2011-03-02 / Restaurant of the Week


Most people don't know very much about the history, culture and cuisine of the Philippines, a single country made up of hundreds of islands, shaped by several civilizations. Three centuries of Spanish rule helped create the unique cuisine of this south Asian country along with Chinese, Malay and Indian influences. Even the Vega Family, who opened Philippu, is a mix of Philippino and Puerto Rican heritages, and they are happy to welcome you to try their multi-cultural dishes. Philippu Restaurant is conveniently located on the corner of 31st Avenue and 21st Street in Astoria and is open seven days a week, for lunch and dinner. The facade of glass doors allows you to see the warm, exposed brick walls and tidy tables covered in crisp, white linens. You will feel very welcome here as Steven and the staff describe the dishes and help you decide what to order.

We started with a platter of crispy mini eggrolls called the Shanghai that are filled with ground pork and vegetables,

accompanied by tangy dipping sauce. We also tried the extra crunchy fried calamari as well as crispy shrimp, all served with sweet and pungent dipping sauce ($8). The generous portions are perfect for sharing, something that is part of the country's customs. On a cold night, a steaming bowl of sinigang, or tamarind soup, will warm you up with its vibrant vegetables and your choice of pork, beef, fish or shrimp. The broth is clear and bright with the flavor of lemon grass, one of my favorite Asian herbs.

Philippino cuisine relies equally on fish, pork and chicken and you'll find your favorite here. Sweet and sour fish Escabeche, an impressive dish, is a whole tilapia fish gently deep fried until golden and crispy, then topped with a tropical sweet and sour sauce scented with lemon grass and red peppers. The fish was so flaky and moist. The sauce was excellent on the rice that accompanies most dishes here ($12). Adobo is one of the most authentic dishes and is reflective of their Spanish influence. A combination of herbs is used to marinate either chicken or pork and cooked slowly until the meat practically shreds. Pile this onto yellow or white rice and let the soy and vinegar sauce soak in for a tasty treat ($8.50). Lechon is a classic meal of slow-roasted pork that melts in your mouth and is meant to share among families.

There are some noodle dishes that reflect the Asian influences. Steven Vega recommended bihon, or rice stick noodles, thin and tender, sautéed with shimp, pork or chicken. Palabok are rice noodles and Canton and egg noodles, all made to order with shrimp, pork or chicken. Cellophane noodles can also be ordered with shrimp, chicken or vegetables. Soon, they'll be introducing Caribbean dishes as well, such as rice and beans, shrimp with garlic and tostones to please the Latin palate.

Finish your flavorful meal with cool, creamy flan custard, caramel flan or the special dessert of the day. A variety of fruit juices and soft drinks is available, or bring your own wine or beer. Philippu is open seven days a week from 11am to 10pm (midnight on weekends). They will deliver to your home or office and can cater for your next event. To get there by train, take the N or Q to either Broadway or 30th Avenue and walk to 21st St. For cuisine as unique as New York, visit Philippu!

31-01 21st Street, Astoria


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