6 at 23rd St.
American Express, Diners Club, Discover, MasterCard, Visa
14th St. to 24th St., FDR Dr. to Madison Ave.
Grill 21 may bill itself demurely as Asian fusion, decorating its walls with a nondescript mural of café life, but the Tagalog menu and dedicated clientele confirm it as a solid bastion of all foods Filipino. Deep-fried lumpia rolls, their meaty ground pork studded with sweet raisins, share the tabletop with fresh tilapia grilled whole and stuffed with onions, garlic, and tomatoes. Careful Pinay trademarks like chicken adobo—chicken thighs marinated in vinegar and soy sauce—and Sinigang na Baboy—a pucker-worthy sour soup spiked with tamarind and chunks of pork—are prepared to order. It all makes Grill 21 a busy destination for visiting Filipino dignitaries and settled families alike. The eight tables are often packed with diasporic crowds passing rice, soups, deep-fried finger foods, and platters of saucy meat between them. Owners Maria and Henry Beck make service a family affair, with several nieces, nephews, and in-laws bearing entrées, imported mango juice, and San Miguel beer from Manila. Stop in early for a quieter breakfast called tapsilog, a traditional morning platter of fried vinegar steak, fried egg, and garlic-sprinkled fried rice.Recommended Dishes
Chicken adobo, $17; lumpiang shanghai, $10; sinigang na baboy, $17; tapsilog, $11