love of fried foods is balanced by my inability to consume too much of them all at the same time).

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Sizzling sisig – everyone seems to go nuts for this dish, but honestly… I find it only OK at every place I’ve been. I think I just get tired of the flavor very quickly – here, it’s a bunch of offal topped with an egg, then mixed all together quickly. It’s very rich… and my friends love this dish… but I prefer other things generally.

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Like pancit bihon! Thin rice noodles, I’ve had this at a bunch of Filipino restaurants now (I’m always drawn to it on menus for some reason, though the Chinese dish to which I liken this the most [mai fun] is not one of my favorite things, at all). It’s usually fairly bland, to balance the heavy, salty, rich meats that are generally eaten alongside it. However, it was very well seasoned here, and easily the best pancit bihon I’ve ever had. (At other Filipino restaurants, I’m often instructed to season it myself – using liver paste, or any of the innumerable sauces on the tables. My general experience with Filipino food has been that it’s a very customizable, personal meal – much like pho.) I really, really liked the pancit here… I think I even was the one to finish this dish.

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See that bowl on the right? The small wooden bowl (that I wanted to pocket! I love wooden bowls/utensils)… garlic fried rice…. was amazing. You might say, but it’s just rice! well this was really freaking good rice. It was cooked perfectly – fluffy, and entirely scented throughout with garlic. Sweet, sweet fried garlic. I ate a lot of this too – we wound up ordering a second bowl.

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To make our parents proud (and because we all actually enjoy veggies), we got a plate of kang kong, or water spinach (or was it pea shoots? Hungry, Dessert Zombie?). I thought these were OK, definitely not the best I’ve had.

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That night, instead of chicken adobo, they had lamb. So we got that. I am not the biggest fan of adobo style of prep in general, so this was lost on me. It was OK. But Dessert Zombie liked it, as did Hungry.

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Then, because we were celebrating, we got dessert. From right to left: avocado, ube (purple yam), and cheddar cheese. Cheddar cheese was interesting, but just interesting. I wouldn’t get that again. I’ve had both purple yam and avocado ice creams in the past, and these were good versions. Not too sweet, and not overwhelming at all. Perfect end to our great meal.

I really enjoyed the food here. It’s definitely a modern interpretation of Filipino cuisine – with very modern prices. What I paid for my share (1/3 of the bill) would cover the entire meal for three of us – same exact dishes – at the other places I’ve been. However, the location, the modernization, and the great execution with better quality ingredients are all used to justify the higher prices. I’m not saying I wouldn’t go back – but I would probably go to one of the other places a few more times before returning here.

Yum!

Maharlika (at Resto Leon) on Urbanspoon

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Comments

11 Responses to “Maharlika”
  1. Corinne Flax says:

    Wow those Lumpia look amazing. Cheddar Cheese ice cream? Sounds…good?

  2. Ahu says:

    Wow I’ve never seen lumpia like that! I have to bookmark this place!

  3. hungry says:

    That was water spinach.

    I really enjoyed the food here. I haven’t had much Filipino food in my life but have thoroughly enjoyed the food here. As you said, I think it was well executed and wouldn’t mind paying the premium price.

  4. Dessert Zombie says:

    The lumpia cigars and chicken cracklings were an awesome start. I would’ve been pleased eating both while drinking cold beers and sports!

    I enjoyed the lamb adobo (still a fan of chicken instead), crispy skinned lechon and garlic fried rice. The quality of the food was very good overall. I would go back but more for a celebratory/ rare occasion. Otherwise, plenty of other non-Modern/ inexpensive Filipino options in my hood or even Krystal’s Cafe 81 which is around the corner to Maharlika.

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