Mouth-watering Manila

Posted on August 5, 2009 by Aun


truffled foie gras potato tempura at Antonio’s

Ever since S put together Inside the Southeast Asian Kitchen, arguably the best book on our region’s cuisine (and at the very least the only one in which all contributors were actually from Southeast Asia), she and I have been obsessed with visiting what we realized is probably the region’s most underrated but amazing food destination, the Philippines. Yes, the Philippines. Which, when you actually think about it, makes sense. This is a country whose culture has been very heavily influenced by foreign influences, especially the Spanish, Chinese, Malays and Americans. It’s only natural that elements of these different cuisines have been absorbed into the local food culture to create new (or not so new anymore) and exceedingly delicious dishes.

In addition, over the past few years, the restaurant scene in and around Manila has become increasingly exciting and sophisticated. When we published The Miele Guide‘s first edition last year, we were honestly surprised by the number of amazing restaurants from the Philippines that made it into the top end of our survey–and thrilled that one restaurant, Antonio’s, actually came out as Asia’s tenth best restaurant.


left to right: cucumber and pineapple juice, kurobuta pork belly and foie gras cassoulet, both from Antonio’s

S and I decided that after a year of promising friends that we’d visit them, that it was high time we actually stopped saying we’d come and actually go. We jumped on a plan last Friday afternoon and spend a fabulous and over-indulgent three days eating our way across Manila. (Sadly, our visit also coincided with the passing of President Cory Aquino, which made the weekend a bit of a juggling act for one of our hosts, who is the press spokesperson for another ex-President.)

The following is a few of the places we went to and a few great things we ate that I am sure will make you want to buy a ticket immediately. Of course, there is no way that, after just one short 3 day visit, my list is anywhere near comprehensive. I mean, I missed having halo-halo at Razon’s, didn’t make it to Lola Dad’s or Abe or Apartment 1b… which only means many more future eating trips across the Philippines.

Market


clockwise from top left: French sandwiches hot off the grill; gourmet suman; lechon; top foodies Margaux Salcedo and Jill Sandique

Salcedo Market
Jaime Velasquez Park, Bel-Air Baranguay, Makati. Saturday, 7am to 2pm


roast calf at Salcedo Market

I wish we had open-air food markets like this in Singapore. But we don’t, which made our visit to this fabulous Saturday market, centrally located in Makati in a large open park, really fabulous. There are over 140 stalls here selling everything from traditional pastries to roast suckling pig. We feasted on piaya, a griddled flatbread filled with muscovado sugar and recommended to me by Robyn of Eating Asia.


clockwise from top left: piaya; grilled meats; more roast pigs; nana meng’s tsokolate

We pigged out on lechon (roast suckling pig), wolfed down a chicken empanada, a sugar-filled Breton-style crepe, and purchased lots of awesome edibles to bring home. One of our favourite stalls was BudBud, which sells “gourmet suman”. Suman is sticky rice rolled in either young coconut leaves or banana leaves and then boiled. Budbud flavours his suman–he has 13 different types, including suman made with fresh mango, suman with native chocolate swirls, and suman with a touch of ginger. We couldn’t help buying a half dozen each of our two favourites, suman with a coconut caramel (latik) and suman with millet seeds. We also had to make a stop to pick up some Tsokolate Filipino (Filipino style hot chocolate paste) from Nana Meng, owned by celebrated journalist, PR person, ex-TV personality, ex-lawyer, and super-cool foodie Margaux Salcedo.

Breakfast

Champorado
Sorry, champorado is not the name of a specific breakfast place. Champorado is a classic Filipino breakfast item and one of the strangest and yet most exciting things I’ve ever eaten. It’s, quite simply, a chocolate flavoured rice porridge/pudding that is topped off with some evaporated milk and, get this, some smoked, dried or fried fish. Sounds strange? You betcha. Taste even stranger? Surprisingly, no. It’s actually really good, especially if you, like me, are into foods that are both salty and sweet at the same time. Having this combination actually reminded of the show that Anthony Bourdain devoted to El Bulli. I remember a scene in which Ferran Adria coated a deep-fried fish with cotton candy, which he then asked Tony to eat. While at first hesitant, he (of course) ate it and admitted that the combination was pretty amazing. My friend Margaux made the champorado pictured here, which was pretty darned satisfying. Who would have thought fish and chocolate would work so well together?

