Where to Eat Around the Philippines Without Leaving Metro ManilaOctober 4, 2015
As far as we can remember, Filipino food has been a tandem of classic staples and progressive cuisine, especially in these current times. On one hand, you’ve got provincial restaurants trying to preserve heritage recipes, and on the other, you’ve got chefs transforming traditional plates into their own hip and modern translations. We can’t blame them, though; if anything, these are only but exciting times for Filipino cuisine—no wonder Mr. Bourdain will be paying us a visit very soon. It’s highly possible that he will be traveling to different regions, probably sampling each and every version of adobo and kare-kare our islands have to offer. But if you’re stuck in Manila in the meantime, here are some places where you can grab your regional dish fixes and ease those homegrown cravings.
1. Abé (Kapampangan)
Kapampangan cuisine is identified by its varied influences from Spain, Mexico, and Malay. Being known for their sisig, they also have iterations of tocino called pindang, and longganisa. A rice dish flavored with chicken and saffron, known as nasing biringyi, is an obvious byproduct of the Malay influence, while more interesting eats include stews made with lizards and dogs. But don’t worry, Abé leans towards the more approachable side of Kapampangan cuisine with dishes such as Sinuteng Baby Squid (small squid sautéed in olive oil and seasoning), Balo-Balo (a native dish comprising of salted rice and shrimp paste served with mustasa leaves), and Pampanga’s version of a Valenciana called the Biringhe. If you’re up for a challenge, try their Adobong Kamaru, or rice field crickets sautéed in vinegar, tomatoes, and garlic and Betute, which are farm frogs stuffed with minced pork, garlic, and spices.
Branches: Serendra, Trinoma, SM Mega Fashion Hall, Alabang Town Center, and SM Mall of Asia
2. Victorino’s (Ilocano)
Located in the heart of Tomas Morato is Victorino’s, a concept by Chef Heny Sision. While they also serve safer alternatives such as pastas and sandwiches, most food folk claim that this places serves the most authentic Ilocano restaurant in the city. Tucked away inside a cozy, home-like setting, Victorino’s takes pride in dishing out some of the best Poqui-poqui (a signature Ilocano dish made with eggplant, tomatoes, onions, and egg), Lomo-lomo (a clear beef soup with innards, fat, and egg), Sinanglao (bitter stew), and of course, who could forget the Bagnet.
Address: 114 Scout Rallos St. cor 11th Jamboree, near Tomas Morato Ave., Sacred Heart, Quezon City
3. Dong Juan (Cebuano)
While its signage boasts of anything but Cebuano cuisine, their menu has some native Cebuano items lurking in between Caesar Salads and Carbonaras. Dishes such as Filipino Sisig in Olive Oil, All-Meat Pochero, and a porky Cebuano Chorizo Pasta are worth a try.
Address: 72 Mother Ignacia Ave., Diliman, Quezon City
4. Top Meal (Bicolano)
Cheap and no-frills, Top Meal as a frequented establishment for those who want to get their Bicolano fix. While you won’t find Kinunot (sting ray or shark meat cooked in coconut milk and moringa) or my personal Bicolano favorite, Tilmok (crab meat cooked with coconut cream in banana leaves), they do serve up mean plates of Laing and Bicol Express. They also have an interesting Tuna Schnitzel on their menu, too.
Address: Escuela, Makati
5. Sarsa (Bacolod)
Sarsa has quickly become one of the most well-loved restaurants in Metro Manila. Thanks to the deft culinary skills of Chef JP Anglo, who has successfully managed to bring the flavor of the region to the city, we can now relish in Bacolod staples such as Inasal, Batchoy, and Chef JP’s take on a Piaya ice cream.
Sarsa Kitchen + Bar
Branches: Fort, SM Mall of Asia, and Legaspi Village
6. Aracama (Negros)
More than just a party venue, Aracama in the Fort is also home to some delicious Negros-inspired dishes. Though they have a Negros Manhattan, you can skip the cocktail menu for now and jump right into thier Manok Sa Tanglad (Bacolod-style grilled chicken skewers with fragrant golden garlic atsuete chicken oil and classic sinamak), Chef Fernando Aracama’s take on empanadas that are stuffed with cheeseburger, Molo (wanton soup flavored with shrimp and chicken), Kadyos, Baboy, Langka (or KBL; an Ilonggo version of pork sinigang with purple kadyos beans, young jackgruit, and soured with batwan) and top it all off with some Guinumis (coconut milk panna cotta with tapioca pearls and dark panucha syrup) or Fried Suman….and then cocktails.
Address: The Fort Strip, 26th St., Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City
7. Davao Tuna Grill (Davao)
It’s a no-brainer that Davao Tuna Grill, an underrated food court commoner, serves one of Davao’s specialties—tuna and other seafood that’s cooked right. Apart from the belly, panga (jaw), and buntot (tail). Try kinilaw na tangigue and Maya-Maya Head for a change.
Davao Tuna Grill
Branches: Various branches across Metro Manila
8. Bai (Dumaguete)
Located at Aguirre Avenue in BF Homes, Parañaque, lies the unassuming restaurant Bai, which serves Dumaguete-inspired dishes. The Halang-halang is a spicy chicken dish infused with coocnut milk, ginger and chilis, while the Sinugbang Manok is their version of a chicken barbecue.
Address: 215C Aguirre Ave., BF Homes, Parañaque