Got a taste for adventure? Then you owe yourself a trip to the new Manila's BBQ Stop in Centereach, where the multicultural cuisine of the over-7,000-island Republic of the Philippines awaits. Here, in just a single bite, you'll pick up on a multiplicity of influences: Spanish, Chinese and Southern Pacific, to name a few.
But forget any pretensions. As owner Susan Guerrero tells it, the counter service steam-table setup is geared to a demand for quick takeout from the surrounding community of Philippine-born health-care workers. Even if you don't fit that demographic, you can enjoy a lively meal at a table - so long as the foil, Styrofoam, paper and plastic dinnerware don't bother you.
Smoky-sweet skewered pork and chicken have universal appeal. So, too, do fried lumpia, the Philippine version of spring rolls, each no bigger than your pinkie. A winning pork bun, its top glazed with egg wash, recalls the more common (to this area) Chinese variety.
Pancit bihon, thin rice noodles with pork and vegetables, are seasoned with pepper and panache. Pancit palabok features thicker noodles in a golden sauce seasoned with dried fish flakes and garnished with hard-cooked egg - pungent stuff and, perhaps, not for everyone. You may want to order the vegetable pancake called okoy. Savory, sweet and sour flavors play off one another in the chicken adobo, a dark meat stew made with vinegar and soy sauce. You may find hints of Thai cooking in a pork and vegetable stew called ginataang sitaw and kalabasa, made with coconut milk, yams and bright string beans. Another pork stew, menudo, includes tomatoes, vegetables and raisins, the end product sweet but not overly so.
You could finish with a lovely mango mousse or simple flan, but it doesn't get more festive than halo-halo, a rainbow parfait of fruit, beans, gelatin, shaved ice and ice cream.
Not for everyone
Fresh lumpia, which bear no resemblance to the fried variety, are vegetables wrapped in a soft noodle topped with a gluey sauce, everything lukewarm. Bistek Tagalog, slices of marinated pan-fried beef, features chewy meat.
You'll have a hard time spending more than $10 on a meal capable of shaking up your culinary world.