Monday, December 17, 2012
Ihawan 2 - Getting In Touch with Your Meaty Side
After some very convincing raves from my co-worker Wilfred about Ihawan and their fantastic Filipino cuisine, I was bound to try it. Excited that Meg was up for the adventure, she revealed she had a good experience at their original Woodside location, so the whole thing sounded promising.
Located just outside the 7 Train at the Vernon/Jackson stop, Ihawan 2 couldn't be more convenient for not only an LIC resident but a visitor as well. Looking like a new restaurant from the exterior, its newness draws you in initially.
Once you walk in, the atmosphere is pretty classic and simple with a plethora of different sized wooden tables and chairs, mostly two or four tops. It was nice to see they also accommodate large groups and push the tables together if needed, as Meg and I noticed a really large party of about 15 or so folks dining together. This, along with the fact that diners lingered as long as they wanted was proof of the friendly staff and the homey atmosphere Ihawan brings. The staff does a good job of servicing you when you need it, but also leaving you alone to be social and just hang around - it's obvious they like the company and vice versa.
Given that Filipino cuisine revolves around meat, we decided to go all the way and choose a meaty appetizer and two grilled meat entrees. Sharing everything was a great way to go, as the food was on the heavier side, so it was good to have it in modest doses.
Appetizer - A really popular way to start any great Filipino feast is with fried lumpia or springrolls. We immediately spotted these on the menu and went with the Lumpiang Shanghai, stuffed with fried minced pork and shrimp. Deliciously crispy on the outside with just enough of a surf and turf stuffing, the lumpia were a fun, poppable snack. Even though we wanted to save room for the main meal, it was hard to eat just one, two or three.
Entrees - Going for the barbecued meats, we ordered a chicken/pork BBQ platter as well as the Longanisa, which is housemade pork sausage. Both looked divine, sporting beautiful, dark grill marks and a shiny, glazed skin. Out of the two, I liked the pork/chicken combo platter more and in particular the pork, which was slightly sweet and had the most incredible texture that was tender on the inside but nicely caramelized on the outside.
Since both dishes were on the heavier side, they were accompanied by a side of fresh simple salad with a pungent vinegar sauce that helped cut the richness in the meat. Something else that paired beautifully with all the protein was the atchara or the pickled papaya, raisins, carrots, and garlic combo. While it was unlike anything I've had, at the same time, it felt nostalgic, reminding me of the "calamada" salad from my childhood.
Dessert - I couldn't imagine what dessert would look like here, but Meg had experience with it from her previous visit and recommended the turon, which is a popular Filipino sweet. Looking just like lumpia from the outside, these fried spring rolls contain a soft, almost custardy filling of yellow plantains and jack fruit. The whole thing boasts a fabulous combination of savory and sweet that went a long way with us.
Drinks - Although we opted for something non-alcoholic, we weren't disappointed - me getting the sweet melon drink and Meg going for the iced lime juice. I appreciated that both drinks were made with real fruit, and in mine you can actually see thin strips of cantaloupe, which I picked out with my straw. Meg's drink, which was also tasty was more suitable for summer, as it came in a tall chilled glass, but she appreciated it nonetheless.
Service and Cost:
As I already mentioned, the service was expedient when it came to ordering and getting the check, but they also just let us sit and enjoy our meal as long as we wanted. It was so lovely to see the big group of 15 just relishing in their quality time with the whole family (adults and kids) for a classic Filipino dinner.
Costs are inexpensive and for the above mentioned meal, including tax and tip, our total was about $24.
Ihawan 2 - 10-07 50th Avenue, LIC NY 11101
7 Train to Vernon Blvd/Jackson Avenue