State of the Restaurant Nation

Poblacion

Z Hostel, Lokal Hostel, Junction Hostel, MNL Boutique Hostel, Our Melting Pot Hostel, Hilik Hostel Poblacion now blows Malate out of the water.

Cheap rent, red light district, rundown area, near the business centers that are Rockwell and Makati, it was inevitable that this would become a backpacker area.

Throw in the easy to find Century City Mall and the nearby Power Plant Mall (Rockwell) and you have a winner.

And if that wasn’t enough, throw in the same conditions that make it a backpacker area and you have a restaurant incubator.

Start with the easy to find Hole in the Wall on top of Century City Mall.  It’s like a restaurant incubator in the land of restaurant incubators.  It even has a bar that serves all the different Philippine craft beers.  Which makes it a craft beer incubator in a restaurant incubator in the land of restaurant incubators.

My hands down favorite craft beer of the moment is Single Speed Stout by Turning Wheels and Drop Zone by Nipa Brew, but I like the dark beers.

Venture out to Makati Ave., and above Starbucks you’ll find Hummus Elijah, the number one restaurant on Tripadvisor Metro Manila.  And it’s not some hotel buffet or high end restaurant.  It’s an Israeli backpacker-friendly restaurant that serves really good hummus, grilled mozzarella sandwiches, falafel and authentic Turkish coffee.

Okay, now I’m going to get going…

In Century Plaza Mall

Toby’s – best craft coffee

IHOP – International House of Pancakes

Early Bird Breakfast Club – breakfast

Fully Booked – a bookstore, not a restaurant, look for Filipino komiks like Trese

12 Monkeys – listen to now classic alternative Filipino rock

Rustan’s Supermarket – stock up on your toiletries

Ace Hardware – never make “suntukan” here

movie theaters – in case you want to catch something you’ve missed

There’s a money changer in here somewhere, too. Czarina’s.

In Power Plant Mall

taho – street dessert being served out of giant aluminum cans in the middle of the main basement hallway

Via Mare – classic Filipino afternoon snacks, get the palabok for a meal, get their bibingka for dessert

Milky Way – halu-halo, another classic Filipino dessert

Fully Booked – a bookstore, but this one has a coffeeshop

Jollibee – when in the Philippines…

Travel Club – backpack broken? get a new one here

True Value – hardware store

movie theaters – in case you want to catch something you’ve missed

There’s a money changer in here somewhere, too.

Outside Power Plant Mall

Rambla – pricey but tasty Catalan food, get their steak tartar

Ooma – new Japanese food, uni noodles

Refinery – craft beer, craft coffee, single malt whiskeys, gin, brunch

Single Origin – same, same but different of Refinery

Tajimaya – Korean BBQ, very tasty

On Kalayaan Ave.

Kismet Cafe – local coffee

Howzat Sports Bar – sports bar

Bar Mathilde – craft cocktail bar

East of Kalayaan Ave.

Z Hostel has an actual rooftop bar, a good place to meet other backpackers

Bucky’s – Swedish meatballs

Alamat – more local craft beer

Crying Tiger – if you haven’t had enough Indo-Chinese food

Kanto Freestyle Breakfast – We eat rice with our breakfast!

Holy Smokes – barbecue

Oto – craft cocktail bar

Tilde Cafe – breakfast

West of Kalayaan Ave.

El Chupacabra – the classic street taco

Tambai – Filipino street food

Senor Pollo – chicken

Handlbar – cheap steak on weekends

A’Toda Madre – also great Mexican food and tequila

Commune – craft coffee

Bean & Yolk – eggs Benedict

Le Cafe Curieux – like a transplanted Boracay bar

Jupiter St.

Hoping – Korean ice dessert

Ludo – board game restaurant

Lazy Bastard – craft hotdogs and hamburgers

ABV – “hidden” bar inside Lazy Bastard

Mitsuyado Sei-mean – double cheese sauce on noodles

Razon’s – classic Filipino snacks, try their pancit luglug and of course, their halo-halo

Sweet Ecstasy – craft hamburgers

Whistestop – 24-hour restaurant

Special mention

Paris Delice – French breakfast on Makati Ave.