Pastries

The Philippines is home to some of the best pastries I have ever tasted. And the very best of these are all made by one rather amazing foodie, Jill Sandique. Jill, an amazing authority on Filipino cuisine, runs a business called Delize. She is most famous for her sansrival, a small cake made up of four layers of crisp meringue sandwiched in between and covered with buttercream and sprinkled with chopped nuts. We tried four different kinds of sansrivals, all made by Jill, and each was as good as the next. Honestly, if you ever get a chance to try these amazingly rich yet light and super-delicious cakes, you must! Jill also let us taste her canonigo, which was a revelation, and her tocino del cielo, which were sinfully good. Canonigo is an egg-white meringue cake that shares similarities to the French ile flottante (my all-time favourite dessert), except it is baked in a bundt pan, and served sliced with caramel and a thick custard. Tocino del cielo, pictured here, are small baked custards made with nothing more than caramel, egg yolks and butter. The name translates to “bacon from heaven”, which is where you’ll end up if you eat too many of these delicious snacks.

Restaurants


chanterelles and foie gras from Antonio’s

Antonio’s
Bgy. Neogan, Tagaytay City, Cavite, Tel: +63 918 899 2866
Antonio’s is a stunning restaurant in an equally stunning location. Truly deserving of all the accolades that it has received, our meal at this gorgeously furnished French-Filipino stunner easily ranks among the very best we have had in our lives. The restaurant is located in Tagaytay, a popular weekend resort area that is a 90 minute drive (in good traffic) from Manila. The restaurant itself is housed in a beautiful old manor house. The interiors are classic and chic, with just the right amount of old-world charm to seduce even the most jaded city-slicker. The food here is bold, bountiful, artfully presented and skillfully crafted. On our trip, we started our meal with a plate of white asparagus with parmesan and balsamic vinegar and an order of sauteed chanterelles served with seared foie gras. We then tried the blissful truffled potato foie gras tempura, followed by salad and a gorgeous oven roasted tomato soup. I had the kurobuta pork belly and foie gras cassoulet while S had Antonio’s famous duck confit. By the time dessert came around, we were too full for anything more than a small bowl of chocolate chilli ice cream. We really loved our visit to this restaurant. S even expressed an interest in hosting her 40th birthday party there one day. It is definitely a restaurant well worth the trip, even from abroad.


clockwise from top left: USDA Super Prime striploin at Elbert’s, adobo overload at Bistro Filipino, Jill Sandique’s sansrival, Chef Roland Laudico

Chef Laudico Bistro Filipino
Net Two Building, The Fort, Taguig City, Metro Manila, Tel: +632 856 0634
Chef Roland Laudico may just be the greatest culinary ambassador the Philippines has–but of course is not being marketed by his country’s Tourism Authority at all. His humble but smart bistro, located in the historic Fort Bonafacio area, serves up stunning Modern Filipino fare, a cuisine that Chef Laudico has been championing since the restaurant opened in 2006. The food represents the best of traditional Filipino cuisine–its techniques and flavours–but is presented in a novel, modern, and sometimes lighter style. It is an evolution of the cuisine that I feel could open up Filipino food to the world–because Chef Laudico is able to present it in a way and with flavours that would appeal to any foodie from any part of the planet. We had an amazing meal, starting with a trio of starters: a crispy lumpia cone stuffed with chorizo, prawns and heart of palm and served with a spicy vinegar granite; spicy pork sisig stuffed in a crispy rice basket topped with chicharon and a half quail egg; and crispy fish, shrimp and squid with garlic aioli, pinakurat soy glaze and a crab fat dipping sauce. We then had a prawn sinigang martini that S swooned over. The martini actually contained a cold sinigang gelee garnished with seared prawns and julienned jicama. Over this, diners are asked to pour a hot lemongrass-infused coconut cream. We then had a milk fish souffle followed by grilled tuna with a pickled garlic shrimp sauce (burong hipon) on tumeric rice and kangkong saute. Our main course was Chef’s signature adobo overload–adobo sticky rice stuffed with chicken adobo topped with seared foie gras, fried adobo flakes and adobong kangkong. Dessert was another trio: halo-halo shooter with fresh carabao cream sorbet and ube ice cream; coconut panna cotta rice cake drizzled with coconut caramel glaze, toasted coconut and torched mango; and slow-baked tsokolate topped with almond cream. I truly hope that every foodie one day gets to try Chef’s Laudico’s dishes and I hope someone from the Tourism Authority reads this and realizes what a resource this talented chef could be for the Philippines. Chef also told us his first cookbook will be available by Christmas. I can’t wait to buy a copy and start cooking from it.

