It's not your average oxtail stew at Miguel Trinidad's East Village gastropub
There are those restaurants that offer the solid standbys and others that tend to gravitate toward more adventurous menus, and New York City’s choices do not fall short for diners in either camp. Then there are those rare restaurants that take ethnic cuisines and spin them on their head, sending culinary thrill seekers on a wild ride. A modern Filipino gastropub, Jeepney, is one such restaurant—and executive chef Miguel Trinidad is leading the way.
Born in a New York City taxicab 40 years ago, Trinidad spent his youth on the Lower East Side where he absorbed an amalgamation of flavors from around the world. Of Dominican heritage, Trinidad began cooking at just eight years old and by 17, he was working catering gigs. Eventually he started his own business but never actually ran the kitchen until the day his chef walked out on the job minutes before an event and he found himself behind the professional stove. It was after attending culinary school that Trinidad landed a job as executive chef of Lolo, a French-Creole restaurant in Soho, where he would meet Jeepney partner, Nicole Ponseca, and together they headed off on a three-month backpacking expedition through the Philippines.
Though his trip was filled with culinary discoveries, Trinidad was familiar with the cuisine from his childhood when the East Village was dotted with Filipino restaurants. He remembers tasting oxtail stewed in peanut butter with bagoong (pronounced ba-go-ong) at a restaurant on 14th Street. Served as a condiment, bagoong, or shrimp paste, acts as a substitute for salt. “You’re supposed to put a little with each bite,” explains Trinidad. “There are so many ways it’s used—tossed with green mango for a snack or at breakfast on top of rice and a fried egg.”
At Jeepney, named for the flamboyant converted WWII military jeeps seen throughout the Philippines, Trinidad incorporates bagoong in Kare Kare, a rich peanut based stew, and in what he calls “Bicol Express”—a slow braised pork shoulder in coconut milk, ginger and sausage sauce. “It’s dangerously delicious,” says Trinidad referring to the bagoong. “Everyone asks, ‘what’s that funkiness’—and then they ask for more.”
Jeepney, 201 First Avenue, between 12th and 13th Streets, (212) 533-4121