Biggest open secret on Kalayaan Ave.

You can’t miss it, as you walk down Kalayaan Ave.  I don’t want to spoil it for you.  Seedy, but never fails to get a chuckle.

Warning

Poblacion area and Kalayaan Ave is still a red light district with corrupt third world cops, scams, dirty money changers.  Be careful when on the street.

BGC (formerly known as Fort Bonifacio)

Tomatito – the best tapas in the Philippines

Bar Pinxtos – the second best tapas but just as good

WildFlour – the best brunch restaurant in the Philippines

Farmacy – craft ice cream right beside WildFlour

Pink’s – hotdogs imported from L.A.

Hotel Bar – bar hidden inside Pink’s, has local craft beers

Krispy Kreme – doughnuts imported from America

Fully Booked – the mothership of Philippine bookshops

R.O.X. – if you need to stock up on outdoor recreational stuff

Market, Market – a rundown mall where you can buy pearls and knock-offs

Halal Guys – food truck imported from New York!

Nathan’s – hotdogs imported from Chicago

Nadai Fujisoba – best cold ramen imported from Japan

LIT – a real Japanese whiskey bar

Manam’s – if you have to eat just one Filipino dish, try their sisig with chicharron

Uptown Mall

Ippudo – ramen imported from Japan

Harry’s – meatpies imported from Australia

Horton’s – diner imported from Canada

Naxional – South American food

There is a club somewhere here…

Interestingly enough, a Filipino bought Dalmore, which means you can now get the best single malt Dalmores here.

Greenbelt & Glorietta

Landmark – the best grocery in the city, cheap and complete

Llaollao  – yogurt imported from Spain

Manam’s – if you have to eat just one Filipino dish, try their sisig with chicharron

Salcedo Village

every Saturday, they have the Saturday morning market

Mendokoro Ramenba – the best local ramen

Koku – cute Japanese food, get there oyster with papaya appetizer

Wildflour – brunch

Legaspi Village

every Sunday, they have the Sunday morning market, I like Warung Warung Indonesian food

Bondi&Bourke – Australian food, real good meat pies

Union Jack – haggis

Bliss Yoga – great yoga place

Wildflour – brunch

Nightlife

20/20 – the current trendiest bar of the moment

Black Market – clubbing for kid set

Finders Keepers – the second trendiest bar beside Black Market

By the way, all these three are walking distance of each other.

And since we are on Chino Roces (Pasong Tamo) already, we might as well walk down to

Chino Roces Ext. (Pasong Tamo Ext.) where you will find…

Silverlens – a gallery for photography lovers

The Smoking Joint – barbecue in a chic setting

Tokyo Power Rice – rice topped with beef and cheese

Toby’s – their main branch

24-hour Japanese

Isshin

Alabang

Yushoken – great local ramen

Elbert’s Sandwiches – Philly cheesesteak

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El Chupacabra Makati

As if Polaris St. couldn’t get any better, nearby Felipe St. has a street taco place. The Mexican food wars have been getting ferocious and I thought the old stalwart Mexicali was down for the count, but I was wrong. Underpricing but out flavoring the competition, they opened El Chupacabra!

Cheap street tacos at roughly 90 pesos each. Yesterday I had a sisig taco, chicharon taco (soft though not fried chicharon), and a fried spicy shrimp taco. It still reminds me of Mexicali, but, boy, is it good! I would go back for its faux street ambiance and the general camaraderie of the patrons. Next on my list would be the fish taco and the goat meat taco. Across it is Heckle and Jeckle, now called H&J. New location for H&J, too.

One more thing, the tacos are so good that they give you two fajitas. One for the taco, and one for if ever some of the trimmings start falling off.

All other Mexican places, your move!

