The Manila food scene is exploding. I grew up in the Philippines (Manila and Baguio) and visit my mom yearly. I am amazed that Manila has transformed into a food city with a myriad of international cuisines, brands and franchises. Local restauranteurs are also launching new concepts and Filipino food is being reinvented and served in new and innovative ways. In the 80's and 90's there were very good restaurants, but they were few. For me, the best food then was home cooking and many social gatherings were in people's houses.
Now, when I am in town, my friends and family usually eat out and explore the many new options.
My list of great restaurants and the dishes that I enjoyed..
Kafe Batwan - modern Filipino food. Pancit Palabok with crab fat, squid ink and a perfect soft boiled egg that reminds me of ramen egg and Lechon Kawali with chocolate sauce.
Mecha Uma - creative Japanese inspired dishes using premium ingredients. We had 9 courses and my favorite were Chef Rickett'storo aburi with truffle and Matsusaka wagyu with seared eggplant and cabrales cheese.
Serye - A friend took me here because the kare kare won Best Kare Kare at Food Wars Asia. It is excellent.
Tim Howan - the first time that I tried the baked BBQ pork buns, I was hooked. I wish that I could bring them to San Diego (I can imagine the customs officer interrogating me), but I have a feeling that Tim Howan will open in the States and expand rapidly like Din Tai Fung.
Cirkulo - I love the understated sophisticated elegance of this restaurant plus their sisig is amazing.
Milky Way Cafe - Filipino comfort food...the restaurant that has been around since I was a child ....Their lechon kawali, catfish and buko lychee sherbet is amazing.
VASK Modern Tapas and Gastronomic Cuisine_- Innovative tasting menu and tapas. Tapas at the Vask Dining Room and Gallery Vask for degustation dinners.
Kichitora Tokyo - Ramen (Paiten Zenbu No Se) with the perfect ajitsuke tamago (ramen egg).
The Manila Peninsula - This hotel has been a favorite place to visit since I was a child. I love the grand, elegant old world feel...Their burger with egg served on a pretty plate is a treat.
Izakaya Kikujuji - High quality seafood, traditional Japanese dishes and decor (including zashiki style floor seating), casual vibrant atmosphere. When I visit, I order the chirashi and appreciate the generous portions of uni.
XO 46 Bistro Filipino - Classic Filipino dishes prepared well ...Delicious crispy pata and garlicky gambas.
Rambla Joya Building Rockwell - Spanish Mediterranean food...Paella negra with salmon and spherical olives.
Todd English Food Hall - I wanted to see if the experience would be similar to the one at the Plaza Hotel. I had dinner with my mom and although our meal was good, what made our night extraordinary was the service. Yummy local raw oysters which was a deal for less than $1 each.
Saboten - A tonkatsu chain originally from Shinjuku, Tokyo.
I like the grated radish katsu (tender chicken cutlet with grated radish and squeezed grapefruit).
Dulcinea - a favorite since high school. Their churros con chocolate is legendary.
Honey Creme at SM Aura - Cotton candy affogato...how can you not smile when you see ice cream and cotton candy together? Aside from being a cute dessert, it is delicious.
Pi Breakfast and Pies at the Grove by Rockwell - Peter, my mom and I had breakfast here with no expectations and the ricotta ensaymada and wagyu tapa with kimchi fried rice made us want to try more dishes. On our next visit....
Family Mart - at 25th St BGC ..not a restaurant but their fried chicken, California roll (I eat them in Manila because mango is used here) and green tea soft serve are favorite cheap eats.
JT Manukan Grill - for the best chicken inasal (grilled chicken from the Visayas). They also serve tender pork sate babe which is incredibly delicious.
Pepper Lunch - Beef pepper rice....quick, cheap, delicious.
Shakey's I will never tire of a Friday Special (shrimp, anchovies and mushroom). For as long as I can remember, Shakey's pizza has always been a treat.
Backyard Kitchen + Brew at the Grove by Rockwell - The salted egg chicken skin pizza is a must try. My first time eating chicken skin on pizza and it is so guilty pleasure good.
Highlands Prime Steakhouse - Very good classic burger with a thick high quality meat patty and perfect size fries.
Kuppa Roastery & Cafe - an intimate and cozy space which made me feel like I was in a coffee shop in New York. Tanzania cherry flavored coffee, breakfast linguini with an oozing soft boiled egg, and spam with kimchi fried rice. Perfection.
Ramen Nagi - in SM Aura Despite looking like an oil spill, their Black King (Butao broth with squid ink) ramen is very good.
Paul Boulangerie in SM Aura - was started in Northern France in 1889 and is now in Manila. Pretty amazing history. One of my mom's favorite places for a sandwich (smoked salmon and chicken) and I really like their fougasse (olive bread).
Spiral at Sofitel Philippine Plaza - when we went to Spiral, we were stuck in heavy traffic for 3.5 hours (a drive that normally would have taken 30 minutes) but dishes from different countries, a large cheese room, fresh oysters and a foie gras station made the drive worth it.
Ogawa - upon entering you feel like you are transported to Japan. The toro tasted like rich butter perfection.
Outside Manila but the food is so good....
Taza at Taal Vista Hotel - I went with friends for a "light" lunch and ended up having a feast. Fresh ingredients, high quality products and generous portions made the dishes memorable. Chef Jayme's duck and mushroom lasagna, home made bacon, Tomahawk pork chop and boquerones were extraordinary.
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