Elbert’s Steak Room
Elbert’s is a great classic (albeit slightly secret) steak restaurant. Hidden up the stairs in an industrial building in Makati, there is no sign on the door or at street level. Once inside, you’ll be led to one of the few tables in this tiny sliver of a restaurant. The menu is equally sparse. Choose between the Shortloin, Ribeye, Striploin or Tenderloin–each cut is available in either USDA Prime or Super Prime. There is also a Prime Rib available… and that’s it. That’s the whole menu, save for 7 side dishes and some sauces. Of course, as you might hope in a place that is confident enough to serve only steak and nothing else, the steaks are fabulous… better than any I have eaten in Singapore in the last few years at least. They are cooked perfectly, with just the right amount of charring on the outside and the right level of seasoning. Elbert has also opened a Philidelphia Cheesesteak chain, which I also visited and can attest is out of this world–best cheesesteak I have had this decade (of course, I live in Asia so a good cheesesteak is a real rarity for me).

Sleep

The Peninsula Manila
The Pen’s grand outpost in Makati is the place to see and be seen, and to stay when visiting Manila. Like other Pens, the lobby oozes old-world grandeur. The city’s top socialites drop by frequently for drinks and to tuck into one of the city’s most famous halo-halos. The rooms, which have been recently renovated, are plush and luxurious. The staff efficient, courteous and immaculately turned out at all times. The bell boys are especially cute in their crisp white and very classic uniforms. Very centrally located in Makati and only a few minutes from some of the best restaurants and shops, The Pen Manila is simply the smart and stylish option for experienced road warriors and global nomads.

About Aun Koh

Aun has always loved food and travel, passions passed down to him from his parents. This foundation, plus a background in media, pushed him to start Chubby Hubby in 2005. He loves that this site allows him to write about the things he adores--food, style, travel, his wife and his bouncing baby boy!

What Others Are Saying

  1. Carolyn Parker August 5, 2009 at 2:37 am

    Love all this! Thanks I’m going to link it on my FB wall.

  2. OysterCulture August 5, 2009 at 10:40 am

    What an amazing culinary exploration – thanks for sharing. I’m sharing this one!

  3. Veron August 5, 2009 at 8:17 pm

    Thanks for highlighting the food of Manila. I need to make that trip back home soon. You are right, according to my brother the level of sophistication has exploded in the restaurant scene these past few years. He has been tempting me with suckling pig sushi lately. And Antonio’s is definitely on the list of places to visit.

  4. Anthea August 5, 2009 at 10:54 pm

    Filipino food is indeed wonderful (as I discovered when I was in Manila recently), and it’s a pity it’s under the radar. It needs to be appreciated by more people. Anyway, in addition to the delicious food, I was also in love with the sweet Philippines mangoes. Waiters could not believe that all I wanted to drink was fresh mango juice. Had the nectar morning and night. :)

  5. Margaux August 6, 2009 at 2:37 am

    What a post! How do I start? First of all, thank you, thank you chubbyhubby and sexy wife S for finally taking the trip to the Philippines. It was an honor and such pleasure to have you over. It was such delight to watch you two appreciate the flavors of the Philippines – and in such a short span of time too! I am amazed that you remembered everything at the rate of eating at which you were going! We enjoyed every minute of showing you around and can’t wait for your return. The descriptions that you gave here are amazingly spot on (as usual). Honestly I was holding my breath the entire time you were here, wondering how you’d respond to Filipino food. I can breathe easy now knowing you like it! Haha :) I’m sorry I was a bit distracted because of the death of Pres. Cory (she had a beautiful – amazing – funeral today – hundreds of thousands – literally – walked the streets as she was brought to her tomb – major historical event here). But that’s over now so expect some recipes soon! Thank you for a most memorable weekend with two of our most admired foodies :) Here’s to halo halo and lechon!

  6. Ng Yi-Sheng August 6, 2009 at 2:43 am

    I can’t believe you didn’t mention balut! (Yum yum yum.)

  7. joey August 6, 2009 at 10:15 am

    So glad to hear you enjoyed your visit here! Thank you for such a glowing report on our local cuisine :) There is a lot to love, food-wise and otherwise, over here, and it’s nice to see you got such a delectable bite over the course of 3 days. You certainly hit much high notes – Antonio’s and Bistro Filipino are favorites! Lechon too of course! And those freshly made piyayas at the Salcedo market :) Hope you visit again soon!

