45 Mercer Street
New York, NY 10013
In the belly: fresh lumpia, mixed noodles with shiitake, Asian greens, and eggplant fritter, young coconut pie
Rating: Very enjoyable and different- both food and atmosphere. Dessert was unbelievably good.
Last week, Sandhya and I went to Cendrillon, a Filipino restaurant, for lunch. Other than us, there was just one customer, but the inside of the restaurant was so peaceful and pretty: high ceilings, gauzy curtains, exposed brick, sparkling, branch-like white lights, and a sky-lit backroom, filled with greenery. I had never eaten Filipino food before so I had no idea what to expect. What I found was the surprising presence of my parents’ favorite vegetable, the friendly purple yam, and really great coconut pie.
We started with the Fresh Lumpia: sautéed veggies (cabbage, mushroom, leeks) stuffed in a crepe made with…yes, purple yam batter. The crepe itself tasted faintly yogurty and soft, and the purple was a fun color to eat. It was drizzled with a tamarind-peanut sauce, which added some depth to otherwise fairly standard, but tasty, scallion flavors.
We also ordered the mixed noodles with shiitake, Asian greens, and eggplant fritter. This bowl of soup was picture-perfect: a purple eggplant, cut like a flower with dusky white petals, floated pristinely atop a woodsy-amber broth filled with noodles, scallions, and mushrooms.
And then, there was dessert. I’ve never eaten a coconut pie that celebrated so well the juicy meat of the fruit. Usually, coconut pies and cakes have shredded coconut; Cendrillon’s had thick, soft sheets of tender young coconut (buco/buko), held safe inside a flaky golden crust (lined with purple yam), and topped with a scoop of real vanilla-bean ice cream. What makes this pie even better is that the waitress asked us if we minded waiting ten minutes- they made all the desserts to order. Fresh baked pie? Less time at the desk? The choice was easy, and so very worth it.
lumpia: $6; mixed noodles: $8.50; buko pie: $7.50