Best Restaurants Manila Tatler – After two long years, I was finally able to travel back to the Philippines for the holidays. Unfortunately, the Omicron variant quickly spread not long after, causing most people to stay indoors and many restaurants to pause operations, but luckily, just as quickly, things went downhill too. I took this time to definitely dine at some of Manila’s more progressive “fine” restaurants (that term has evolved, but I’m just using it here as a category for ease of identification) and check out their latest various course/tasting menu offerings. All I can say is, WOW. Manila, you are spoiled for choice! From Filipino to Western and plant-based/vegan, here’s a guide to some of the best (mostly local!) product-centric menus in the country. *Outdoor seating noted where appropriate.
Hapag in Quezon City was listed in the Essence of Asia 2021 Asia Collection Top 50 Restaurants (Photo by Cheryl Tiu)
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Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao are the 3 main island groups in the Philippines. And at Hapag, which is part of the 50 Best Restaurants in Asia Museum, they created a course called LuzViMinda, which focuses on each dish: warek warek mushrooms (Luzon), napoleon scallops (Visayas), alavar crab (Mindanao), presented . like the Philippine archipelago.
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Hapag’s LuzViMinda highlights dishes from each Philippine archipelago: mushroom warek warek (Luzon), scallop napoleones (Visayas), crab alavar (Mindanao), presented as if it were the Philippine archipelago (Photo: Cheryl Tiu)
This is just a glimpse of a thoughtful and flavorful trip through the Philippines that accompanies its 10-course tasting menu (I had a pescatarian), where each dish is a delicious account of the country’s bounty and heritage.
Definitely worth braving the traffic to Quezon City! And I have no doubt that chef-owners Kevin Navoa, Thirdy Dolatre and Kevin Villarica will continue to rise as they spotlight all things Filipino and Filipino.
Metronome, designed by Noel Bernardo, is one of the most beautiful restaurants in the city (Photo: Cheryl Tiu)
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There are only a handful of female chefs in the realm of Filipino cuisine, and Miko Calo is an unusual force. Quiet elegance combined with measured precision makes each product-focused dish (from haricot vert to Hokkaido scallops and monkfish cheeks) nothing short of art.
Haricot vert, kabayawa vinaigrette, seared tuna roe mayonnaise, quail egg, candied tomato and taggiasche olives (Photo: Cheryl Tiu)
Metronome is a French word and yes Miko is trained in French (under the late Joël Robuchon himself), but did you know she is originally from Mindanao? Her dishes are also seasoned with ingredients from her home province of Agusan del Norte-and I loved learning more about this part of the Philippines from her.
Monkfish cheeks fried in butter, served with bordelaise sauce, mushrooms glazed in brown butter and soy, tarragon and parsley (Photo: Cheryl Tiu)
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PS She was awarded Chef of the Year 2022 by Tatler Philippines – an incredibly deserved achievement! And since the pandemic, Metronome has also opened its doors for lunch, offering laid-back bistro fare in one of the most elegant restaurants in town.
This is actually Fiddle Leaf, the all-day rooftop restaurant at Somerset Hotel Alabang, but for the omicron variety, we had our Tiago dinner menu here (Photo by Cheryl Tiu)
Two new ideas from Extremadura-born chef Carlos Garcia of Black Pig Alabang, both located on the terrace of Somerset Alabang. Fiddle Leaf, now a continental concept for all-day dining, will soon be entirely Spanish, a tribute to Garcia’s legacy. Tiago’s, opening at Christmas 2021, is a multi-course/tasting menu concept, with dishes that feature techniques inspired by the chef’s stay at Michelin-starred Gauthier Soho and Rousillon Restaurant in London.
Both fully plant-based/vegan – these chickpea fries and nori tacos topped with beetroot “sashimi” are excellent (Photo: Cheryl Tiu)
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Plant-based will be a strong topic here, as Garcia says he has increased inquiries about vegan and vegetarian options. On the ala carte side, the chickpea fries and nori taco topped with beetroot “sashimi” are excellent. For the plant-based tasting menu, they will include salt-roasted celery with mushrooms and cocoa “ground”. (*My promise was pescatarian and plant-based.)
It’s wonderful to see Carlos, Executive Chef Jorn Fonseca and Executive Chef Lea Malagamba continually shaping Alabang’s exciting food landscape!
Toyo Eatery is currently dining only – in the hallway – at this time (Photo: Cheryl Tiu)
Toyo Eatery’s – awarded Best Restaurant in the Philippines by Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2019-2021 – The plant-based tasting menu is an evolution of our Filipino favourites, only without meat, dairy or seafood. The same celebration of the rich produce of the Philippines by husband and wife Jordy and May Navarra and their team, which they wholeheartedly cultivated as a family.
