The Most Unforgettable Restaurants of 2019, According to JJ Yulo

Culinary creator and all-around good guy JJ Yulo lists down his favorite meals of 2019.

Here we are on the cusp of another year and I find myself reminiscing some of the best plates I've had in front of me. I fired up my photo diary to help me on thiswhat I thought were some of my most memorable meals of the year. Supposedly I should’ve stopped at 10, but there were many to choose from, so I hit 12 (but the truth is, my personal list could probably have hit 20!) Suffice to say, it was a good year for food. Here’s to making memories around the table in 2020. Let's welcome a new decade of even more splendid meals!

1| Gallery By Chele

I really, really had a good time here. Chele Gonzalez, our resident modern Spanish gastronomist, has loosened up considerably (maybe because he met and married the love of his life, and embraced the diversity of his chosen country of residenceluckily for us, the Philippines!) Dining at Gallery by Chele is still a premium experience, but by no means is it stuffy.


What to order:

  • Go all the way, and order the longest tasting menu, WITH drink pairings.

G/F Clipp Center, 11th Avenue corner 39th Street, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig; (63) 917-546-1673

2| Test Kitchen


In many ways, 2019 is a Josh Boutwood year. He’s really hit his stride as a cookand one who kind of knows how to navigate the local food scene’s tricky waters. At Test Kitchen, the 2.0 version, he’s made it an ala carte affair. Very contemporary tasty dishes, a lot of which are very approachable, make this a very intelligently thought out restaurant.

What to order:

  • Roast chicken and any charcuterie 
  • The three-course lunch is a great value meal!

One Rockwell East Tower, Rockwell Drive, Makati

3| The Empress Dining

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Like a video game character getting a 1up life potion, Empress impresses with high quality Chinese cuisine, including amazing dim sum, high-end seafood, and a load of vegetarian dishes too. Talk about range.

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What to order:

  • Braised oxtail
  • Mapo tofu
  • Har gau

7th Avenue, Bonifacio High Street, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig

4| Metronome


There was much ado about this place when it opened, and with good reason. A handsome room made anyone turn their head, and reading the pedigree of chef Miko Calo even more so. Never mind who she trained withthat’s always a feather in her capbut she’s managed to churn out quality food with a nod to her French cooking roots and her Asian heritage too.

What to order:

  • The 64-degree egg is always a crowd pleaser
  • I also love its fish with coconut coriander sauce 

Grand Midori, Bolanos Street, Legazpi Village, Makati City

5| Lampara

Photo by Kai Huang.

In the middle of Pobs is how I started my year, at this super cozy Neo-Filipino joint with good food and cocktails. Lampara is a bit of a scene, especially on weekends, but it’s not too cray that you can’t enjoy a good meal here. Young guns in the kitchen are doing it rightand I await their next steps.

What to order:

  • Rice cups to start
  • Crispy pork belly
  • Get everything with a cocktail

5883 Enriquez Street, Makati City

6| Bi Won

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One of my favorite places of the year is something  I haven’t come back to in awhile. Bi Won has been around for decades, quietly chugging along, feeding a lot of Koreans. But if you take a chance here, you will be so rewarded. Daughter of owner Tina has stepped in to help, starting with organic kimchi made from her farm’s produce, and a knowledge of how to order a balanced meal. Magnificent.

What to order:

  • Sundubuchigae (spicy tofu stew)
  • Ossam Bulgogi (pork and squid bulgogi—the chefs take rice and fry it together with leftover sauce, like a paella of sorts)
  • Ginseng Chicken

G/F Coretown Building, 2822 EDSA Extension, Pasay

7| Hapag

Photo by Jonathan Baldonado.

Hapag features more young guns doing a lot of fun riffs on Pinoy flavors. I’ve taken so many people here because it’s just a great experience. Its tasting menu has the perfect balance of edgy and accessiblemaking it worth the trip. You can order ala carte, too, but I say go for the whole shebang.

What to order:

  • Hapag tasting menu

201 Katipunan Avenue, Quezon City

8| Wildflour Italian


They got off, I think, to a bit of a rough start. But this paean to pasta and pizza hit its stride eventually, as any Wildflour outlet usually does. People naturally gravitate to noods and pie, but the mains (while a bit pricey) are worth it too.

What to order:

  • Vongole
  • Cauliflower al forno (with bagna cauda!)
  • Porkchop piccatta
  • Mushroom pizza

The Finance Centre, 9th Avenue corner 26th Street, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig

9| Buns & Bros

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Who doesn’t love a good burger, especially when they’re as good as the ones at Buns & Bros? The muscle in tiny restaurant is Inigo Dulay (I say this literally, too. He’s a Crossfit coach) who makes all the amazing buns for their smashed patties. The burgers are awesome value for money, not greasy, and a joy to eat.

What to order:

  • The Assassin (on a sesame bun with wasabi mayo)
  • The Old School

2/F Ayala North Exchange corner Ayala Ave and Salcedo Street, Makati

10| Talisay

I’ve known for awhile that Chef Tatung Sarthou can cook. After moving around a bit these past few years, I think his masterpiece has come to fruition in the form of this beautifully restored old house in the Maginhawa area. Talisay is bright and airy and conducive to breaking bread with your loved ones.

What to order:

  • Chicken piyanggang (MUST!)
  • Palabok negra
  • Pescado y coco

44 Maginhawa Street, Teachers Village, Quezon City


11| Epilogue

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For me, this is one of the best restaurants in Manilaone that I am always telling people to try. The chefs at the helm are Japanese, and at Epilogue they do Western food with Japanese sensibilities. Basically, that means they obsess on quality.

What to order:

  • Ratatouille
  • Granchio (soft shell crab and eggplant in Amatriciana sauce)
  • Chicken Grenobloise (a roulade of chicken with gruyere and prociutto

S Maison, MOA Complex, Pasay

12| Salu-Salo Catering

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While I may be accused of cheating a bit as this is not a restaurant, this must be put on my list because my experience with Salu-Salo was one of my favorite meals ever. The gents behind Hapag do kamayan-style catering under Salu-Salo Catering, and it is phenomenala true feast for all your senses.

What to order: 

  • A cold beer to go with your kamayan meal

[email protected](63) 947-560-1853

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About The Author
JJ Yulo
Always just jonesing, JJ Yulo is everyone's favorite curator of fun. The man behind Manly Eats and its more evolved counterpart Supermanly Eats, JJ describes himself as a humble observer and peanut gallery commenter of the local food scene.
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