6 Restaurant Chains We Want in ManilaDecember 5, 2018
- Katrina IriberriWords
The recent influx of foreign restaurant chains opening in the Philippines is a godsend for those of us who can’t afford to fly out each time we want some authentic Korean fried chicken. The arrival of IHOP, Japanese katsu restaurants Saboten and Ginza Bairin, French bakery PAUL, and even Pepper Lunch from a few years back has made Manila a more exciting (albeit fattening) place to dine in. That said, it’s human nature to never be content with what we have, so here’s a list of restaurant chains we want to come to Manila.
1. In ‘N Out
Judging from the success of its very short-lived pop-up at Bonifacio High Street, there’s a high demand for In ‘N Out’s world-famous burgers. Apart from utilizing top-quality ingredients (for instance, they don’t use frozen beef) in their patties, what makes In ‘N Out so great is their Secret Menu. No, I don’t mean the not-so-secret one posted on their website. I mean the ultimate Secret Menu that includes the vegetarian “Wish Burger” (as in, “I wish this had meat in it), the “Animal Style Flying Dutchman,” their two-minute fries, and a seemingly endless list of other options.
However, for those now craving for a 2×4 with cold cheese, note that a Manila In ‘N Out is not likely, at least not any time soon. Despite what the pop-up may have implied, the company has been highly resistant to expansion and franchising beyond the West Coast of the US. The family-owned company wants to remain as such, plus their commitment to quality and freshness (all branches must be within a day’s drive of their distribution centers) makes expansion slow and costly.
2. Shake Shack
The West Coast has In ‘N Out and the East Coast has Danny Meyer’s Shake Shack. Their burgers, once touted as the best in the city, have had customers lining up for an hour or more at their New York City branches since 2004. Crowd pleasers include the classic Shack Burger, the Shack Stack (a mashup of the Burger and the ‘Shroom Burger), the Shack-cago Dog and, of course, their Shakes. Like its West Coast counterpart, Shake Shack prides itself on the quality of their ingredients. They make their frozen custards in-house, they used to grind their 100% Angus beef at Meyer’s Eleven Madison Park, and they support artisan and fair-trade suppliers for coffee and chocolate. Fortunately for us, the Union Square Hospitality Group is a lot more open about sharing the Shack with the rest of the world. They have nine branches outside the United States, with the newest ones in Istanbul and London.
3. Din Tai Fung
A growing number of Chinese restaurants in Manila are now serving the soupy Xiao Long Bao dumplings. However, those who have been lucky enough to try Din Tai Fung abroad will tell you that nothing available locally matches the Taiwanese original with its thin, translucent wrapper and porky, fatty broth. Even the vinegar, ginger, and soy sauce in Din Tai Fung are miles better than what’s served here, ditto for their porkchop fried rice. Rumor has it that the main barrier preventing Din Tai Fung from entering the Philippine market seems to be its high franchise fee. So until I or some other Xiao Long Bao purist wins the lottery, we’ll all have to get our fix in Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia or Hong Kong.
The ramen-mad will be glad that Butao will soon be opening at SM Aura, but it’s no secret that the restaurant they all have been praying to set up shop in Manila is Ippudo. The Fukuoka chain’s bowls of Akamaru and Shimomaru are so in demand, that people have been known to wait hours in line for them, even in cities where the branches have been open for years. I cannot imagine how crazy it will get if Ippudo does open up a Manila branch to add to its New York, Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong outposts. It will be chaos (but I’m sure I’ll be seeing all of you there anyway).
Their burritos are known to be the best hangover food, but you don’t have to be recovering from a bender to appreciate Chipotle. While they are a fast-food joint, their meats and sauces are prepared the traditional, and, therefore, slow way. The guacamole is mixed by hand, their barbacoa is braised for eight hours, and their carnitas are marinated overnight. They also make sure to use high-quality and sustainably sourced ingredients as much as possible. This results in straightforward burritos, tacos, and salads that are delicious sober or otherwise. Unfortunately for us, Chipotle does not seem to have plans to expand to Asia in the near future. The only branches outside North America are in London and Paris. I guess that’s one more reason to visit the City of Light.
I think it’s one of the world’s worst injustices that Nando’s is available in 32 countries, but the Philippines is still left out. This South African import’s grilled peri-peri chicken is so good, it was reportedly part of Jay Z’s rider at the Brit Awards. The chicken is marinated for twenty-four hours and then grilled to order with the requested level of spice. The result is fresh, tender, and juicy chicken that may or may not burn your tongue. You can order the grilled chicken by itself, but the chicken is also great filling for their burgers, pitas, and wraps. But since the only peri-peri chicken restaurant in Manila has closed, I’m not sure how big of a local demand there is for Nando’s.
Are there any other foreign restaurants that you want to open in Manila? Do you have millions to invest in a Din Tai Fung franchise? Let us know in the comments!