Reflecting on the past year for me brings about a torrent of mismatched emotions. There’s devastation, joy, fear, and excitement. It’s been a series of crazy rollercoaster rides (think 6 Flags or Battlestar Galactica Rollercoaster levels; not just EK’s Space Shuttle) for the Philippines. But despite (or maybe because of) these difficulties, I feel our nation has still enjoyed growth in many different aspects, both mundane or major.
Pepper.ph has been known for dishing out honest and controversial articles about food (and yes, some of them were more trouble than they were worth), but it has always been part of our mission to create conversations, establish discourse, amongst our readers. The exchange of ideas through personal takes on Metro Manila’s food scene has always been part of our goal.
2013, despite the mix of heartbreak, hope, and everything else in between it’s given us, has still been a great year for food in the Philippines. Perhaps, one of the best years yet. A lot of folks were brave enough to jump over the edge and take huge risks with the food they serve. The market was also very receptive to these changes, becoming more open-minded to the dozens of unconventional flavor profiles that debuted and proving to the world that Metro Manila remains an adventurous and experimental food destination.
Now that the year is reaching its final days, let’s take a trip down food memory lane and check out 10 of the trends that defined the 2013 Metro Manila food scene.
1. The Eggs-Factor
When the menu descriptions of a dish mentions anything about a poached, 6-minute, or soft-boiled egg on top of your order, it just becomes so much easier to choose what to get. Perhaps it’s all those videos circulating of <insert name of star chef here> breaking open a fragile but perfectly cooked egg’s yolk, letting you watch all that rich yellow treasure drip onto your steak or rice, that’s to blame. It’s food porn at its finest, and totally eggciting, isn’t it?
2. Burger’s Revenge
Burgers have always been a safe choice for carnivores who want a quick meat fix. But just when we thought that the burger craze would reach its demise in 2012, a new breed of bold beef geniuses in 2013 made handcrafted burgers that cater to various palates the new craze. One of their big selling points is the incredible amount of creative and customizable options you can enjoy, each one heavy on imagination and your belly. You might just have to Call the Nurse.
3. Craft Beer
In an attempt to refine the taste of local beer drinkers, a good number of Manila’s gastropubs and watering holes have started importing premium international craft beer brands. Also, it is noteworthy to mention that local brewers have started selling their original concoctions in selected beer stores in Metro Manila. It makes me so proud to be Filipino, seeing how the industry is taking concrete steps to increase the number of beer connoisseurs in the country (unless you drink to get drunk). Some of the good ones I’ve tried are Fat Pauly’s (they have this incredible Pumpkin Ale!), Bogs Brew, and Katipunan Craft Ales.
4. Cronuts and Cookie Butter
This is one of those “been there, done that” trends of 2013, I think. The famed croissant hybrid was responsible for those long lines and even longer stints at the gym (since each one clocks in at 1,000 calories a pop) we were all forced to suffer through. We’ve seen the signs, we’ve laughed at the name permutations (I was waiting for someone to use Doissant, but even that’s been already patented), and now, a good number of us deride these sweet creations like hipsters who liked a band before anyone else but now hate that they’ve made it big. Let’s not forget the Crookies and Croclairs.
Of course, there’s also the overpriced Cookie Butter. This gingerbread-inspired spread has been making people so crazy, even McDonald’s joined the bandwagon and added it to their McFlurries.
5. Katsu, Katsu, Katsu
The Katsu trifecta (Yabu, Saboten, and Ginza Bairin) are all neck and neck when it comes to serving (deep breath) The Best Katsu in Metro Manila. However, there are other hidden katsu places scattered all over that are perfectly fine dark horse contenders to the Katsu wars. Have you checked out Crazy Katsu in Maginhawa? How about Katsu in the Fort? Or Katsu Cafe in Katipunan? Many say that “they all taste the same,” but what do you guys think?
6. Artisan Coffee Shops (+ Bakeries)
We can’t forget all these Cafe + Bakeries popping up everywhere in Metro Manila like a sweet, caffeinated epidemic. Just like our local craft beers, a bunch of coffee lovers probably got sick of commercialized (and overpriced) coffee and started concocting their own special Mochas, Lattes, and Flat Whites.
Though concentrated more on the beverages, let’s not forget the bread selection served on the side. Some of the noteworthy ones that got people talking are Luna Specialty Coffee, Craft Coffee Revolution, The Curator, Commune, and Yardstick Coffee.
7. Secret-But-Not-So-Secret Speak Easy Bars
If you’ve grown tired of the party scene and now prefer sitting down with friends, cocktails in hand, where you can hold an actual conversation, then speakeasy bars might just be your thing. Most speak-easy bars nowadays want to be “kept secret” (as per its namesake), some aren’t even registered on Foursquare. I personally think that adds to the charm of the place. Whenever I’m at Red Rabbit, a speakeasy bar located inside Bugsy’s Salcedo, I feel like I’m in a scene from The Godfather.
One of the first was the secret (but now, not-so-secret thanks to CNN) Blind Pig in Makati, but now a slew of speak-easy bars followed suit. Some of the newer kids in the block are Finders Keepers inside Black Market, Niner Ichi Nana, and Red Rabbit.
8. Healthier Options
Though we are often advocates of fatty eats and junk food, it’s noteworthy to mention the rise and growth of healthier restaurants that take pride in the use of organic meats in their dishes. Restaurants such as Earth Kitchen and Green Pastures have redefined the use of vegetables and other heathy natural ingredients from boring to brilliant.
9. More Ramen, Please!
I’m really not sure if I’d want more ramen restaurants in Metro Manila because we are already awfully spoiled with our current selection (and they just keep on coming!). Ukkokei’s Tantanmen is the place that sparked the trend of ramen chains entering Metro Manila. Aside from the latest Ramen Nagi (Butao King) opening in SM Aura a little bit over a week ago, rumor has it that Ippudo is landing pretty soon as well.
10. Breakfast All-Day, Everyday
I watched a documentary about how we crave for certain (usually unhealthy) food because of the memories we associate with them. A lot of people say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and it’s usually spent with family. Perhaps, this explains the rise of these all-day breakfast joints in Metro Manila. I’m not complaining. Now if only McDonald’s and Jollibee would apply the same rule to their breakfast meals.