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Think: our famous tartang talong x pumpkin on burnt eggplant chips; ginatoeg langka; our famous banana sauce….
I chose Toyo Eatery’s vegetarian/vegan menu: Tortang talong & pumpkin on roasted eggplant chips, eggplant puree; Ginataang langka, kadyos, red onion, kangkong; Homemade banana cat – sour bulkan, banana peel and floral vinegar, kamatis, spices; Sinangag, crispy garlic, garlic onion, tomato, pickled papaya; Salad of Labanos, gamete seaweed, kamatis, Tagalog sibuyas (Photo: Cheryl Tiu)
Some of the most important crops in the Philippines: cassava and sweet potato; rice seasoned with tapuey and covered with mustard; black rice transformed into siomai; and different textures of corn – it all turned into a one-bite wonder.
Also note photographer Neal Oshima’s Brujo craft beer, which uses breadcrumbs from Panaderya Toyo. (It’s also opening soon at The Alley at Karrivin!)—combined with rice noodles served with gabi leaf bread in coconut milk. And one of our favorite desserts, Bibingka, turned into an amazing cocktail with lamb nog and coconut cream!
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The Salad Course: Roasted Labanos with Grape Cherry Tomatoes; fried and pickled Tagalog sibuyas; burong mango; mustard leaf (Photo: Cheryl Tiu)
*One of the most unnecessary things for me on this journey was having to explain (actually justify!) repeatedly why I stopped eating meat over a year ago. “Kawawa ka naman you can’t eat XYZ…” (“Poor you, you can’t eat XYZ.”) I’m not a kawawa, I *choose* to stop eating meat. And anyway, for anyone who thinks the alternative is just eating lettuce leaves, this plant-based menu from Toyo will prove otherwise. Seriously, vegan, vegetarian or not – try it!
8 courses for P3, 600 (VAT included); 8 courses (plant-based) for P2, 900 (incl. VAT); 4 courses for P1, 900 (only from Tuesday to Friday; VAT included); P1 cocktail pairing, 500 for 5 drinks
Filipino – front and center – is Metiz’s kitchen, regardless of the Franco-Philippine and Colombian heritage of chefs Stephan Duhesme and Karen Urriago Ramos, who run the front and back of the house.
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Think of Metiz as a neo-bistro – six memorable courses, low intervention/natural wines, cocktails that continue to celebrate Filipino heritage.
Products are local throughout – sourced from different parts of the Philippines, crafted into creative, technique-oriented yet incredibly affordable dishes.
Ubod and ginataan squash with whipped smoked tuyo plays with hot and cold elements. Lumpia is made here with a crispy sourdough wrapper with grilled eggplant topped with kasuy fruit as the main filling. And the best tempeh I’ve ever tried – made into a braised black bean stew and served with guisadong buro (this dish is vegan). The octopus is served with a smoked bangus sauce and fermented langka. You take the clue. (Also, here a palate cleanser of local fruits is served as a first course.)
Plant-based/vegan – and the BEST tempeh I’ve ever had: Guisadong buro and black bean tempeh stew (Photo: Cheryl Tiu)
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Metiz is big on fermentation – every dish will have some element – don’t forget to check out their brew cabinets at the back of the restaurant, really interesting stuff!
When Gallery by Chele opened in 2013, it was one of the few restaurants that offered tasting menus that proudly showcased Filipino ingredients and dishes at the time, and it was one of the first Filipino restaurants to make the list of the 50 best restaurants in Asia. Over the years, Executive Chef Chele Gonzalez was born in Torrelavega (which is now fully Pinoy inside out!) Philippines. Development is constant and even if you have been here once, or countless times, the experience is always special.
Proclamation Gin Seasonal Cocktail: Shiitake mushrooms, honey, lemon juice and fresh basil. Super fresh with lots of umami! (Photo: Cheryl Tiu)
You can choose between 5 or 9 courses, and a vegetarian menu is also offered. (*Mine was a hybrid of pescatarian, vegetarian and vegan). The Wine Pairing Program, led by husband and wife Cyril and Pierre Addison, introduced me to trendy wines that I had not yet seen (I much prefer commercial and commercial rated wines for wine pairings)
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Uni + hash brown caviar; Insulin Tacos with Insulin Leaves from Gallery by Chele City Park, with onion, cilantro, pickled fruit and tofu (for carnivores, it’s local kurobota from
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