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New Filipino restaurant: Pistahan

wanderjahr Apr 19, 2007 06:30 AM

From the NY Times:

A Serving of Kalderetang, and a Guy to Explain It
Don Hogan Charles/The New York Times

Published: April 18, 2007

Pistahan, 229 First Avenue (14th Street), is a friendly newcomer to a part of town that already has a few examples of its Filipino cuisine, a blend of Latino and Southeast Asian. This spot, whose name means festival, has a counter crammed with dishes like kalderetang, beef stewed in brown sauce, and binagoongan, vegetables in a thick sauce. All are sold to go, around $5 a pint, or to eat at a few cafe tables.

The owners, including Rodil Santos, will patiently explain the dishes, but some need no introduction, like lechón, roast pork with a tangy sauce. A separate counter is filled with desserts like flan and cassava cake: (212) 228-9000.

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  1. Uptownflavor RE: wanderjahr Apr 19, 2007 08:07 AM

    Personally my favorites are staples like pancit and lumpia. If I could get a nice plate of those two that aren't too greasy and are full of flavor I'll be sold.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Uptownflavor
      chamorrofoodie RE: Uptownflavor Apr 19, 2007 08:51 AM

      I agree. I tend to prefer Filipino staples. Besides this new place, can anyone recommend other Filipino places in the city?

      1. re: chamorrofoodie
        Brian S RE: chamorrofoodie Apr 19, 2007 08:54 AM

        I always like Renee's in Queens http://www.chowhound.com/topics/247324 and there are others nearby. But it's nice to have one closer to home. There have been other restos in this East Village area serving the Filipino doctors and nurses who work at nearby hospitals.

        1. re: chamorrofoodie
          delikado RE: chamorrofoodie Apr 19, 2007 09:16 AM

          Bayan Cafe on 45th between 2nd and 3rd is pretty good if you're in that area. They do the standards well, and I particularly like their lengua, crispy pata and chicharon bulaklak.

          1. re: chamorrofoodie
            wanderjahr RE: chamorrofoodie Apr 19, 2007 12:10 PM

            Kuma Inn
            113 Ludlow St, 2nd Fl, New York 10002
            Btwn Delancey & Rivington St
            Phone: 212-353-8866
            (It's more Thai and Filipino tapas style stuff than real Filipino food)

            45 Mercer St, New York 10013
            Btwn Broome & Grand St
            Phone: 212-343-9012
            Fax: 212-343-9670

            47 7th Ave, New York 10014
            Btwn Bleecker & Morton St
            Phone: 212-255-2848
            Fax: 212-645-5321

            Elvie's turo-turo
            214 1st Ave, New York 10009
            Btwn 12th & 13th St
            Phone: 212-473-7785
            Fax: 212-254-5683
            Krystal's Cafe
            171 1st Ave, New York 10003
            Btwn 10th & 11th St
            Phone: 212-614-8080
            Fax: 212-614-8165

            Grill 21
            346 E 21st St, New York 10010
            Btwn 1st & 2nd Ave
            Phone: 212-473-5950
            Fax: 212-387-8515

        2. bokkyo RE: wanderjahr May 23, 2007 08:08 PM

          Do they really have lechon, as in, the whole suckling pig? (Picture below from Barbeque Pit in Bergenfield, NJ) If they have it, I'm there tomorrow.

          4 Replies
          1. re: bokkyo
            Brian S RE: bokkyo May 24, 2007 09:20 AM

            There are places in Spanish Harlem that serve Puerto Rican versions of this. Also in the Bronx, and here's one just discovered (South American) in Queens. http://www.chowhound.com/topics/403131 There used to be a little Filipino place in Queens that would provide lechons for catered parties, but it closed.

            1. re: Brian S
              bokkyo RE: Brian S May 24, 2007 11:26 AM

              Turns out they don't have "lechon" but "lechon kawali,' i.e. deep fried pork belly.

              1. re: Brian S
                wleatherette RE: Brian S Sep 4, 2007 01:51 PM

                the lechona mentioned in that thread is seriously delicious.

