Jeepney: Making Filipino food ubiquitous in NYC

By Don Tagala, ABS CBN North America Bureau

July 4, 2013

New York – A restaurant in Manhattan is a living showcase of one of the ties that bind the Philippines and America: food. Thursday night is ‘kamayan night’ at Jeepney, a Filipino gastropub brought by the creators of the hit Filipino restaurant ‘Maharlika.’

The Filipino owners behind these successful Pinoy eats are making Filipino food in New York as ubiquitous as the jeepneys of Manila.

“As a Filipino American I grew up having my American friends over at my house and when I was 5, I would beg my dad not to eat with his hands when they’re there,” recalled Jeepney owner Nicole Ponseca, “now I’m so thankful that my dad made me remember that I’m Filipino.”

With a minimum party of four, foodies experience the real deal in dining Filipino style without plates nor silverware. Guests eat with their bare hands and before they’re seated, a maharlikan crew meticulously builds a foodscape of one’s favorite “ulam” on top of a mountain of rice served on banana leaves.

The food extravaganza comes with lumpiang shanghai as appetizers, huge portions of longganisa, tocino, bicol express, chicharon bulaklak, and dampa fry on white rice.

“It’s really good, I’m really enjoying it,” diner Arnev Mukherjee said.

“I love it, the food is really delicious, this vinegar stuff is really great, i’m eating with my hands, it’s awesome,” another diner, Anthony Germinario Teaneck said.

Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop said he’s not Filipino but he considers Filipino food as comfort food.

“We have a terrific Filipino community in Jersey City. I’ve had a tremendous amount of Filipino food in my life though I’ve never had this sort of kamayan,” he said, “it’s a new experience, the food was delicious, it’s a little bit more messy than I’m used to.”

“It felt very natural, it’s like being home,” Jersey City council president Rolando Lavarro said.

A Zagat restaurant reviewer said it’s the best thing they ate that night.

New York Times said, dinner at Jeepney felt more like parachuting into Manila.

“It’s something to be proud of that you’re a Filipino, na the mainstream is already accepting who we are, what we are and what we eat,” Jersey City resident Helen Castillo said.

Time Out New York wrote that for all their work spreading the word about the country’s food culture, the Philippine government ought to pay these restaurant owners a stipend.

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