Here’s Where to Bring your Balikbayan Guests For Filipino Food
No matter how long one has been away from the homeland, Filipinos will always crave for a taste of good old Pinoy cooking, with its simple yet sublime sweet-savory mix of flavors, and the happy memories of enjoying it at the family hapagkainan. When you ask our kababayan abroad what they miss most about the Philippines, one of the top three answers will most likely be a particular dish that they enjoyed back home.
With so many homecomings happening over the holidays, we came up with a list of suggestions to satisfy those Pinoy food cravings. These range from restaurants focusing on presenting Filipino food in either its traditional iterations or in presenting it in creative novel concepts while staying true to its roots. Since everyone is busy this Christmas season, these options range from Sunday morning breakfast, to snacks, main meals, and even a place to have those sundowners after a busy pasalubong shopping day.
Located just outside the airport and easily accessed through the Terminal 3 walkway, the Marriott Hotel’s Manila Life Café make a good first stop. The hotel’s executive chef Meik Brammer calls it their most affordable menu yet, with All-Day Almusal options such as the Tapdelog, (tapa and egg stuffed in a pan de sal) and the Manila Sunrise Plate (homemade pork longanisa, tocino and eggs over garlic rice). The Manila Café is also the place to make “tusok-tusok the fishballs” with a street food platter that includes homemade fish balls, chicken fritters and quail eggs.
Manila Life is located at the 4th floor of the NAIA Terminal 3 and is open daily (Mondays to Sundays) from 9am to 9pm. Call (632) 988-9999 local or visit the hotel’s website (www.manilamarriott.com) and its official social media sites.
Sunday mornings are a good for get-togethers, since it is usually free time for everyone. The City Garden Grand’s Spice Café serves a full-blown Filipino breakfast buffet every Sunday, with almusal faves such as longanisa, tocino, and cebu danggit (which Chef Dennis Peralta prepares in his special way to bring out more of the crispiness and less of the salt), along with savory fare including kare-kare and kaldereta, and kakanin such as maja blanca.
Spice Café is located at the 7th floor, City Garden Grand Hotel, 8008 Makati Avenue corner Kalayaan Avenue. Call 888-8181 or visit www.citygardengrand.com
This restaurant is a good way to hark back to childhood memories, as it is located in a beautiful art deco home. The buffet is also spot-on, with Chefs Rolando and Jac Laudico at the helm. They have a special Christmas spread this season, with festive fare such as orange chicken galantina, pata hamonado, roasted turkey with chestnuts and chorizo, menudo pastel pie (which is a menudo-meat pie in pastry crust) and baked macaroni kaldereta. For dessert, aside from puto bumbong and bibingka, Chef Jac offers a Crema de Fruita Cake that she started selling during her high school days.
Chef Laudico Guevarra’s is located at 387 P. Guevarra corner Argonne Streets, Addition Hills, San Juan. Call (02) 7051811, (02) 7051874, (0917) 3112222.
What can be more Christmassy than puto bumbong and bibingka? These two rice cake delicacies are popular snack options at the Astoria, with both served warm and buttery with niyog and muscovado sugar toppings. The bibingka is also offered in ube and dulce de leche variants which add infusions of purple yam or sweet custard.
Astoria Plaza is located at J. Escriva Drive, Ortigas Center, Pasig City. Call 687-1111 or visit https://www.astoriaplaza.com/. You can enjoy these yuletide treats nationwide at other Astoria properties - Astoria Bohol, Astoria Palawan, and Astoria Current in Boracay.
Friends & Family
Filipinos are used to homecooked sweet spaghetti that is redolent with hotdogs and cheese. That special party spaghetti is available at Friends & Family, which specializes in flavors that we all grew up with. Other swak sa panlasang Pinoy items are bopis, lechon kawali, adobong pusit, and a variety of pancit, with coolers like Ube, Buko Pandan, and Mango Sago on the menu. There’s also an isawan platter, loaded with goodies like Betamax, Tenga and Chicken Skin.
Friends & Family is located at G/F, Bonifacio High Street Central, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig, Philippines. Call +632.621.3222, +632.621.3111.
Veranda at Taal Vista
The Tagaytay hotel that is celebrating its 80th anniversary has long been a Filipino family favorite for its view of the Taal Volcano. Taal Vista’s Veranda has a revitalized menu, courtesy of Chef Jayme Natividad, which offers many local delights, such as crisp Taal Tawilis, Tinola sa Buko, and Lengua. An added attraction is the folk dance presentations that encourage audience participation, especially at the heart-pounding Tinikling portion. A merry band of troubadours also go table-hopping to regale guests with their music.
Taal Vista’s Veranda is located at Kilometer 60, Aguinaldo Highway. Call 63 (2) 917-8225/ +63 (46) 413-1000, or visit www.taalvista.com
At a recent event where I met with Asia’s young top chefs today, they were asking me if they had time to visit Manam. They apparently had a meal there once and it was unforgettable. Manam is the place to enjoy Filipino food’s more modern presentation, with items such as their crispy pancit palabok and the sinigang beef short ribs in watermelon. The Manam Café in Megamall also has exclusive items, like the three-cheese ensaymada sandwich and the calamansi tarts.
To find Manam branches near you, visit their official Facebook page or the Moment Group website momentgroup.ph
13 Ubay St. Comfort Dining
A hidden Filipino food gem in Quezon City is 13 Ubay, located at the Banawe area a stone’s throw away from the more crowded Maginhawa street. Here, you can find food that is made from scratch, just like in the kitchens we grew up with. Among the family-friendly dishes are the binagoongan, 3-Hour Belly, kare-Kare, and lechon manok. The desserts are creative takes on familiar sweets such as the ube cheesecake on a polvoron crust, and the ube piaya a la mode.
13 Ubay St. Comfort Dining is located at 13 Ubay St., Quezon City. Call 0917-857-7159
At Locavore, Filipino cuisine becomes modern and playful while staying faithful to the flavors we grew up with. Chef Mikel Zaguirre created a menu that highlights local and sustainable ingredients in an ambience that has a laidback neighbourhood vibe. Among the crowdpleasers are the sizzling sinigang, sugpo con mayonesa, and Mac’s Boneless Fried Chicken. Their S Maison branch has a levelled-up seafood menu that includes pinipig-cereal Sugpo (jumbo black tiger prawns, salted egg floss, wansoy, smashed saba, radish pancit), and soft-shell crab negra with alavar sauce.
To find a branch near you, visit the official website, www.locavore.ph
Agimat Foraging Bar and Kitchen
If its drinks you are after, Agimat offers a Filipino inuman experience, with Kalel Demetrio’s creative cocktails like the gin and basi-based Swabeng Delubyo and the Maselang Bahaghari, made colourful with gulaman. Their bestselling pulutan is as Pinoy as it gets, with balut at chicharon: duck egg custard served with herbs and greens on a bed of crispy chicharon. Pogita at Malasugi pays homage to the Philippine seas as a ceviche of fresh octopus and blue marlin, served with tangy pomelo, shaved calamansi, espada, and katuray flowers.
Agimat Foraging Bar and Kitchen is located at 2/F 5972 Alfonso cor. Fermina Street, Poblacion, Makati. Call 0917 530 2580 or message their official Facebook page.