The East Village needs no introduction to Filipino food, but its Filipino restaurants seem to be changing just as the neighborhood has. Sa Aming Nayon brings something different to the table, observes JungMann: unusual regional specialties and a tone and selection that are a rung or two upmarket from its cafeteria-style forebears like the departed Elvie’s.
One good bet among the regional dishes is Bicol Express: pork stew in coconut milk with chiles and bagoong (fermented fish paste). Famously fiery back home, it’s not all that here, laments GoodGravy, who still found it tasty enough to get again if they’ll crank up the heat. (Other hard-to-find specialties are Bacolod-style grilled chicken inasal and batchoy, the porky, garlicky noodle soup from Iloilo.) Also worth a try: tender paksiw na lechon (roasted pork roast braised in sweet soy sauce) and ukoy (shrimp and squash fritters)—not bad, judges GoodGravy, though earthbound next to those at Purple Yam in Brooklyn—and a spot-on spicy pork dish he remembers only as “ginataang something,” fried and cooked in coconut milk with shrimp, onion, garlic, and chiles.
The menu promises beer and wine, which won’t be available until the license comes through. The sooner the better, GoodGravy says, because there’s plenty of drink-friendly pulutan-type fare here (a.k.a. finger food), like camaron rebosado (fried shrimp in sweet chile sauce). Something else to look forward to, JungMann suggests: palamig (fruit coolers) or halo-halo (sweetened, flavored shaved ice) on sultry deep-summer evenings in the inviting back garden.
Sa Aming Nayon [East Village]
201 First Avenue (between E. 12th and 13th streets), Manhattan