Christine was the first foodie I met way back in 2007 before I knew anything about food. I remember the casual potlucks at her apartment where she would cook elevated dishes that nobody appreciated at the time (like cauliflower puree) since her friends' college diets consisted of Popeye's and Chinatown porkchop over rice.
Her Brooklyn apartment was nicer than the closet-sized "apartments" of my other friends and had a proper kitchen with utensils, All-Clad pans, and fancy things like bottles of balsamic vinegar glaze. Lastly, I enjoyed hearing her talk about her favorite restaurants and what places to avoid. We lost touch for a few years but recently reconnected last December when we organized a Scrumphsus Supper at Jeepney, a Filipino gastropub located in the East Village.
I had dined at Jeepney and the sister restaurant, Maharlika a few times in the past few years but our group was there for something special - Kamayan Night, a family style feast where you get to chow down on two appetizers and three entrees that you have pre-ordered a week in advance.
Picture this: You walk into Jeepney and your eyes take a moment to adjust to the dark interior. The first thing that hits you is a heady aroma of sweet and sour. It smells like a home-cooked meal at your auntie’s house. You grab a refreshing drink from the bar and turn to your left. There is a long wooden table covered in banana leaves. Servers are gently spooning mounds of fluffy rice and arranging trays of dipping sauces.
Next, a small fort of crispy spring rolls known as Lumpiang Shanghai (beef/pork, carrots, chestnuts, Xiao Xing rice wine, rice paper) and a heaping of Jeprox Salad (jeprox, cucumber, tomato mélange, snow peas, bean sprouts, red onions, dilis, bagoong guisado, and anchovy dressing).
Sauteed bok choy on top of the Adobong Hipon (head-on shrimp sautéed in garlic, ginger, vinegar, and bay leaf) and The Defeated Chicken (half roasted chicken with adobo sauce).
My favorite hands down was the Bicol Express (slow-roasted pork shoulder in coconut milk, sili and bagoong with vigan longganisa). The pork shoulder melted in your mouth and had a nice flavor. The longganisa, Filipino sausage, had garlicky and sour notes and a smoky, pungent aroma.
It was sensory overload for everyone involved. Standing there and watching them stack everything in layers required infinite willpower to not go up to the table and grab a sausage.
The combination of aromas from the varying dishes teased us before we even sat down. Our stomachs were grumbling during the explanation from our server and we wanted it to be over, sort of like how you want to fast forward the airline safety announcement before takeoff.
“Any other questions?” asked our server.
“Um, where are the utensils? We are ready to go,” inquired Aldous.
The server smiled. “Oh, Kamayan means ‘eating with your bare hands’. Your hands are your utensils.”
Our group murmured a collective “ohhhhh” as we tore into anything and everything in front of us.
A fistful of bok choy down the gullet, followed by a knuckle of jasmine rice to balance out the chunk of savory sausage that somehow made it into my mouth. After defeating The Defeated Chicken for thirty straight seconds, I looked around. Everyone was smiling, laughing, and having a great time. Christine and her boyfriend Mark were a little hesitant at first while getting used to the sensation of having sticky rice all over their fingers and shrimp juice running down their arms.
Conversely, Claudine, who is of Jamaican descent, has been eating with her hands her whole life. She looked the most comfortable out of all of us, for sure.
The one unifying sentiment: everything was delicious. Even the dessert was awesome. They set down a giant goblet of Halo-Halo, a shaved iced dessert topped with sweet red bean, fruit jellies, and ube ice cream.
Somehow, we all had second stomachs ready to fit the dessert, a refreshing way to end one of the most entertaining meals I've had in NYC.
Great for groups: You'll need a minimum of 4. My group of 8 was comfortable. Call 212-533-4121 to make a reservation on Wed and Thurs nights. $40/pp plus tax and gratuity. Beverage pairings are also available.
Get: Definitely the pork shoulder with the sausages. I'd skip the chicken as it was a tad dry and not as "melt off the bone" as the pork shoulder. If I were to do it again, I'd keep the same menu but switch out the chicken for the fish or the crab.
Casual ambiance: You can’t help but have a good time. Rockin’ playlist from Mariah to John Legend to NSync and solid cocktails = dance party.