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Oct 18, 2010 07:03 AM

Mama Meena's Family Restaurant - Woodhaven, Queens

Mama Meena's Family Restaurant
94-20 Jamaica Ave
Woodhaven, NY 11421

Had a really terrific lunch here on Saturday afternoon.. I have had only a few experiences with Filipino Food and they all have been enjoyable.. However, this restaurant has gone above and beyond my perceptions.

Sisig-We started with a wonderful rendition of a classic Filipino dish.. Sisig.. Basically, parts of the pigs head, a little liver, but mainly ears, marinated with a strong soy sauce flavor.. They are then chopped fine and served on a sizzling cast iron Fajita dish.. As we sat there listening to the sizzling and the crisping of the meat, our server then cracked an egg in the middle of the dish.. Then we mixed it up and allowed the other side of the meat to crisp and for the egg to cook.. This dish was terrific.. Mixed with some rice, there was something so comforting about the dish..

Beef Soup-Next up, upon the waiters suggestion, we ordered this.. The dish had a super dark and clean tasting beef broth.. Served in the soup was cabbage, bone marrow, and chunks of beef. Soup was very good and enough for three or 4 people.. The beef went well with a spicy vinegar sauce they served on the side..

Crispy Pork Belly- Lastly, we ordered crispy pork belly served with a liver sauce on the side.. The pork belly was just fantastic.. Perfectly crisp, a very large portion, and the accompanying liver sauce somehow brightened and lightened the dish? How this is possible, I do not know..

As we were sitting there drinking our beers that we purchased from the Bodega next door, we watched many dishes whip out of the kitchen.. All of the people eating in there, besides our table, were Filipino.

Crispy Pata or fried pork trotter, looked amazing! As did the several of the different fried egg roll looking things..

I might not know all the ins and outs of Filipino food but, I know when something tastes good.. And here the food is really exceptional.. I have to return here some time this week!

Mama Meena's
94-20 Jamaica Ave, Queens, NY 11421

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    1. I post a review about an awesome ethnic restaurant in Queens and get no response, on Chowhound?

      What the hell is happening to you guys.. :-)

      1 Reply
      1. re: Daniel76

        Sorry, Daniel. We're all in line at Eataly.

      2. A few friends and I made it to Mama Meena's today for an almost all-pork lunch. Almost everything we tasted was fantastic, and not too heavyset when taken in reasonable doses (which my group definitely did not do).

        -Crispy Pata was exceptional in texture, but didn't have a terribly meaty or porky flavor. The layer of cracklin' and chewy bits of browned pork were a joy to chew on, and the their taste was brightened/cut by dipping bits of meat into accompanying bowls of vinegar before eating.

        -Lechon kawali (the fried pork belly) was a good upshot to the pata. A tad dry in parts, but nearly greaseless, perfectly crunchy on the outside, and not *entirely* fat on the inside... though it depends on which piece you take :)

        -Lumpia Shanghai were well done, but not very adventurous. Quikiam (pork and veg ground into a creamy paste, partitioned into fingers, wrapped in a tofu casing then deep-fried) were the more enjoyable appetizer. I have no frame of reference for that dish, but I'd order it again with a group.

        -Meena's sisig was definitely my favorite dish: the various bits of hog head are chopped to an almost uniform consistency, and while the bits are pleasantly gritty, they never feel gristly or greasy. A squeeze of lemon juice and splash of vinegar mixed into the meat up the complexity of the dish, giving it a nice contrast between deep, savory flavors and the tartness of the garnish. And the added bonus of an egg adds to its richness. Like Daniel says, letting the bits crisp and mixing a big spoonful into your rice makes for fantastic comfort food.

        -Chicharong Bulaklak (deep fried "ruffles" cut from around the pig's intestine -- or is it just intestine?) were my second favorite of the hyper-rich pork dishes. They're little flowers of crisped fat, muscle and cartilage that have a... challenging texture and comforting taste. Like most of the pork dishes we sampled, this is not one I would order without a group to help me wolf it down!

        My group ordered 4 apps, 4 dishes, and 1 halo halo to share. With service charge, our total came out to $16 each -- a great bargain. I plan on returning to Mama Meena's soon to try their other specialties and usual dishes... this time avoiding the pork overload! I've got my eye on pinakbet, pancit, chicken tinola, and ginisang stew.

        Mama Meena's
        94-20 Jamaica Ave, Queens, NY 11421

        1. Had a very nice family meal here on Saturday. At a tad after five on a Saturday, the joint was near-to-full and stayed that way. There was also a decent amount of take-out and delivery traffic. The service and proprietress were laid back, friendly and gracious, the overall atmosphere relaxed and familiar. Place struck me as clean as well.

          We overdid the fried dishes, and didn't regret it for a minute.

          - Lechon Kiwali: This was on pretty much every table (as were the lumpia shanghai - next time). It was surprisingly low on the grease-end, crispy, tasty, moist and fatty. The accompanying brown sauce was sweet without overdoing it.

          - Fried Red Snapper: The meat wasn't plentiful but was moist and fresh tasting. The best part, though, was biting off everything along the outer shell that was crispy and edible. Not much cheek meet on the Snapper; that didn't stop my kid from making a lunge for the head though. That's usually his favorite part.

