Help me out here: why is it that the Philippines is spelled the way it is, but a person from the Philippines is a Filipino? Why change the “Ph” to an “F”? Why drop the extra “p”? Is somebody from Philadelphia called a Filadelfian? Is a guy from Frankfurt called a Phrankphurter? Then why is somebody from the Philippines called a Filipino? I don’t get it.
In other news, I ate at Ihawan 2 in Long Island City, which is a slick-looking cousin to the legendary Philippino (er, sorry… Filipino) place in Woodside, Queens. The original Ihawan is a classic, rough-around-the-edges NYC dive with great food and not-too-refined ambiance and service. Ihawan 2, oddly enough, is an uber-modern, trendy-looking place that bears almost no resemblance to the original. And it serves sushi, for f*ck’s sake! Ever heard of Filipino sushi? Right.
I was pretty worried that the “copy” of Ihawan wouldn’t work out so well, but we were thrilled with the food. We started with lumpia, crepe-like pancakes stuffed with vegetables (mostly cabbage, carrots, and onions) and topped with a gentle, sweet peanut sauce. For our entrees, we took a shot at two national dishes of the Philippines: adobo and lechon (roast pig).
I’m no expert on
Philippino phood Filipino food, but we loved all of it. The lumpia ($6.50) was everything you’d want out of a spring roll with a gentle peanut sauce, except that it wasn’t deep-fried, so we could convince ourselves that we were actually eating something healthy. We had no such illusions about our entrees: the adobo ($7.50) consisted of ludicrously tender dark-meat chicken, swimming in a salty brown stew of soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, and pepper… which tastes infinitely better than it sounds.
Our other entrée, paksiw na lechon ($8), was described on the menu as “pork cooked w/soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, and liver sauce.” Liver sauce? I’m not necessarily anti-liver (I have a very large, greenish one, and I like it very much), but liver sauce? I had no idea what I was getting into. Would it actually have a liver-y flavor?
As it turns out, the dish was a little bit on the oily side, but with no hint of organ meat—just wonderfully soft pork with deliciously gooey flaps of skin still on it, coated in a sweet, lightly peppery sauce that tasted strongly of carmelized onions. I can’t say that I’ve eaten many pig livers in my life, but our liver-sauce coated pork was extremely sweet, at least by the standards of meat dishes. Can we then conclude that pig livers taste like candy? (Don’t answer that.)
Although I was leery of Ihawan 2 because of its slick design, I have to admit that it was a really comfortable place. There’s a cute little bar in the front of the restaurant, serving sake, wine (try the organic Chilean Carmenere), and beer. The service was unbelievably good: in addition to being a lovely, friendly individual, our waitress brought me a new napkin and picked up the one I had dropped on the floor—before I even noticed that I’d dropped it. Really, who does that? Especially in a place in NYC where you can get dinner for two (one appetizer, two entrees, a glass of wine, a glass of sake) for a mere $35.93, including tax. Sometimes slick, modern copies of the classics aren’t so bad after all.
1007 50th Avenue, Long Island City
Subway: Vernon-Jackson (7 train)