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“JEPPNEY by Claire Jaffe”

  Occasion: Cuisine: Area: Cost: Rating:
  Night Out Asian East Village Moderate Great

JEEPNEY, the traditional Filipino gastropub named and designed (by design team Warren Red) after the country’s iconic colorful WWII Jeeps-turned-tricked-out-taxi-cabs, looks unassuming from the outside. The narrow restaurant blends in with all the other shops and stores on 12th and 1st Ave, neighboring two nail salons and sharing block with a little Dunkin Donuts on the corner.

But step inside the casual sister restaurant to upscale Maharlika, pull back the heavy velvet curtain that hangs sturdily from the frame, and WHAM. Welcome to JEEPNEY, where bright splashes of paint, thumping music, and the glorious smell of pig fat frying hit you like a slap to the face.

The scene is confusing at first: your attention is pulled every which way, from the hanging Christmas lights to the seemingly random bookshelf next to the cash register to the dineresque swivel stools and the bottles of traditional Filipino banana ketchup (?!) that adorn the shelves of the graffiti-sprayed walls. The cacophony of the blaring soundtrack, laughter, yelling and the sizzling from the open kitchen also add to the momentary disorientation. Is this a restaurant? A club? A carnival? Senor Frogs? Only one thing is for certain: we’re not in Dunkin Donuts anymore.

It doesn’t take long, however, to throw the need for classification to the wind. JEEPNEY’s atmosphere is so inviting, the smells so intoxicating, the promise of a unique evening mingling in the air with salivation-inducing aroma of slow-braised pork shoulder. As customers squeeze their way to the imposing silver bar for one of the (excellent) cocktails, the ambience says it all: if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.

And to join them in full, you may have to step out of your comfort zone. Executive Chef Miguel Trinidad makes sure of that. Traditional Filipino street food, Balut – a boiled, fertilized duck embryo eaten right out of the egg shell – is the first dish on the 15-item menu. Traditionally eaten with salt and/or sweet vinegar, the mild, slightly rubbery delicacy is about as far from a trendy sous vide egg as Manti Te'o is to a girlfriend, but those brave enough to order it send the signal that they’re game for whatever the evening has to offer.

The evening, as it turns out, indeed has a lot to offer, and the menu is not for those looking for a light meal, as the restaurant features a solid array of fatty, fri ... [more, click below]

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