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New Restaurant And Bar Radar: Maharlika, Zio, Highland Park

<em>Courtesy <a href="http://www.bradleyhawks.com/2011/02/maharlika-more-than-just-duck-embryo.html">Bradley Hawks/Amuse Bouche</a></em><br/><br/><strong>Maharlika: </strong>After successful stints as a weekends-only pop up in temporary spaces around the city, this <a href="http://maharlikanyc.com/">Filipino restaurant</a> has finally found a permanent home on First Ave, furthering the East Village's transformation into a <a href="http://newyork.grubstreet.com/2011/08/filipino.html">mini-Manila</a>.<br/><br/>Maharlika offers up homestyle Filipino cuisine with a bit of flair and a whole lot of love—much like the Olive Garden, when you're here, you're family. Don't be surprised when owner/bartender/waitress Nicole Ponseca comes over bearing samples of her homemade chili vinegar to dip your garlicky longanisa sausage into, or dares you to down a warm balut, or fertilized duck egg (baby bones and all). <br/><br/>Other hearty fare includes a sizzling platter of sisg—grilled bits of pig ears, snout, and belly sautéed with onions, garlic, lemon and topped with a raw egg; and heaping bowls of arroz caldo, the Pinoy answer to chicken soup, studded with ginger and garlic. The space is tiny and warm, with none of the dreaded space-aged decor that seems so prevalent in many Southeast Asian East Village restaurants these days. <em>(Jamie Feldmar) <br/><br/>111 First Avenue, 646-392-7880</em>


<strong>Zio Ristorante:</strong> This capacious, elegant new Flatiron district restaurant aims to offer cuisine from all regions of Italy, with "Mediterranean zest" and the de rigueur seasonal ingredients. <a href="http://www.zio-nyc.com/">Zio</a> is divided into three sections: a lounge up front for small plates and cocktails, a main dining area with seating for 100, and a private room in the back of the venue. The big main room features plush fabrics, wall coverings in rich earthly colors, and comfy banquettes. It's classy but not stuffy.<br/><br/>Chef Max Convertini's menu runs the gamut from lunch to dinner (until 11:30 p.m.) and brunch on weekends. Signature dishes include his Riso al Salto (crunchy saffron risotto cake, bone marrow &amp; gremolada sauce) or his Astice (lobster ravioli with asparagus in a buttery, lemon zest sauce). Many of the pastas are totally organic and all are made in-house, and the wine list features an extensive selection from Italy, as well as a variety from around the globe. (Zio is also very friendly to people with dietary restrictions, and whole wheat and gluten-free pastas are always available.)<br/><br/>A three-course Prix Fixe lunch menu is available for $20, and dinner prices range from $9 to $18 for appetizers, and $18 to $40 for main courses. <br/><br/><em>17 West 19th Street, (212) 352-1700</em>


<strong>Highland Park:</strong> We're not sure if there's a market in Murray Hill for a 2,231 square foot barstaurant specializing in craft beer, with 22 plasma screens and "sound dogs" that allow you to hear your game at your table, but it's so crazy it just might work! <a href="http://www.highlandparknyc.com/">Highland Park</a> launched last Friday, we're told, with an interior decked out with "tufted" couches, "rustic" high tops, the aforementioned TV screens, and plenty of high-fives. <br/><br/>The beverage menu at Highland Park highlights fine whiskeys and an array of 22 draught beers, plus a parade of bottles and specialty cocktails. Edibles are in the upscale pub grub food group, with such options as Mini Goat Cheese Balls, dried Apricot &amp; Dill with Juniper Berry drizzle; Chicken Satay/ Lavender Honey drizzle; and Hand Cut Prime Steak Tartar, Parmesan, Capers, Garlic Scented Toast Points. <br/><br/><em>206 East 34th Street, (212) 545-9912</em>