After 18 months of anticipation and curiosity, the first Filipinx restaurant opened in Asheville, Neng Jr. Finally, but turns out to be tricky—especially for those unfamiliar with West Asheville. There is a warning placed on the booking site, “Our front door may be hard to find”. While the street address is 701 Haywood Road – as claimed by the creative hub Different Wrld – the entrance is actually located at the rear of the building. To get there, go down (literally, it’s a hill) into dead-end Garrett Street, bypass Ning Jr.’s colorful mural and turn left toward the alley, letting another hook into the outside alcove, completely immersed in gorgeous. red. The black door is the front door identified with the restaurant’s logo wrapped around a red medallion.
No password needed; Simply open the door and walk 14 steep steps into a narrow enclosure, also dipped in red—to the easel likely occupied by artist and performer Cherry Iocovozzi, who married Neng Silver creator Iocovozzi (nee Cousler) on June 10.
Cherry is the entrance to the sharply dressed dining room, which has just nine seats at the L-shaped banquette and eight seats from the 1930s at the red-topped bar, located about six feet from where Silver works. The small, efficient open kitchen is tiled in emerald green, which Silver says is their favorite color. Red is a nod to their mother, Marisa Kossler, whose nickname Ninening was shortened and moved to Silver and became the restaurant’s name. “My mom’s preferences are mostly about luck,” Silver says. “She told me I needed red countertop tape. Red is a bold color—we used it a lot.”
The dining room walls feature muted shades of blue, but the overall inspiration—which includes a round glass display case at the end of the counter containing items meaningful to the couple—derives from young Silvers fond memories of the soft drink store they frequented in their home. Small hometown of Apex, North Carolina. A mural on one of the walls depicts Drake’s friend Richard Carr depicting Marisa and Silver connected with a yellow ribbon.
“Highly Expected” has barely scratched the surface of a fever pitch among Ashevillians since Silver signed the lease in January 2021, spurred by a combination of familiarity with their restaurant bios and pop-ups, as well as their curiosity about the kitchen.
Silver is happy to serve food they grew up on in North Carolina and the Philippines. They explained, “What every Filipino knows about Filipino cuisine is that they know their dish is authentic because their mother or uncle made it that way, so it’s authentic to them.” “Everyone makes the same dish a little differently. I grew up in the South, so I have that influence too. It’s really ‘what do I want people to know about me from my food?’ In general, I like simplicity. I don’t want difficult dishes or long descriptions” .
simple and complex on the same plate. July fruit, for example, is bits of summer fruit—white peaches, cantaloupe, and tomatoes heirlooms from Lee’s One Fortune farm—on a plate, with a tangy, seven-ingredient spicy sauce. Silver says Tangy, or sour, is a descriptor for many Filipino dishes.
Adobo oysters are the diva on the menu—two crisp, shiny, silky oysters nestled in their shells filled with adobo mignonette flakes, topped with brilliant yellow quail egg yolks cured overnight in brine, surrounded by a two-inch rope of sea grapes, which delivers an unexpected, mouth-watering surprise. .
Bistek green onions are available in carpaccio or by four ounce fillets. Baked sweets come marinated and boiled, moistened to a velvety texture, then skewed on skewers, lightly grilled and served with a fermented barbecue sauce.
The list is brief in terms of quantity – dozens of items – and description. Silver says it will also change frequently. “I think the menu will have two types of food depending on what people order, but I am quick to change, and I need that. I love it. I have a personal relationship with going to the market and seeing what’s available and going from there.”
It all makes General Manager Q, positioned behind the bar, and in charge of waiting the key to customer understanding and experience; They navigate the questions with enthusiasm and knowledge.
Q also mixes Filipino-influenced cocktails such as adobo martini, pandan daiquiri, and Neng’s milk punch, as well as non-alcoholic bitter melon bush and pours from Cherry Iocovozzi’s selected wine list. Staff hand out small bowls of roasted garlic and salted peanuts with drinks, giving diners something to eat while they play I Spy with memorabilia displayed on the shelf above the bar—small stuffed animals, antique tin can, cooking fun Biography of Tammy Winette Stand by your leg Among the twisted group. In the display case are decks of playing cards, which are vintage cards play boy A magazine with Anna Nicole Smith’s red cover on it, and a box of Philippines-harvested rice with coins for luck.
“Americans are familiar with Italian food, Mexican food, and Chinese food,” Silver says. “Filipino food is not only new to Asheville, but it hasn’t quite made it that way even in major cities. It has had more interest and exposure over the past six years,” Silver says. Or so. I think now is the time, and I’m excited to do it here, in my city.”