Feb. 15, 2014

I’ve gone back several times to El Chupacbra and the hands down street taco champion they have is the Camarones a la Diabla.  Mouth explosions!  Or as I called it earlier, fried spicy shrimp tacos.  I cry every time I eat it. 🙂

Domain Name!

In honor of my 101th post, I’ve finally decided to purchase the domain name backpackertrail.com  Be ready for a flurry of baller bands, calling cards, stickers, and t-shirts, hehehe.

Also I don’t know if I’ve posted this before, but here is my list of the best Mexican food in the Metropolis.

  • Ristras = best burrito
  • Orale = best enchilada
  • Chihuahua = best burrito bowl
  • Achiote = best soft taco
  • Mexicali = best cheaper burrito 😉

And we have a new contender, El Chupacabra = best street taco!

The State of the Nation of Restaurants in Metro Manila

I just came back from a long trip.  And I noticed the places I missed eating at have never even been posted on this blog.  So here’s my list of places I ate at or wanted to eat at when I got back.

The grand poom-bah of all the restaurants right now is Wildflour.  Their kimchi fried rice is to die for, and so is there croque monsieur.  They’re found in Bonifacio Global City (BGC).

Vegetarians, there is Juju Eats on Chino Roces Ext. (formerly Pasong Tamo Ext.) in Makati.

Fiamma is closed, so the best place for drinking is Draft in the Fort BGC, and Power Plant Mall in Rockwell, and Cebu, and soon in Greenbelt Mall.

Speaking about Mexican food, the burrito bowl in Chihuahua is delish.  They can be found on Makati Ave. across A. Venue Mall and in Greenbelt Mall.

Soms still rules the Thai scene.  Get their catfish salad, bagoong fried rice, and mango rice for dessert.  They are found on tiny Algier street near Power Plant, Rockwell.  Or even nearer to Ateneo Law School.  Ask around.

For good affordable Korean, a literal outlier, is Seoul Barbecue on C-5 outside Eastwood Mall.  Too far, if you’re not a local, unless you take a taxi.

Ikkoryu Fukuoka ramen in Shangri-la Mall, SM Aura Mall in BGC and soon in Power Plant, Rockwell wins the ramen wars for me.

Wee Nam Kee on the other hand rules the hainanese chicken rice scene in Serendra Mall, BGC and Ayala Triangle, Makati.

Crystal Jade in Greenhills outside Virramall has the most excellent xiao long bao.  I don’t know how the Singaporeans did it, but they’ve mastered keeping the soup in that little dumpling.  The lemon chicken and the white buns without siopao (asado) meat in them are also amazing.

Bonchon still rules the twice fried Korean chicken scene.  They’re everywhere.

Saboten in Serendra Mall, BGC wins the tonkatsu battle, on the other hand.

I just noticed that we’ve had an influx of good Korean (and Singaporean and Japanese) food lately.

I still keep my fingers crossed for Din Tai Fung one day.

For Italian, it’s still Nuovo Pastelaria in San Antonio Plaza, Forbes Park, Makati. They have the best ravioli. For the best spaghetti and meatballs, go to Charlie’s in Ronac Center, Ortigas Ave. or in Barangay Kapitolyo.

For steak, Handlebar especially on weekends when they have a barbecue. They’re found on Polaris St., Makati. For the best cheesesteaks, Elbert’s in Power Plant Mall, Rockwell.

Oh and how could I forget 2nd’s, the apex of Filipino comfort merienda (afternoon snack) food, but it comes at a price.  It’s found in High Street Mall, BGC.  They also have great Benedict burgers.  Nolita up the road in High Street Central though will give them a run for their money in New York pizza and burgers.

For cheaper Filipino food like halo-halo, in Milky Way on Arnaiz Rd. (formerly Pasay Road), inside Power Plant, Rockwell, and outside Virramall in Greenhills.  Via Mare in Greenbelt 1 Mall, Landmark Shopping Center, Power Plant Mall and now even St. Luke’s Hospital in BGC and it seems much much more (http://www.viamare.com.ph/outlets.html) has the best bibingka.

