Saturday, April 12, 2008


Beef Tapa Salad.

I've been wanting to visit Cendrillon in SoHo for probably ten years or so now. But the idea of dressing up to eat at a fancy Filipino restaurant was always a hard sell. The notion that jackets and ties were necessary for Chicken Adobo just didn't compute in my mind.

It's a shame I had been so obtuse.

We stopped into Cendrillon for a couple of snacks to carry us through the evening and found a warm, comfortable and, most importantly, casual kind of place. Not casual in the sense of how most Filipino eateries are casual with their florescent lighting, formica tables, metal chairs and turo turo style of ordering. Cendrillon was nicely done with wooden chairs, warm tones and an open kitchen. And, unlike many Filipino eateries, there were mostly white people dining.

Which, in some ways, is both good and bad. A yin and yang kind of thing. One cannot beget the other.

For a place that I had always known as "the fancy Filipino place in New York", I was slightly put off by the restaurants' pan-Asian menu. For me, there's something about "Pan-Asian" that just says "mediocrity." We're going to give you a "taste of Asia" but do none of them really well.

It makes me wonder if we (as Filipinos) are just not confident in our cuisine enough to only offer the flavors of our land. If I go to a French brasserie, I don't expect to see Pan-European items like Fish And Chips or Lutefisk amongst the offerings of Blanquette du Veau and Tartare. Or maybe I'm just reading too much into it.

All that aside, Cendrillon offers a nice variety of Filipino dishes that read like "must try" items: Grilled Oxtail Kare-Kare and Chicken Inasal, being two of those dishes. Then there's the odd (to me) Pan-Asian items like: Goat Curry and Malaysian Laksa. Of course, being a Filipino restaurant, I have to wonder where crowd-pleasers such as: Pancit Bihon, Pancit Malabon and Daing na Bangus have gone?

Oh well, enough bitching about what's missing, they've got cold bottles of San Miguel Beer and that has to count for something.

And I'm thankful they didn't have chopsticks on the table.

Which leads me to another little bitch session: why do many of these Asian restaurants insist on placing chopsticks on the table? Worse yet are the people who come into an "Asian" restaurant and expect (and ask for) chopsticks. I want to tell them: Hey, DickHead: they don't use chopsticks in Thailand!!! Or the Philippines, for that matter.

Amy's Spring Roll with Achara.

We ordered a couple of plates. I wanted to order the Kare Kare (pronounced: kah-reh kah-reh but Spike reminded me we still had a dinner at Eleven Madison Park coming up, so we stuck to the Beef Tapa Salad and Amy's Spring Rolls.

When I ordered it, I just didn't notice (or pay attention) to the "Salad" part of the dish. It was the "Beef Tapa" that caught my eye and was wondering: what's up with all these veggies? when it arrived. Turns out, the salad was a nice accompaniment. Beef Tapa: dried beef strips, pan fried into delicious goodness. It was good. It was tasty and it was just right as a pulutan to go with my beer (pulutan meaning "beer-drinking food").

Amy's Spring Rolls were traditional fare. Bean sprouts, carrots, tofu, pork and shrimp wrapped in lumpia wrapper and deep-fried. I thought briefly about ordering the healthy Fresh Lumpia but decided that a proper beer needed a proper accompaniment that's deep-fried, crispy and greasy. Yum.

Service was a bit uneven. The girls in black didn't seem to know the menu very well but it was reassuring to see the owner running around, making sure things were rolling along on a Saturday night.

Overall, it was a good stop and if we didn't have a reservation in an hour at Eleven, I would have liked to try a wider variety of their dishes.

Guess that means another visit is necessary...

45 Mercer Street
New York, NY 10013

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