              2. re: bokkyo
                foodwhisperer RE: bokkyo Sep 16, 2007 06:25 PM

                For roast suckling pig try an Austrian version at Blau Gans in Tribeca it's amazing

              3. Sam Fujisaka RE: wanderjahr May 23, 2007 08:15 PM

                Kalderetang? Kalderata ng kambing or...? Binagoongan or dinagooang?

                1. p
                  Pan RE: wanderjahr May 24, 2007 12:38 AM

                  How is the place? Any of you actually tried it? If not, I may go and be the first.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Pan
                    bokkyo RE: Pan May 24, 2007 11:23 AM

                    Just got back from Pistahan, I'll post a report tonight... I just forgot to bring my camera's USB cable so can't upload pics until later.

                  2. bokkyo RE: wanderjahr May 25, 2007 08:43 AM

                    Visiting Pistahan for lunch yesterday, I was greeted by the owner (seated below right, second picture) and we spoke a bit about Filipino restaurants in the area. Although the NYT review mentioned a counter with prepared dishes, it appears that's been removed and food is now cooked to order.

                    For some chowfolk, their "reference" Filipino dish might be Pork or Chicken Adobo but, for me, it's Dinuguan (pork blood stew, see third picture), i.e. I think if a restaurant can get it right, then most other dishes should be okay. Pistahan's version is very good-- you can "shred" that pepper to taste and the dish is good for two. The owner explained that it's difficult to please everyone with this dish depending mostly, he says, on the amount of vinegar. That said I've had this dish on most Filipino restaurants (except Bayan Cafe and Cendrillon) and think it's proabably the best version, at least, in Manhattan.

                    A couple in the table beside me were having Crispy Pata. I asked if I could take a picture before they dug in and they agreed (picture 4).

                    Thumbs up for Pistahan!

                    8 Replies
                    1. re: bokkyo
                      Uptownflavor RE: bokkyo May 25, 2007 04:11 PM

                      Cool review! I will have to wander over that way one day fro lunch. Do you have their weekend hours?

                      1. re: Uptownflavor
                        bokkyo RE: Uptownflavor May 25, 2007 08:34 PM

                        Thanks Uptownflavor! According to menupages their business hours are:
                        Monday-Sunday: 11am-10pm.

                      2. re: bokkyo
                        bokkyo RE: bokkyo May 29, 2007 05:19 PM

                        After this meat-heavy weekend, I dragged my office chow-buddy Xianjin to Pistahan for a fish-only lunch today. We had the Inihaw na Bangus (grilled boneless Milkfish with tomatoes) and Inihaw na Tilapia (grilled Tilapia) both wrapped in banana leaves.

                        The milkfish was excellent but the Tilapia, wow, this was a dish to transport its eater. Buttery fresh, the banana leaf does a great job to keep the flesh from drying out and retains its flavor. Highly recommended!

                        1. re: bokkyo
                          Pan RE: bokkyo May 30, 2007 12:39 AM

                          Thanks for the report and the photos, bokkyo! I'll definitely check the place out soon.

                          1. re: bokkyo
                            Brian S RE: bokkyo May 30, 2007 10:09 AM

                            That looks great. My favorite place is Renee's in Queens but they don't do a good inihaw na Bangus so this place is definitely worth bearing in mind.

                            1. re: bokkyo
                              bokkyo RE: bokkyo Oct 8, 2007 11:19 AM

                              During the past few months, I've gone back to Pistahan a few times but every time was a disappointment. I've held back writing about this because the first few occasions I dined there, it was always a great experience. By now, I know what makes the restaurant such a letdown. In short-- if Rodil (the owner, see picture above) isn't cooking, fuggedaboudit.

                              Here's what happened to me twice, with that favorite dish, Tilapia wrapped in banana leaf (and both times Rodil wasn't there): one time the fish came wrapped in cabbage! I looked at the waitress to see if this was some kinda joke, then pointed it out to her. Her reply, sorry, we ran out of banana leaves. I said, "you should've mentioned that before I ordered." She gave a couldn't care less kinda shrug.