Kimpura in Greenbelt Mall rules the Japanese food scene and Isshin on Arnaiz Rd. (formerly Pasay Road) the 24-hour Japanese food scene.

And the ultimate in the foodie scene, Salcedo Saturday Morning Market still rules them all.

This was by no means a comprehensive list of all the great food in Metro Manila.  This was just the food I missed when I was away.  So I thought I would just share it with you.  I think I’ll make this an annual list.  To be informative and also to serve as a time capsule 🙂

Now what about clubbing?  I have no idea.  But rumor has it that Club Haze is the newest place to be at.  Followed by Urbn.  Fortunately both at The Fort, BGC.  Republique in Resorts World probably still has some oomph left.  Skye Lounge on High Street caters to the older set.  And probably Prive is awesome, too.  The last place I went to was Relic which is still happening and unpretentious.  But like I said, I’ve retired from the club scene.

And the rocker scene, too.  Saguijo on Guijo St. In Makati is probably still the shizzle (yes, I still use that term) and I’ve heard good things about Route 196 on Katipunan Rd.  If you want to watch Kalayo, they’re there in the Bar 1951  (formerly Penguin) on Remedios Circle in Malate or at 70’s Bistro in Anonas in Quezon City.

Oarhouse and Hobbit House in Malate are good for backpacker drinking.  And Murphy’s in Makati for that Irish pub experience.  Still no Guinness on tap though.

And let’s not forget good, old Big Sky Mind on Broadway Ave. in Quezon City for alternative drinking and Palladium in New World Hotel Makati for alternative clubbing.

And there is still Cubao X and The Collective for the alternative scene.

And how could I forget breakfast.  IHOP is in High Street Mall, BGC but good luck getting in.  Though the lines seem to be shorter.  And if you can’t get into there, there is always Maple in San Antonio Plaza, Forbes Park.  More expensive and not as tasty, but good enough and less crowded (it’s Pancake House).  And there is still good old Paris Delice on Makati Ave.  Mmm, chocolate croissant.

And with that, I go to sleep.  Good night.

Malaysian Restaurant: Chef’s Home, Baguio

Some advice: It is open from 11-230pm and 6-930pm. I suggest you arrive as soon as it opens, because remember it only has one chef, and so as more people come, the longer it will take for the food to arrive. And remember, it’s closed on Sundays.

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Som’s in Algiers St. in Makati was one of the first hole-in-the-wall discoveries in the Philippine gastronomic experience, but now in Baguio we have Chef’s Home.  Found at the corner of of Outlook Drive and Romulo Drive (Just drive past the Presidential Palace till the end.), you’ll find a carinderia being managed by Alvin Emuang, a Malaysian executive chef from Sofitel.  Settled now in Baguio, Alvin can whip up Malaysian and Thai (where he worked for 15 years) dishes in his tiny but well-kept kitchen.  But book ahead, the place can only seat a few, and is open only for lunch and dinner.  (Click here for more info: http://eatsinbaguio.wordpress.com/tag/chefs-home/).  This newly discovered secret will surely become a hit like Som’s.  Their specialty is the mutabak.  It’s kind of like a beef and potato omelet.  We also had the really spicy sambal and filet of dory.

Me and Chef Alvin Emuang

Chef’s Home
It is right beside Baguio Townhouse, beside a sari-sari store called Apolo.
Tel. 0916-4445756 or 0999-7746624

Shopping: Power Plant Mall, Rockwell, Makati

Well I finally figured out how to get to Power Plant Mall in the Rockwell area of Makati. Take the MRT to the Guadalupe station. Then walk down to the riverbank and catch a jeepney on J.P. Rizal Ave. Make sure the jeepney is going westwards and get off near the front of Power Plant Mall.

