Some of the most delicious food comes from cuisine that is far removed from ours. Discovering new flavors that we aren’t used to is always a very exciting thing. Sometimes, however, you don’t need to travel far to find dishes that are as authentic as those served in their country of origin. With the food scene in Manila nowadays, you can find everything from Taiwanese to Italian all within your reach. Glorietta and Greenbelt gave Pepper a sneak peek of just a few of the restaurants on their latest Gastronomic Feast tour, with restaurants whose unique flavors span across the globe.
1. Wee Nam Kee (Glorietta 2)
There are many Singaporean restaurants in Manila, but none have become as successful as Wee Nam Kee. Known for their chicken rice, this chain has found an audience with their authentic staples, from the crispy and sweet cereal prawns, to steaming hot mantou bread dunked in sticky condensed milk. Singaporean cuisine is known for crossing various cultures, with influences from China to India. Wee Nam Kee is known to be uncompromising when it comes to showcasing what Singapore is known for.
Our Pick: Steamed Hainanese Yellow Chicken
In fact, Wee Nam Kee serves their signature Hainanese yellow chicken, which is prized as the kurubota or wagyu of poultry. Even the breasts, which people often accuse of being dry, are incredibly plump and juicy. The slight taste of ginger permeates the skin, making it taste fragrant. It isn’t Hainanese without the accompanying sauces, and Wee Nam Kee does them well- the pounded ginger, chill and dark soya all compliment the bird and its broth very well.
2. Lugang Cafe (Glorietta 2)
Lugang Cafe’s Manila outlets are the first outside China, and since the brand arrived on our shores, it has been applauded for their take on Taiwanese cuisine. Quality is important to Lugang, and in spite of opening many branches across the city, their food remains consistent. From appetizers to dessert, you’ll be hard pressed to find something that you won’t want to order. Their salted egg string beans are a favorite, and their variety of shaved ice is still unrivalled in the city.
Our Pick: Three Cup Chicken and Xiao Long Bao
A while back, we did a taste test of xiao long bao, and the team’s favorite ended up being from Lugang, and with good reason. The skins are delicately thin, but don’t break when the dumplings are picked up with a chopstick. The mince of pork, or pork and crab roe, is meaty and doesn’t feel artificial, while the soup is flavorful and steaming hot. Have this with an order of their famous 3 cup chicken, with soft and sweet whole garlic, and you’re in for a good meal.
3. Mu Noodle Bar (Glorietta 2)
Mu Noodle Bar is probably one of the most underrated restaurants in the city. The small chain has garnered a cult following, who are all enticed by the interesting menu which stays true to its Chinese roots. Mu Noodle Bar has Taiwanese roots but serves up some very exciting food that doesn’t break the bank. They even have braised sea cucumber, red lamb curry, and oyster cakes, which are all relatively cheap compared to other Chinese restaurants.
Our Pick: Beef with Tendon
The star of Mu Noodle Bar however is their noodle soup, which reminds one of a cross between Japanese ramen and Chinese noodle soup. Their thick miso stock uses pork, and their noodles are just the right amount of chewy and tender. The beef with tendon sounds like a safe choice, but one bowl is good for sharing and incredibly warming. Meaty brisket and fatty tendon enhance the broth, making this an instant favorite.
4. Felix (Greenbelt 5)
If you’re looking for cross-cultural cuisine but in a more upscale setting, then Felix is your best bet in the Makati area. Their menu may be intimidatingly long, but search for the gems and you’ll have a good time eating. With dishes from celebrity chef Florabel Co-Yatco, the food here can only be described as fusion, borrowing influences from countries in Asia and Europe.
Our Pick: Mizube
There are oysters topped with caviar and Chardonnay cream sauce which scream French, and salmon served Kabutoni style. We had the Mizube, seared sea bass with sautéed spinach and corn, that was topped with thin slivers of crispy potato. The fish was cooked just like fatty sea bass should be cooked.
5. Ganso-Shabuway (Greenbelt 5)
When I was little, I used to think shabu-shabu and hot pot were boring. It was often my least favorite cuisine, because as a kid, you would rather have deep-fried junk food than a pot of boiling water and some vegetables. Ganso-Shabuway has showed up the kid in me, by proving to me that shabu-shabu is definitely not boring. In fact, the subtlety of the broths showcase the quality and complexity of ingredients, and Ganso-Shabuway’s version is pretty darn good.
Our Pick: Premium Kobe Beef Set
What sets them apart is that they have a Premium American Kobe Beef set. The kobe, when lightly dipped into the hot broth, is cooked to silky, tender perfection. While the traditional seaweed highlights the taste of the beef, the original spicy miso made of miso, spices, and vegetables, is the perfect broth. Without being too spicy, it gives the sweet vegetables a gentle kick of heat. If things get a little too hot for you, they also offer a Wakame Seaweed broth, and a Ginger Chicken broth. Don’t forget to dip into the ponzu sauce with spring onion, or the sesame sauce which is good with an extra scoop of garlic.
6. Motorino (Greenbelt 3)
Known for their authentic Napoletana pizza, Motorino has been making waves in Manila since it opened this year. With a real brick oven, and a promise to keep the integrity of their ingredients from their branches abroad, Motorino’s pizzas are the kind which you can have all to yourself. With a molten liquid centre, and dough that is carefully blistered, there is a reason why some people call it the best pizza in New York City.
Our Pick: Soppressata Picante and Tiramisu
The pizza with soppressata picante is a stunner, and shows you what Motorino is all about. It uses fior di latte, a type of mozzarella, straight from Italy, and a tomato sauce that is incredibly fresh. The spicy soppressatta is the right amount of hot and spicy, turning the whole thing into something so good that you can’t have just one bite.