                              A few weeks later, I ordered the same thing-- this time the Tilapia came wrapped with banana leaves but it was wrapped the same way you'd wrap a piece of spam with a slice of bread, in other words, the cook (who was the same from last time and is, I believe, a partner in the restaurant), has absolutely no idea why the fish has to be wrapped completely in the first place. My heart sunk. This was truly low and I must say, it pains me the same way it used to hurt whenever I visited the (now closed) Krystal's in the same street and see Christmas decorations hanging from the ceiling all year round. C'mon folks, get your act together. You're not in that shabby carinderia in Paco for Christ's sake. End of rant.

                              Well almost. Last week I returned yet again to give Pistahan a last chance. Went with a couple lunch buddies, I had "bulalo" (or osso buco, if you will), my buddies had cardboard cut into swordfish shapes. So consider this a goodbye, Pistahan, I had high hopes for you.

                              And for the record, I am Filipino.

                              1. re: bokkyo
                                Sam Fujisaka RE: bokkyo May 9, 2008 01:04 PM

                                The cook has obviously nevr been to Batangas if the frist photo is supposed to be bulalo!

                            2. re: bokkyo
                              mrnyc RE: bokkyo May 30, 2007 06:13 PM

                              ooooh. i must have the pork blood stew w/vinegar and the pata. just not all at once! excellent post -- thanks.

                            3. Sam Fujisaka RE: wanderjahr May 25, 2007 08:51 PM

                              Puwede magtanong ulit? Was the kalderetang actually kaldereta ng kambing? Was it dinagooang on the menu? Maraming salamat po.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Sam Fujisaka
                                JungMann RE: Sam Fujisaka Sep 4, 2007 07:24 AM

                                The waitress gave me the impression they had dinagooang "off menu." I did not order the kaldereta, as I was only popping in for a quick bite; but I can attest that the dinuguan was simply the best I've had in the city. I also use dinuguan as a marker and if it is this tangy and flavorful, I can only imagine how delicious the other dishes must be. Thick, adequately sour and topped with pieces of lechon kawali, it far surpassed even my Lola's!

                                While Elvie's sat empty, Pistahan was brimming with a full house, including 4 girls (with non-Filipino friends) squealing with delight over their ube, a man who was audibly moaning while eating maja blanca and a lively party of 7 which ordered nearly the entire menu! I can't wait to go back and try the rest of the menu!

                              2. z
                                zEli173 RE: wanderjahr May 30, 2007 04:41 PM

                                Looks really good. Gonna try to hit it up sometime soon.

                                1. JungMann RE: wanderjahr May 9, 2008 12:48 PM

                                  Sadly one of the best and only places to try authentic Filipino food in Manhattan is going to close. While Chef Santos had some really amazing WOW moments, especially with the moist, banana leaf-wrapped tilapia or the tart and piquant dinuguan bedecked with unctuous shards of crispy pork belly, his weekday chef just did not compare.

                                  Apparently Ray will be cooking every Sunday until he finds a buyer to convert the space, so I know exactly where I will be every Sunday until Pistahan is gone: savoring every last bite of one of Manhattan's most underrepresented cuisines.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: JungMann
                                    Sam Fujisaka RE: JungMann May 9, 2008 01:05 PM

                                    Hey, did you end up cooking bulalo?

                                    1. re: Sam Fujisaka
                                      JungMann RE: Sam Fujisaka May 9, 2008 01:16 PM

                                      Sadly, no. It got freakishly hot in NYC overnight, so I lost the taste for soup. How I thought pernil would be more conducive to dealing with the heat, I don't know. But I am keeping your recipe close by for reference next time shanks are on sale. It sounds like exactly the kind of healthy yet delicious food I should be eating after a week of pork shoulder!

                                  2. f
                                    foodwhisperer RE: wanderjahr May 9, 2008 04:55 PM

                                    the lechon calawe is really good at Pistahon, the kare kare is good but you have to ask for the shrimp paste with it.

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