So what’s so great about this mall? It’s probably the best mall we’ve got. The people in the movie theaters aren’t too unruly. It has a big Rustan’s supermarket, Fully Booked, and National Bookstore. You can get t-shirts at C2 and Team Manila. You can get a haircut at Basement Salon. They also have a store that sells North Face gear.

There is an awesome slew of restaurants at the bottom: Chili’s, Myron’s (my cousin’s), Elbert’s Cheesesteak, Isshin, etc. They have a Sango Japanese hamburger shop and delicious Japanese food at Kuretake. They just opened a Mamou Steakhouse. They have a Lulu Belle yogurt shop. You can even get taho (a ubiquitous Filipino street snack), in the food area at exorbitant but reliable prices 😉

If you are willing to walk a bit, it’s also near the famous Soms Thai restaurant on Algiers St.

The easiest way to get here would still be to take a taxi though.

It’s just my favorite mall, so I can’t stop gushing about it 🙂

Food: Paris Delice and other places to eat

Malate is clearly the heart of the Manila backpacking area, but the Makati Ave. area is giving it a run for it’s money.  A bit dodgier in a way than Malate (if that’s possible), this part of Makati has been flourishing because of Binay’s “liberal” policies regarding the ****ier parts of Makati.

The reason though why I’m writing this article though is not because of these wayward policies but because of a restaurant I find myself eating at again and again.  Paris Delice is a French “fast food” joint at Makati Ave. corner Juno St. near Jollibee and Jupiter St.  They supposedly sell baked goods flown directly from France, but whatever the case is, it’s good!  I find myself repetitively ordering the chocolate croissant (pain au chocolat) and the croque monsieur (I think it’s a ham sandwich with really awesome cheese.).   Next time I’ll order the chocolate donut (even though I’m not a fan of Nutella). 

As I sit here right now there is a smattering of French people, Americans, and a Filipina in a beret (Scare Bleu!).  I can’t backpack all of the time, but whenever I feel like I want to “get away”, Paris Delice does the trick!

You can’t miss Paris Delice.  It has an Eiffel tower standing right outside it. 🙂

Paris Delice

1 Juno St. corner Makati Ave., Makati City

7980740 e-mail: contact@parisdelice.com.ph

It has free wi-fi!

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And since we’re on the topic of food anyway, let me recommend other New American places to eat in the city. 

The new champ is Ristras.  There is one located in the Fairways Towers in Fort Bonifacio (or as it’s known now as Bonifacio Global City) in Taguig.  Ginormous burritos, eating just one is a triumph in itself.  Pair it up with Mexican beers and it gets more awesome.

Also in BGC, in Serendra is Chuck’s Deli.  Massive “slab” sandwiches, it’s like the deli version of the Ristras burrito.

Charlie’s, at the end of Ortigas Ave. corner Santolan, has awesome spaghetti and meatballs.  Just the right spice and just the right tang.  They have another branch, but that’s even harder to find.

And finally, in the  Malugay Collective in Makati we have the Offbeat Cafe, where they serve the Krispy Kreme burger.  A donut, an egg, a burger topped off with Canadian bacon.  My god, this burger is tasty.

Most of these places, if not all, will be hard to locate by the backpacker with just a day in the city, but for us who live here, it’s worth it 🙂

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Other super restos:

Isshin on Pasay Road — 24 hour noodle house

Kimpura — top of Greenbelt 5 in Makati, Japanese food cooked right in front of you, pricey but tasty

Secret Hunan Chinese Restaurant on Camia St. in Makati — the name says it all

Soms — the best Thai food located near Rockwell on Algiers St.

Myron’s (full disclosure, my cousins owns it) — good steaks, in Rockwell and Greenbelt

Elbert’s — somewhere on H. dela Costa St., in Makati, if you can find it, their steaks are worth it but hard to find and damn expensive.  Easier to find (and afford) their cheesesteak store in the basement of Power Plant in Rockwell

Handlebar on Polaris St., Makati — the best barbecued steaks in a grungy setting, a stone throw’s away from Beers Paradise, only place you can get Trappiste Rochefort in the city.