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Apr 19, 2007 06:30 AM

New Filipino restaurant: Pistahan

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. 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

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

      1. re: chamorrofoodie

        I always like Renee's in Queens 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

          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

            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. 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

            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. There used to be a little Filipino place in Queens that would provide lechons for catered parties, but it closed.

            1. re: Brian S

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

              1. re: Brian S

                the lechona mentioned in that thread is seriously delicious.

              2. re: bokkyo

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

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

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

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Pan

                    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. 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

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

                      1. re: Uptownflavor

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

                      2. re: bokkyo

                        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

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

                          1. re: bokkyo

                            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

                              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

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

                            2. re: bokkyo

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