Food

Underrated Restaurants in Metro Manila That Deserve Your Attention Right Now

These restaurants deserve your attention.
IMAGE Alta by Relik
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Too many restaurants, too little time, too little stomach space. While the golden age of the Philippine restaurant industry continues to flourish, it does create a bigger divide between heavily marketed eateries and confidently quiet ones. As more restaurants open every year, more and more restaurants also fall under the radar. We saw it in 2017, we saw it in 2018, and we're seeing it again this year. These underrated restaurants don't have long lines or an overactive Instagram presence, but they're good old-fashioned delicious.

1| Alta by Relik

The premise is supposed to be Filipino and Spanish, but this underrated restaurant in the equally underrated Santolan Town Plaza offers this and so much more. The menu actually relaxes its borders by serving comfort food from all over, which is just as well. This restaurant appeals to anybody and everybodyfrom solo diners looking to sneak in a little work between bites to big families, which need a diverse menu. It even has function rooms for more private affairs. 

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Esquire Recommends: 

  • Crispy Bagnet Kare-Kare
  • Slow-Roasted Beef Belly
  • Milo Dinosaur Cheesecake

Santolan Town Plaza, Col. Bonny Serrano Ave., Little Baguio, San Juan City

2| Bamba Bistro

Most southerners have already been acquainted with chef Tina Legarda's Bamba Bistro, but news of her culinary skills have barely reached the north. She trained under the tutelage of chef Jessie Sincioco, L'Opera's Moreno Mattei, and renegade chef Billy King; she also worked in Osteria Mozza in Singapore. It's well worth the road trip. Bamba offers a slew of European comforts and chef Tina makes sure everything that comes out of the kitchen looks and tastes perfect. While BF Homes' status as the food capital of Manila has been on shaky ground, Bamba Bistro continues to be its most compelling argument.

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Esquire Recommends:

  • Duck Ravioli
  • Cochon Sliders
  • French Onion Mac and Cheese

55 Aguirre Ave. cor. Arsenio Luz BF Homes Parañaque

3| Crazy Ramen 

You might have heard of a little chain called Crazy Katsu. Well, meet its little sibling: Crazy Ramen, helmed by Bryan Kong and Shinji Tanaka. Located in Marikina, the restaurant is small and the menu even smaller. It goes down to traditional Japanese establishments: focused and streamlined. Filipinos love ramen (read our ramen list) so much that they're willing to line up for it. Crazy Ramen may be in Marikina, but the lines might not be as long.

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Esquire Recommends: 

  • Miso Butter Ramen
  • Tonkotsu Ramen
  • Spicy Tantanmen

88 Lilac Street, Concepcion Dos, Marikina

4| Yukgaejang

In Korea, yukgaejang is a spicy beef soup loaded with shredded meat, vegetables, and mushrooms. In BF, Yukgaejang is a hearty Korean restaurant that serves so much more than its eponymous soup. Not to be confused with a similar sounding restaurant in Bonifacio Global City, this Yukgaejang serves hotpot, handmade dumplings, platters of meat, and all kinds of stir-fry. Korean restaurants may be a dime a dozen these days, but this underrated restaurant is definitely not your usual smoky all-you-can-eat barbecue joint.

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Esquire Recommends:

  • Yukgaejang
  • Galbi dumplings
  • Seasoned premium pork belly and vegetables

256 Aguirre Avenue, BF Homes, Parañaque 

5| Noor

It's easy to fall under the radar in a sprawling commercial complex like Bonifacio Global City where there's an eatery every few steps. Noor is a crazy cool Mediterranean restaurant, with a design that takes inspiration from Tel-Aviv's Levinsky Market. The name is Hebrew for "light"  or "flame" and aptly enough, a golden glow bathes the stylized interior in warmth. The place is run by chef Or Hakmim, his wife Tair, and Hezi Cohen and their goal is to introduce a different category of Mediterranean cuisine beyond Greek and Italian. The drinks are good here, too.

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Esquire Recommends:

  • Moroccan Cigars
  • Deep-fried Cauliflower
  • Lamb Baklava

Unit F 133 Forbeswood Heights, Burgos Circle, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig

6| Epilogue

Location might be the reason why this 136-seater establishment continues to receive less attention than it deserves. Though it's a walking distance from the Mall of Asia, S Maison always feels a bit farther away, as if it were on the outskirts. It's a shame because Epilogue is definitely worth the trip. The restaurant alone is gorgeous: gilded and geometric, with matching accents, from the coasters to the lighting fixtures. The Euro-Japanese menu was designed by four top Japanese chefs who created something they call "travel cuisine." Currently at the helm is chef Hiroyuki Meno, who, together with his team, has a proclivity to make things from scratch: bread, pasta, desserts. 

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Esquire Recommends:

  • Seafood Tablet
  • Foie's Gold
  • Wagyu Pizza

S Maison, Conrad Manila, Seaside Boulevard Cor., Coral Way, Pasay; epilogue.ph

7| Spoon Eat + Drink 

Yet another diamond in the rough, Spoon Eat + Drink is a boutique restaurant that's frequented by the neighborhood but justly deserves a broader customer basenot that a lot would fit in its modest space. It would be apt to call it a concrete box, but a very chic one. Its owner, Philane Ponio, was inspired by the New York culture of turning warehouses into stunning natural showpieces. The full effect is reached when the light passes through the glass ceiling and hits the restaurant in all the right places. Philane's culinary philosophy is inspired by comfort and her dishes always triggers warm, fuzzy feelings.

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Esquire Recommends:

  • Osso Bucco
  • Bacon-wrapped Vegetables
  • Rise and Shine

319 Aguirre Avenue, BF Homes, Parañaque; www.spooneatdrink.com

8| Four Season Cuisine

Eateries like Ramon Lee, President's, Wai Ying, and Dong Bei are standard itinerary when braving a trip to Binondo, so hearing how a little carinderia like Four Season Cuisine could shake up an established routine might seem a bit jarring. Four Season Cuisine is neither new nor fancy. It's a common canteen where you line up and choose your meal from an assembly of Chinese dishes. Everything is homey and feel-good. 

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Esquire Recommends:

  • Oysters
  • Tofu Guisado
  • Crab Omelet

786 Ongpin Street (near Gandara) Binondo, Manila

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About The Author
Sasha Lim Uy
Managing Editor, EsquireMag.ph
Sasha eats to live and lives to eat. For five years, she handled SPOT.ph's food section and edited the last two installments of its Top 10 Food books. She also recently participated at the Madrid Fusion Manila as curator.
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