  8. Sheila August 6, 2009 at 10:22 am

    Thanks for this post! My best memory of my last trip to the Philippines was Antonio’s. You completely brought me back to that amazing meal.
    Thanks for the other recommendations too. I will definitely keep them in my mind when I plan to visit again. Your pictures make me want to go back!

  9. Franco August 6, 2009 at 11:31 am

    So happy that the two of you enjoyed your visit to Manila. I truly hoping that you will find the time to come back soon. I believe that Filipino food is really coming into its own and being more appreciated for delicious cuisine that it is…especially by its harshest critics, the Filipinos themselves. :)

  10. www.triportreats.com August 6, 2009 at 2:23 pm

    Great post on the Philippines! I just moved back to Manila and I’m eating my way back into my homeland.

    Next time you should take advantage of the Food Trips and provincial cuisines of Pampanga. I would love to know what you think of them.

    I’ll post this link to my site, please check out my link if you want to know more about our restaurants/ travel spots here!

    All the best

  11. dhanggit August 6, 2009 at 2:47 pm

    OMG!! look at all these delicious meals! Guess you enjoyed your visit to Manila :-)
    How i miss all these pinoy dishes! thanks for this beautiful post.. feels like im closer

  12. Tangled Noodle August 7, 2009 at 11:28 am

    Your post brings back such wonderful memories of our visit to the Philippines last December. We had the pleasure of staying at the Manila Peninsula, which was gorgeously decorated for the holidays, and dining at Antonio’s during a day trip to Tagaytay. The Saturday after Christmas was spent strolling through Salcedo Market, tasting everything from inihaw to those Breton crepes and buying bags of Barkao coffee from Batangas.

    As for the halo-halo at Razon’s, my husband was hooked! He insisted on going there at evey opportunity; it is now the standard by which all other halo-halos will be measured. Too bad we can’t find carabao milk here in the US – it’s what makes Razon’s halo-halo so delicious!

  13. Risa August 8, 2009 at 6:41 am

    What a wonderful post! I really know so little about Philippine food, and it seems like it’s almost 180 degrees in style flavor and subsyance from Japanese cuisine, but WOW, does it look delicious!

  14. Adrian August 10, 2009 at 11:16 pm

    Thanks for visiting the Philippines and posting it on your blog. Filipino food can be very good but at times can be terrible and I’m glad you had excellent hosts who know their food.

  15. Sachi's Kitchen August 11, 2009 at 2:31 am

    Ohmigoodness! You are making us want to move to the Philippines ASAP!! Great photos.

  16. currystrumpet August 11, 2009 at 10:39 pm

    it’s my first time to drop by this blog, and what a pleasant surprise to find a post on manila! i moved to sg from manila close to two years ago, and i definitely miss the foodie scene back home. these photos just made me miss it even more! glad you enjoyed, and hope to see more foodie trips to the philippines on your blog!

  17. P. Chong August 12, 2009 at 2:00 pm

    Food in the Philippines have come a long way…as you have rightly pointed out. I have been travelling to Manila on business for more than 15 years, and it was only recently, that I have come out of my early haunts at California Pizza Kitchen and Hard Rock Cafe (and some hotel establishments). In those bad old times, I often find the meats, be they pork, beef (or buffalow), chicken all too gamey in texture and flavour. Granted, I hung out at those American establishments mainly for lack of knowledge of where to go to for a good meal in Manila.

    But in the last 5 years or so, many interesting places. A couple of weeks ago, I had a wonderful dinner at Felix at Greenbelt5.

    Antonio’s at Tagtaytay is one place I will want to try…based on your recommendation, Miele Guide’s suggestion and the urgings of many of my Filipino foodie friends.

    In Serendra, I loved the abodo at Abe’s. I also have had some very good steaks at Mamou in Serendra. See this blog report.

    http://shiokhochiak.blogspot.com/2009/08/trila-in-manila-1-mamou-home-kitchen.html

    And on Aug 13, I will put online at my blog my dining experience at Lolo Dad’s.

    Thanks for highliting even more eating places to seek out in Manila.

  18. Miakoda August 12, 2009 at 9:12 pm

    Another amazing cuisine I must sample and try for myself, Beautiful pictures! :)

  19. zoi August 13, 2009 at 12:42 am

    WOW!!! thank you very much for this wonderful post!!

