Underrated Restaurants in Metro Manila That Deserve Your Attention Right Now
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 everybody—from 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Miso Butter Ramen
- Tonkotsu Ramen
- Spicy Tantanmen
88 Lilac Street, Concepcion Dos, Marikina
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.
- Galbi dumplings
- Seasoned premium pork belly and vegetables
256 Aguirre Avenue, BF Homes, Parañaque
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.
- Moroccan Cigars
- Deep-fried Cauliflower
- Lamb Baklava
Unit F 133 Forbeswood Heights, Burgos Circle, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig
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.
- 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 base—not 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.
- 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.
- Tofu Guisado
- Crab Omelet
786 Ongpin Street (near Gandara) Binondo, Manila