          - Fried calamari: We ordered this off the appetizer menu, but it came out last. No matter - the portion was pretty similar to the mains and it was, yet again, another fried dish. These were killer, best dish in a very good meal. The deep frying was expert, crispy, the interior very fresh, chewy and juicy. The accompanying red chili sauce complemented it perfectly. This is easily the best fried squid I've had in a long time, and we tend to get it wherever it's available. FYI: This is available as a main dish as well.

          - Sago Et Guluman: The ever-so-refreshing cold drink with tapioca. Perfect for hot weather.

          - Halo Halo special w/ purple yam ice cream: I've never been a big fan of shaved ice desserts, but this was pretty good and utterly unworldly looking. The two scoops of deep purple yam ice cream sitting atop the big bowl of shaved ice is wonderuflly surreal in appearance. I'd get the ice cream on its' own again - it was the best part.

          - Mango Ice Cream: Okay, not great. What it had going for it was that it was not overly sweet, but it didn't taste all that much like mango. Dessert-wise, the flan looked like a nice option.

          The bill, pre-tip, came to 44 and change, not bad considering all the food and drinks we had. I definitely am looking to return.


          7 Replies
          1. re: Polecat

            Polecat, Eaten Path, Daniel 76 -

            What's the situation re: veg. options? Are there any? :) This place sounds amazing, but are the veggies among us out of luck?

            1. re: CitySpoonful

              The veg situation is somewhat grim at first glance. 8 out of 9 items on the "Vegetables" menu include meat -- the exception is ginataang langka (green jackfruit sauteed in coconut milk). You should call and ask if they can make dishes 100% vegetarian on request before making the trek.

              1. re: CitySpoonful

                In answer to my own question, I can confirm that the veggie pickins' are slim at Mama Meena's.

                At a recent meal with a few other hounds, the table was full of dishes, but just one was totally veg. (though a second came close -- the shrimp paste was on the side). That lone "pure veg." dish was the omelette with a whole roasted (and skinned) eggplant baked into it. I'm a big eggplant fan, but it was quite bland -- the eggplant had none of the smokiness that I love in many Indian and Middle Eastern dishes.

                The other quasi veg. dish also involved eggplant -- in this case, two slim asian eggplants, skins removed, with raw onion, scallion and tomato as a garnish (and said shrimp paste -- which really made the dish). This was also pretty bland, though a dab of shrimp paste (yes, I'm a vegetarian with flexible principles) and a dash of the spicy vinegar dipping sauce helped to liven things up a bit.

                Though they were mostly off limits, aside from some strategic picking, the meat dishes looked great. The beef stew and the sisig looked particularly tasty -- esp. the sisig, which I couldn't pass up the chance to try (and yes, it was delicious -- tangy and salty and savoury and totally worth cheating on my vegetarian principles to try!).

                But my favorite dish of the night was the halo halo with taro ice cream. Meena herself instructed us in the proper mixing technique, and in no time we had soupy, bright purple chilled milky/nuttty/sweet goodness in a bowl. Lots of fruit bits and jellies thrown into the mix, too -- not just ice and condensed milk and ice cream. I only wish it wasn't an hour commute to get more of it.

                (For dairy phobes, the melon drink, with shredded cantaloupe and a bit of extra sugar added, is also pretty awesome...)

                Mama Meena's
                94-20 Jamaica Ave, Queens, NY 11421

                1. re: CitySpoonful

                  Halo-halo, you may know, literally means "mix-mix." But when eating it a la mode, I prefer to mix everything but the ice cream. (Ours, shown below, actually featured ube, or purple yam.) I skim off a bit of still-frozen ice cream with each spoonful, while I can; it melts into the mix-mix soon enough without any help.

                  More photos of our meal, in the second half of this set:

                  1. re: DaveCook

                    Dave, thank you for pointing out the ube/purple yam (the deep redish-purple agglomeration just below the rim in Dave's photo)! It was a lovely, sweet (though not overpoweringly so) touch.

                    1. re: CitySpoonful

                      I could have been clearer: That's ube ice cream, and not taro ice cream, on top of our halo-halo.

                  2. re: CitySpoonful

                    ...and I can confirm that the meat pickin's at Mama Meena's are fatter than ever.

                    Aside from crispy pata, lechon kawali, quikiam, chicharong, and the dishes mentioned above, we tried:

                    -Beef pochero. Essentially stewed short rib with carrot, potato, plantain (fantastic), and green bean. I found it satisfying but not stellar; it's a competent, comforting stew.

                    -Pinakbet. Green beans, squash, bitter melon, tomato, eggplant, shrimp and pork stir-fried in fish sauce. This was my first taste of pinakbet, a dish that traditionally includes a type of purple shrimp paste. I expected the flavors to be more pronounced, but enjoyed the dish nonetheless.

                    -Pancit malabon. Thick rice noodles tossed in a light fish-and-shrimp sauce, then topped with prawns, hard-boiled egg, ground/crumbled pork rind, green onion and a lemon wedge. I really enjoyed these; the noodles had a pleasantly springy texture, and tasted of sweet shrimp broth. The pork rind clinging to each strand was a nice reminder that one cannot escape from pork at Mama Meena's.

                    Sizzling sisig still stole the show as my favorite dish, and I was happy to find that the melon was extremely generous in its inclusion of freshly shredded cantaloupe. The drink itself was a bit too sweet, but I bet you could make a request to lower the sugar proportion a bit should you order.

                    Mama Meena's
                    94-20 Jamaica Ave, Queens, NY 11421