We’ve seen Middle Eastern, Vietnamese, and Korean cuisines grow in popularity over the past years. Now, it seems that Filipino food is poised for its moment in the spotlight.
Open since July, Karenderya in Nyack is a homey Filipino eatery owned by husband-and-wife team Paolo Garcia Mendoza and Cheryl Baun. The food is a blend of Indo-Malay, Chinese, and Spanish flavors with a dash of Indian, says Mendoza, who is also the restaurant’s chef. He grew up in Manila, the capital of the Philippines, and moved to New York City when he was 15. Baun grew up in Rockland County, where she and Mendoza live with their two children. Together, they started a Kickstarter campaign in 2016 to fund the restaurant.
Pork belly rice bowl with Mendoza’s family recipe for adobo
The name Karenderya is derived from the Spanish word “carinderia,” meaning an affordable roadside eatery common in the Philippines. The restaurant is mostly self-service, with customers ordering at a counter and fetching their own cutlery. The reasonably priced menu is small, as this is a one-man operation focused on quality ingredients that burst with flavor.
Lumpiang Shanghai, mini pork eggrolls served with banana ketchup.
Those flavors might include arugula and butternut squash salad salad, which gets a Filipino twist from shrimp crackers and bagoong, a shrimp-paste dressing. Mini pork eggrolls called lumpiang Shanghai have a light, delightful crunch, and are served with banana ketchup, considered the Filipino condiment. Duck confit is wrapped up in empanadas and served with a homemade sweet chili sauce (a nod to Mendoza’s formal training from the Institute of Culinary Education).
Duck empanadas with sweet chili sauce
Don’t skip the pork-belly-adobo bowl. While the word adobo has Spanish origins, the sauce comes in variations across many cultures. Here, Mendoza uses a recipe from his mom, based on soy, vinegar, and garlic. The dark, almost caramel-like sauce coats the braised pork, complementing the fattiness of the meat, and the dish is served with pickled green papaya. With the option to add garlic-flecked rice and a crispy fried egg, it’s something I wouldn’t mind having for breakfast often.
A popular dessert in the Philippines is this shaved ice with coconut, condensed milk, and jackfruit, topped with ube ice cream.
Baun believes Karenderya — an idea that formed when they were both at crossroads in their careers — was meant to be. “We really wanted something very casual that felt like you can hang out, and was family-friendly,” she explains, referring to the comfy mismatched chairs, large tables, and corner with kid-friendly toys. “What we’re trying to do is bring Filipino food and culture to people. For a lot of people who come here, this is their first time having it.”