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  • Restaurants
  • East Village
  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Recommended
  1. Naks
    Photograph: Paul McDonough
  2. Naks
    Photograph: Paul McDonough
  3. Naks
    Photograph: Paul McDonough

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

Filipino cuisine from Unapologetic Foods.

The hospitality group Unapologetic Foods has been a local industry leader for several years, and about as many restaurants. Its original Masalawala ran for a decade—that’s a New York City restaurant decade—in the East Village until 2021. Adda in Long Island City, Dhamaka on the Lower East Side, Semma in the West Village and the kind-of loop-closing Masalawala & Sons in Park Slope have gathered fans and honors, including from Time Out New York and Michelin, before and since. Those spots, and others in the UF canon, have long aimed to “redefine Indian food” to tremendously popular effect. Its latest turns a focus to Filipino cuisine. 

Naks opened on First Avenue in the narrow space previously occupied by Jeepney, another Filipino restaurant that operated there from 2012 to 2021, in December. Dhamaka chef Eric Valdez, who helped catapult that hotspot to tremendous success, is chef de cuisine. Valdez taps preparations from his upbringing in Makati, Philippines for the menus. Naks serves an à la carte offering at tight tables around the bar up front, and its kamayan dinner for $135 per person in the larger back dining room. The bill of fare for the latter, multi-item feast can vary, and some of Naks’ buzziest items are available on the former. 

The soup no. 5, for example ($19; easily serves two), said to be a suitable hangover remedy, had a brief turn as the talk of the town earlier this winter. The pleasantly viscous broth is buoyant with beef testicle and pizzle, with a low-simmering heat and herbaceous sibot. Its liquid’s soothing, velvety consistency, alternating tender and near-chewy (like a nice bit of squid) proteins and grazing kick combine to create the sensations I’ve recalled most sonorously since visiting. 

Skewers of eel or pork ($18/2) are easier to skip, yielding enough, and slick with sauce, but otherwise indiscernible from their citywide peers—an infrequent occurrence for Unapologetic Foods. Back on the memory clock, the dinakdakan ($19) (not unlike sisig, a server might say, and similarly presented) with pork liver, snout, ear and brain is more texturally rich and uniquely flavored with a touch of bitterness. As if to split the difference, the pritong itik ($47) is as fine a waterfowl as any in town, generously portioned for a few, and wonderfully crispy. 

A couple of months after opening, Naks is a zag for this esteemed hospitality group, even aside from the noteworthy menu departure. It’s also the uncommon Unapologetic Foods destination where reservations are still relatively easy to come by, recently inebriated or not. 


The Vibe: Inviting, lively and cozy to the point of being cramped. Operationally as polished as any Unapologetic Foods restaurant. 

The Food: Filipino cuisine by the multi-course feast or à la carte. Highlights from the latter include the soup no. 5 and the pritong itik. 

The Drinks: Beer, wine and cocktails. 

Naks is located at 201 First Avenue. It is open Wednesday-Sunday from 5pm-10pm. 

Amber Sutherland-Namako
Written by
Amber Sutherland-Namako


201 1st Avenue
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Opening hours:
Wednesday-Sunday from 5pm-10pm.
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