Monday, March 21, 2011

Maharlika Filipino Pop Up Brunch

Porktastic sizzling sisig
 Brunch in the East Village is getting hotter - and more global - than ever.

Last week, I raved about Cuban fare at El Cobre. This week we venture off to the Philippines with pop up brunch at Maharlika. Brunch here is a foodie's delight. Culinary adventure? Check. Menu starring P-O-R-K? Check. And beautifully presented, mouthwatering meals? Check again.

Owner Nicole Ponseca dreamed of putting an authentic and winning Filipino restaurant on the Manhattan map. After months of traveling around her native Philippines with chef Miguel Trinidad to develop a home-style menu, the former Saatchi & Saatchi professional took the plunge with a weekend pop up brunch at bistro Leon (she is GM to Leon sister resto Juliette). And the crowds keep coming.

Tocilog tocino - inspired pork in 7 Up

Brunch time feels like a festive afternoon house party. Ponseca's warmth touches everything from the welcoming staff to the comforting aromas wafting through the small, but lively dining room. Your table is already set with delicious local snacks - spicy nagaraya nuts, cornicks, even chicken chicharon.

Don't be surprised if your neck keeps craning as dishes emerge from the kitchen. The food looks gooood! For something typical and hearty, try the sizzling sisig with eggs ($13), a hash of pork ear, cheek and snout cooked three ways, mixed with onions and served with garlic rice. The pork is tender and tasty.

My favorite pork dish was the tocilog tocino ($11), a plate of sliced pork tenderloin, marinated in 7 Up and grilled to crispy, caramely goodness. It's served with a light mixed salad, garlic rice and fried egg. The tocino also comes as a side order ($5). Filipinos love their pork and that means SPAM too, which is featured in the eggs Benigno ($12), along with coconut hollandaise and white sweet potato fries.

Mango stuffed French toast
The mango stuffed French toast ($12) is sheer heaven. Decadent without being cloying, and perfect as a shared dessert.

Here's more good news: Maharlika will be joining Brooklyn's Dekalb Market  in May, and feature quality Filipino foods and Asian condiments.

Maharlika is Sanskrit for 'noble work' and folklore suggests Maharlika was also a fabled princess, inspiring Ponseca in her venture of "noble work...sharing the culture and identity of Filipinos through food." Mission accomplished.

351 E 12th St @ 1st Ave
Saturdays and Sundays, 11am - 3pm
Cash only
Reservations highly recommended at

Maharlika (at Resto Leon) on Urbanspoon


  1. Biggy ups to 7 Up pork. God bless.

  2. I really want to try here, but I don't think they have enough space for a stroller!

    Is it better than Purple Yam?

  3. Hard to say because I haven't been to Purple Yam yet. I would ask Nicole, the owner, when you email a res request. She is incredibly accommodating. Just plan to book way in advance. This place is so in demand now. And deserves it!