Tasting Kalye: Filipino Comfort Food on the Lower East Side


By Katherine Chin

My eating companion and I gamely decide to make the walk from our workplace in FiDi to the restaurant. We pass through the familiar, beloved gnarly, streets of Chinatown and enter the Lower East Side. The streets get smaller and quieter, the restaurants become candlelit. We arrive at Kalye and meet Ben, our primary point of contact, and he introduces us to Rob, the restaurant owner. He gushes over the new space, which is a restaurant and an art gallery, and invites us to take the middle table with the best view. He asks us how hungry we are. My companion and I exchange a glance and just laugh. How much food do you have?

An assortment of recommended small plates at Kalye.Photo byPhoto by Gabrielle Holtz

The Beverages at Kayle

Rob offers us wine or beer. We choose the latter, my companion opting for a Filipino San Mig light beer and I, a Red Horse IPA. Mine strongly resembles the smell of weed, despite Rob’s optimistic claim that this beer is less hoppy than others. Neither are terribly impressive, and we drink them out of politeness more than anything. However, we find much more luck with a Diet Coke (my companion) and mango juice (me). Tropical and light, the juice sets the tone for the rest of the evening.

Filipino Comfort Food: Mains, Sides, & Everything In Between

Nothing seems to have a particular order, and we are outstanding with this arrangement. The pork barbecue arrives first, smoky and glistening. It has been marinated in banana ketchup, garlic, and soy sauce, and the combination is addictive. In turns sweet, tangy, and savory, with charred fatty ends that are either your first or last bite, it is certainly an impressive depth of flavor for such a minuscule workspace.

Shrimp Shumai

The shrimp shumai comes in six to an order, and while they are small, they pack a powerful shrimpy punch. The dumpling is delightfully thin-skinned, the filling plump and juicy. There are a plethora of sauces offered to us, including a sweet and savory asado sauce, a vinegar sauce, and a Pinakurat aioli that Rob calls “homemade ranch.” Weirdly enough, we really enjoy the shrimp with the aioli – it’s a little acidic, a little herbaceous, and a lot creamy. (here’s a lovely recipe for shrimp shumai). The standout sauce of the evening, however, is the banana ketchup – a Filipino specialty that is both uniquely identifiable as ketchup while maintaining an undeniable banana flavor. We are slightly obsessed and dunk almost everything in it just for kicks.

Pork Shumai

The pork shumai looks like they ate the shrimp shumai for breakfast. Equally thin-skinned and delicate, they nonetheless pack more significant heft in both flavor and texture. They are well-seasoned and tasty but are not the standout here.

Read the complete Review here on New York Street Food.

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