Restaurant: Fiesta Grill Filipino Restaurant
Date: Sunday, June 22, 2015
Location: 655 Newark Avenue, Jersey City, NJ
This is going to be an odd review, because I’m not going to be able to actually name any dishes. Instead, I will rely on descriptions of what I ate, because quite frankly, I was the only non-Filipino eating in Fiesta Grill at the time. Part of me is grateful for that, because it made me feel temporarily transported to another world. It also gave me the heads-up that this would be authentic Filipino food, not an Americanized restaurant that we see with so many Mexican joints all over the place. I visited with two people: a friend and his aunt, both of whom are regulars. Because there was little English exchanged by anyone besides me and them, and the signs on the wall were vague, I relied on the aunt to translate and pick dishes for me. “Pork, you said? Yes please. Oh, what’s that? More pork? Sure, pile it on!” By the time I was done eating my way through the cafeteria line, all I needed was an ice cold beer and maybe a Lipitor.
We each got combos, which, for a mere $4.95 consisted of a plate with two scoops of white rice, and two containers of entrees of your choice. Since there were three of us, and we were sharing, that meant I got to try a real variety of foods. Okay, so here it goes. There were three different kinds of pork belly. The first, was grilled strips (pictured in the plate with the rice) that packed a ton of flavor, but also happened to be very tough and fatty. Next came chunks that had been boiled in a type of fish stock (pictured in the container to the top-left of the plate). This was tender, salty, and flavorful, and it was easy to pull the fat off since the ratio was nearly 50-50. It just melted in your mouth. I know there are probably people out there who would chastise me for the fat removal, but due to all I was about to eat, I wanted to give my arteries a tiny break. Lastly, came even larger chunks that had been marinated and grilled to perfection (top right corner of picture). A total homerun, and one of the best pork dishes I have ever eaten in my life.
Moving away from the pork, there was a barbecued chicken skewer that was sweet and smoky, but unfortunately too chewy to enjoy (all three of us agreed on that), and then, the second best dish of the afternoon, an ox tail in a peanut sauce with various vegetables. This was the first time trying such a meat, and it was so well-cooked and tender, nearly falling off the bone. Lastly, came a ground beef mixture that included diced potatoes and hard-boiled whole quail eggs, which was very rich and tasty. As if that was not enough, we topped it off with a fried banana inside a tortilla (pictured top center). They also give you a small dish of vinegar to dip the pork belly in. Though I was skeptical at first, this condiment did a lot to enhance the flavor, and add a little acidity to what was an overwhelmingly hearty meal. Hot sauce (akin to Sriracha) is also available upon request. This incredible amount of food we ordered, and three soft drinks, came to less than $20.
There is not much decor to speak of, but who cares? This was the epitome of a greasy spoon hole-in-the-wall, and I absolutely detest when reviewers love the food they had and then waste time knocking how the place looks. This is a quick, cheap lunch fix, but the food is so well-crafted and has enough complexity that they could charge so much more and it would still be worth it. I can’t wait to come back!
4 out of 5 stars.