  20. rei August 13, 2009 at 5:58 am

    I beg to differ about Chef Laudico – the Philippine Tourism Office in Singapore brought him over recently to helm a Philippine Gourmet Food Festival at 7,107 Flavours in Marina Square. The food festival ran from 11-17 June, in coordination with other events celebrating Philippine Independence Day (which falls on 12 June). Chef Laudico’s wife, pastry chef Jackie Laudico, was part of his team, and was in charge of the desserts.

  21. steph August 13, 2009 at 7:46 am

    definitely, filipino food is underrated but to me it’s one of the best in the world! antonio’s deserves to be one of miele’s top 10 restaurants. their food is super fabulous.

  22. Mimaz August 13, 2009 at 11:23 am

    Hello there!…your great, mouthwatering & enjoyable food-tripping to our country sounded & looked(in pictures) so delicious… You made our country appear so YUMMY :)…Just want to say “THANK YOU” for visiting our country & come back soon…so much more to discover & try…especially in the provinces that is authentically , individually & recognizably characterized on their own style & taste… SHINE ON!

  23. Melissa August 13, 2009 at 3:33 pm

    I am a regular lurker of your blog, based in Manila. I am thrilled to see this post, I have been to each and every one of these restaurants and I’m glad that more and more people are coming to appreciate what the Philippines has to offer in terms of great food. I hope you come visit again, there really is so much more to eat…and see…around here. :)

  24. P. Chong August 14, 2009 at 9:15 am

    here is my followup on Lolo Dad’s

    http://shiokhochiak.blogspot.com/2009/08/trilla-in-manila-2-lolo-dads-cafe.html

  25. Rohit August 14, 2009 at 4:52 pm

    Another very good post. The post beautiful about this site is that it has very good photography done

  26. cherylle_z August 14, 2009 at 9:18 pm

    I was so delighted to see some of my favorite food haunts in Manila (Antonio’s, Salcedo Saturday market, and even Apartment 1B and Razon’s albeit in passing) and others I failed to visit before moving to Singapore over a year ago. You’re fortunate that your hosts know their way around Manila’s food landscape. But 3 days are way too short to truly appreciate the breadth and depth of our cuisine. I’m glad you enjoyed your visit and grateful for the wonderful memories this post evoked. Thanks!

  27. Alice August 16, 2009 at 10:07 am

    I love the photograph of those perfect looking pastries! Yum

  28. Mila August 17, 2009 at 9:45 am

    Thank you for posting such wonderful pictures! Makes me miss home a lot. Glad you had great hosts and tasted so many delicious dishes; our desserts, both spanish and malay/chinese influenced, may be one of our best resources. Hope you get to travel around the country a lot more over the next few years.

  29. Employment September 11, 2009 at 10:04 pm

    Those are deliciously tasty foods. Some are my favorites. Manila has really so much to offer.

  30. Didi September 20, 2009 at 10:42 am

    Glad you enjoyed your foodie finds here in Manila! I think on your next trip – you should go to Cebu, Iloilo and Bacolod to try some other local fares!! :)

    I’ll be in Singapore next week, in case you’re craving for anything from Manila – I’d be glad to bring it to Singapore for you!! :)

    Cheers to you and S! *hugs*

  31. frannywanny October 20, 2009 at 5:26 pm

    hi Chubby Hubby!

    glad you enjoyed your visit to Manila :) meanwhile, I’ll be going to Singapore this friday and boy am I excited!

    hope you can come back and visit some more, the philippines still has a lot to offer! ;)

    fran
    http://www.frannywanny.com

  32. Sherly October 27, 2009 at 11:59 am

    Hai Chubby Hubby!

    Amazing photos! Do you use Lumix DMC-LX2 or your SLR?

  33. Chubby Hubby October 27, 2009 at 12:37 pm

    Sherly: I packed along my DSLR and trusty 50mm on that trip.

  34. Grant November 4, 2009 at 6:32 pm

    Antonio’s is fantastic… and Elbert has opened a Philly Cheese Steak place in Rockwell which is also brilliant.

  35. jdb March 13, 2010 at 3:58 am

    By any chance did you try the chicharon with the Gordo & Bonita label at Salcedo market? mmm the best chicharon!

  36. u8mypinkcookies December 7, 2010 at 4:24 am

    omg… foooood! xD

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