Esquire's 10 Best Restaurants for 2016
We've come to that point. That point where food has gotten so aggresively good that nothing ever jumps out anymore. The special has to become extra special and the sublime has to be, well, whatever the superlative of that word is. We're close to the point of saturation, but what keep our food scene over the edge is a small group that keeps the game interesting. Competition prompts innovation, but amid all the dishes meant to take your breath away with Snapchat-friendly attributes, we've noticed a movement towards the more familiar—throwbacks to forgotten flavors of food that is just simply good, the kind that makes you sigh with satisfaction at first bite and not gasp at face value.
We picked through the delicious mess for the restaurants that are truly worth the trip.
Only restaurants that opened in 2016 were considered.
Inspired by Mistral’s eponymous poem, Raffles’ first restaurant brings refined French cooking to the fore. It may have taken four years to complete, but the vintage-themed, two-storey space, which, counting the balcony, can seat 147 people, is no slouch when it comes to serving up delicacies from Provencal. It’s run by general manager Nicolas Bracq and Chef Nicholas Cegretin, both of whom hail from this part of France, thus assuring only the best and authentic flavors from their kitchen. The gorgeous, crisp interiors—not to mention the breathtaking view from the terrace—may intimidate you, but Bracq insists that they’re all about serving comfort here.
Mireio is at Raffles Hotel, 1 Raffles Drive, Makati Avenue, San Lorenzo, Makati City.
Made Nice Supper Club
This Makati haunt makes us breathe a sigh of relief that the country’s culinary future is well taken care of. Made Nice’s story is about culinary-pedigreed young chefs making, well, good on their own. Jack and Gabbi Flores, Toby Panlilio, Wren Go, and Raulito Fores all had the chance to pursue opportunities abroad, but they opted to return to make a difference. Due to consistency concerns, some of their ingredients are still imported, but their mission is to pressure local suppliers to do better and make them competitive globally.
Celebrating their being “millennial,” these young entrepreneurs are groundbreaking, ambitious, and they use themselves as inspiration. The food is a reflection of what they enjoy eating.
Made Nice Supper Club is at G/F PPI Building, Esteban Street, Legazpi Village, Makati City.
This market-slash-restaurant by the Raintree Group plays the nostalgia card on the table or, rather, their menu. Apart from reviving hits from their defunct diner, Mr. Jones, Chef Kalel Chan and Martin Wisniewski came up with an eatery that cheekily harkens to the restaurants of old—parsley over everything, sizzling plates of meat, and boats of gravy. Food is simple but done well, making each visit a walk down memory lane—back when eating out was a special treat.
Providore is at G/F SM Aura Premier, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City.
Chef Justin Golangco and Miguel Vargas teamed up to produce this unique Bucky’s branch in Poblacion. The menu is only two pages long, but that’s more than enough to create a lasting impression. Bucky’s has become a favorite of many simply by serving up favorites. In this delicious little cave, you’ll find ziti, grilled cheese, and fried chicken cooked liked you’ve never tasted before. If comfort food, no matter how well done, doesn’t impress you, start digging into the soft-serve ice cream. That’ll get you hooked.
Bucky's is at 5666 Don Pedro Street, Poblacion, Makati City.
Tapas had their moment in 2015, but Tomatito, which opened just this December doesn’t serve your everyday Spanish bites. Chef Willy Trullas Moreno, who founded and owns several successful Spanish-style eateries across Asia, describes this Shanghai-originated franchise as a “sexy tapas bar.” Their menu puts together influences from Mexico, Peru, and even Japan. Tapas come in small plates, yes, but each mouthful at Tomatito is dynamite.
Perhaps the most buzzed-about restaurant of 2016 is chefs Nicco Santos and Queenie Vilar’s North Peranakan-Thai outlet in Bonifacio Global City. With a blackboard menu that features fewer than 10 items, their bustling kitchen whips out picture-perfect, intricately composed dishes that play with your taste buds in taste and texture. Hey Handsome even uses buah keluak, a naturally poisonous nut that’s pretty tasty (and safe) when washed carefully. We heard they’re also launching tasting menus.
Hey Handsome is at G/F Net Park Building, 5th Avenue, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City.
Black Sheep, from its luxurious and hyped-up position at the top of the W Tower in BGC, has shifted gears to be a secret gem deep on Chino Roces Extension. Its worth hunting down. The understated black and gray color scheme hints at their new direction of innovative food inspired by family favorites. Twenty-something chef Patrick Go uses his own memories as a jumping-off point to his molecular masterpieces, influenced mainly by Chinese and Filipino cuisines. Take, for example, the tuna and liver spread sandwiches he used to bring for recess; they have metamorphosed into an explosive hors d’oeuvre composed of raw tuna and hearty liver over dehydrated ma lai gao. Their interpretation of taho (with granita and tea-infused panna cotta) is tops.
Black Sheep is at 2230 Chino Roces Avenue, UPRC1 Building, Bangkal, Makati City.
Chef Jordy Navarra continues to wow with his current restaurant and passion project, Toyo Eatery. While his take on Filipino food is impressive, it’s not very obvious. His menu, for example, is free from local stapes like sisig and lechon. He explains that his theme is to capture the Filipino spirit in his cooking: sourcing local ingredients as much as possible (one time, he went all the way to Quezon province to get berries for A dessert), using local furnishings (including a pair of oversized utensils on the wall), and an unwavering sense of hospitality. His refusal to call Toyo a restaurant makes sense. In his obscured location (which, we heard looks very much like the Navarras' own house), it’s like having a rather exceptional meal at a friend’s home.
Toyo Eatery is at G/F Karrivin Plaza, 2316 Chino Roces Avenue Extension, Makati City.
After a year full of Hawaiian fish salads, Poke Poke takes the cake in terms of variety and overall flavor. Chef Kel Zaguirre, known for his sensorial assaults, manages to come up with jam-packed bowls that still end up impressively light—staying faithful to the intention of the dish. The menu features already composed poke bowls, but they also offer DIY for the more creative types.
Poke Poke has branches at G/F Estancia Mall, Capitol Commons, Pasig City; and SM Aura Premier, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City.
FOO’D hardly requires explanation. An offshoot of D’O, it’s a Michelin-starred franchise that manages to do what other restaurants its caliber cannot: it’s extremely affordable (think P800 for a three-course meal). Chef David Oldani has mastered a formula for keeping costs low but quality high: cheap overheads (small spaces located just on the outskirt of prime neighborhoods), durable eating wares (cutting breakage costs), and cutting waiters out of the equation. Brought to the city by the Foodee Group, Foo’d gives everyone a chance to enjoy a premium meal.
FOO'D is at G/F High Street Park, Shangri-La at the Fort, 30th Street corner 5th Avenue, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City.