Roni Mazumdar and Chintan Pandya, the duo behind Unapologetic Foods, have become known for the regional Indian dishes they spotlight at their many restaurants in New York City: Dhamaka, Semma, Adda, and Masalawala & Sons. For their latest venture, though, the two are giving diners a taste of the Philippines.
Naks, a new restaurant in the East Village, is led by executive chef Eric Valdez, who’s been a longtime member of the Unapologetic family. Here, he’s serving up food inspired by his heritage, like the dishes he grew up cooking with his family and those he’s tried during his travels throughout the Philippines.
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“We should not be afraid of our own cuisine and culture,” Valdez said in a statement. “We always apologize that our food is smelly, garlicky, and brown in color. Instead of downgrading our own culture, we should embrace and appreciate its own beauty.”
Naks is aiming to do that on two different levels: via an à la carte menu served in the 14-seat front room, and then through the kamayan tasting menu for 20 diners in the back. The latter ($135 per person, with an optional $80 drink pairing) sees guests seated at a table lined with banana leaf, which serves as their plate. Most of the dishes are meant to be eaten with one’s hands, and a hand-washing station in the dining room allows guests to clean off between courses. Small bites include Swaki (sea urchin, red onion, Pinakurat), Pritong Bola (green circle chicken, shrimp, manong sauce), and Bas-oy (beef rough flank, beef blood, beef tripe). Larger plates follow, with Pancit Batil Patong (egg noodles, angus ground beef, molasses) and Lechon Liempo (porcelet pork belly, garlic, lemongrass) just two of the many options.
In the front room, meanwhile, the tight menu begins with dishes like KFC (Kanto Fried Chicken) and Soup No. 5 (beef testicles, pizzle, sibot spice). Beef and pork feature heavily, in dishes like Pork BBQ (pork jowl, soy sauce, banana ketchup) and Satti (angus beef short rib, anatto, curry sauce). The Filipino flavors can be paired with the bartender Aaron Asombrado’s complex cocktails, like the Parusang Hapon with white-miso-infused Nikka from the barrel, soy-sauce syrup, and yuzu, or the Puto Bumbong with margarine-washed Cazcabel coconut tequila, Probitas white rum, forbidden-rice syrup, and Eden cheese.
The Filipino inspo continues with the restaurant’s design. Touches like a mural by Sean Maze and woven rice-basket light fixtures nod to Manila’s street-food scene and the country’s culture. If you don’t have time for the lengthy trip from the United States to the Philippines, Naks will do just fine for now.
Click here to see all the images of Naks.
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