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.

Makati Central Business District

I never thought I would be promoting the center of my home city, but arrangements in the Makati CBD area have made hanging around it for the backpacker quite attractive.

First of all, if you want to get a sweeping history of what happened to the Philippines, check out the Ayala Musuem, where you will not only see intricate handcarved dioramas of important moments in Philippine history, but you will also see galleons, our best classical painters, and indigenous gold collections.

After that you can stroll through the Ayala Triangle Park, which is what is holding the new Makati together, and eat at it’s strip of restaurants.  Try Wee Nam Kee, the Singaporean resto known for its Hainanese chicken and Omakase for delicious Japanese fusion food.

And of course there is the shopping.  From Greenbelt to Glorietta, you’ll be able to shop at the sprawling amount of stores from high end to medium prices. 

I’d also like to add, connecting Greenbelt to Glorietta is the awesome Landmark with its cheap priced goods and a fully stocked grocery in its basement.  Plus you can get probably the best sampler of Filipino food at Via Mare on Landmark’s second floor (try the scrumptious bibingka) and the classic sisig in Aling Lucing’s in the basement.

All of these are located in the central part of Makati and are accessible by getting off at the Ayala station of the MRT.

On the fringes of Makati is the Power Plant at Rockwell, which is still, in my opinion, the best mall in the country.  Still kind of hard to get to because it doesn’t have any nearby MRT station.  The best way to get here would be by cab or private car.

And if you want to do some budget shopping or buy some cheap pearls (we are in the Orient), you can head over to nearby Market, Market in Taguig, where you can get bargain prices and get ready to do some haggling :).  You can reach Market, Market by cab or from the Ayala MRT station walk to the corner of Ayala Ave. and Edsa and try to look for the Fort Bus station to take you in.

Beside Market, Market is also the ever expanding Serendra and High Street shopping strip which just opened the first Muji in the Philippines at cheaper Philippine prices (rumored to be 7 % lower than everywhere else).

Oh ya, going back to Makati, every Saturday morning, in Salcedo park in the center of the Salcedo Village area, they have a market.  Here you can try all kinds of cuisine and even that hard to find Filipino flavor.  Too bad it’s open only on Saturdays till 2 PM, but those of you looking for “hawker” stalls that sell some local cuisine, this might be for you.

And if you miss that, on Sunday, there is exactly the same thing in the Legaspi Park in the center of the Legaspi Village area of Makati.

Like I said, I never thought I’d be promoting Makati for anything but a shopping destination, but I’m glad that it’s developing a culture worth seeing.

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Philippines classified among the Next 11 emerging economies of the world by Goldman Sachs.  Awesome!