Food

What to Order at Manila’s Most Romantic Restaurants for a Successful Date

What do you order? Where do you sit? How do you make the date go as smoothly as possible? How do you survive? Well, well, well. We got you covered, fam!
IMAGE GERRY SAN MIGUEL/MAJOY SIASON
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Four local restaurants made it to travel site Big 7 Travel’s “50 Most Romantic Restaurants in Asia.” To this day, we’re still wondering why there are only four from the Philippines, considering that we’re a country of #lovelovelove (Aquino, 2015). Where is Antonio’s? Where is Gallery by Chele? Where is Toyo? They totally missed out on Goto Believe and the romance that comes with every slurp of its goto topped with isaw and betamax.

But then again, these four—La Cabrera, Blackbird, Grace Park, Ninyo—are good representatives of what Manila can offer to all you cloyingly sweet or almost-but-not-quite lovebirds. With their aesthetics on point and their Instagram-worthiness absolutely on fleek, the four love nests are safe options for your next successful date night.

So you’ve picked one from the four, prepared your wallet for the carnage about to happen, and scheduled a date with your lovey already. What do you order? Where do you sit? How do you make the date go as smoothly as possible? How do you survive? Well, well, well. We got you covered, fam!

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La Cabrera

For anniversaries, the third date, and when you’re ready to show your loved one your true appetite

Photo by Majoy Siason.
Photo by Majoy Siason.
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If it’s steak you’re looking for then La Cabrera is your choice. Snagging the 50th spot on the list, this steakhouse or “parilla” serves huge hunks of meat done the Argentine way. Not exactly the best option for a first date, right? But best to consider it for anniversaries, the third date, and when you’re ready to show your loved one your true appetite. This is not the place if you’re planning to suppress your hunger and leave the impression that a salad is all you eat.

Thankfully, La Cabrera has two branches in Manila’s main CBDs so both northerners and southerners are appeased. The newer Ortigas outlet boasts of leather couple couches that are made for cuddling. It is, of course, located inside a top hotel, so it’s easy to move into a room for even more intimate possibilities. But please, enjoy the cooked meats first. And don’t forget your bill! The first branch in Makati feels darker, manlier, more rustic, and just a little more casual. Here, you can even dance the tango to cap off the night.

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Order This

As for the food, it’s all about the steak! The Entrana skirt and the Cuadril steak are safe options, but if you want to impress, go for the prime Bife de Chorizo at a whopping 800 grams. Bread is served complimentary so you can skip on the appetizers. A bevy of cold and hot sides is also served alongside your steak, so that’s a big budget savior, too. But if you have a little extra, go for the Morcilla Criolla (blood sausage), Provoleta (grilled Provolone steak), or the Jamon Crudo salad. End with either the Rogel or some Alfajoes and pair all that with a good red.

P.S. Medium, please. Always medium.

6750 Ayala Avenue, Makati City; EDSA Shangri-la Hotel, Mandaluyong City

Blackbird

For that nerve-wracking proposal or if you did something wrong and want to make amends

Photo by Sasha Lim Uy for SPOT.ph.
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Classy and elegant, Blackbird speaks of romance in every aspect. It sits right smack in the heart of the Makati Business District and offers a respite from the chaotic streets of adjacent neighborhoods. A little too formal to go to on a first date, Blackbird is the place where you bring your loved one for an anniversary, that nerve-wracking proposal, or if you did something wrong and want to make amends. At least here, you’re sure that no one will make a scene and you’re safe from malicious ears and judgy eyes.

From the outside, Blackbird might look like a library or a clubhouse in an exclusive village habituated by the old rich. Instant plus points even before you enter! Soon you’ll be welcomed into the chic lounge, where you can grab a cocktail to put you at ease. If you’re waiting for your date, brush up on the building’s history here (it used to be an airport!). You’ll gain extra points for sharing something smart! Before moving into the main dining hall, have your couple photo taken in front of the grand staircase, so in case the night doesn’t end well, you already have a souvenir.

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Order This

It’s all white, opulent, and luscious from then on. The white, starched linens make all the difference. A bit of self-introspection might happen (yes, you’re here—time to confess your wrongdoing!), but don’t distract yourself too much before ordering. The menu has been crafted by chef Colin Mackay to include a mix of European and Asian hard-hitters. It’s always good to start with the Prawn Scotch Eggs, then move on to the Crabcake Salad. Your main should be the Grilled Shortrib, Wagyu Striploin, Spiced Chicken, or Fish Pie. If you’re forgiven and you make it to dessert, go for the Burnt Butter and Vanilla Ice Cream or Sticky Date Pudding. Congrats!

Hot Tip: If you’re confessing a grave fault, you might as well reserve a table at the very private second floor.

Nielson Tower, Makati Ave., Makati City

Grace Park

For the first date or dates accompanied by the mother of your date

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Photo by Gerry San Miguel.
Photo by Gerry San Miguel.
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Coming in at number 25 on the list is Grace Park by Margarita Forés, Asia’s Best Female Chef of 2016. One of the pioneers of the farm-to-table movement in the country, Grace Park is your best bet for your first date. Sure, it’s romantic, but it isn’t trying too hard or pushing it too far. Stop by before catching the last full show of the newest rom-com or dine in right after checking out the weekend bazaar. The parking is easy (the mall is nearby) and Poblacion is easy to walk to. The possibilities are endless, whether or not the date goes well!

Entering Grace Park might feel intimidating at first, but soon you’ll discover how comforting the whole vibe is. It’s just one step more formal than its sister Cibo and offers the same ace hospitality. It can actually even feel homey—go ahead and count the number of cats roaming around. The rustic appeal and the mismatched tableware will help ease the nerves. You can use the table napkin to wipe off your sweat if you have to. No one’s judging you here (maybe your date?). If you’re all cool and want something more intimate, choose a table at the corner nook upstairs.

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Order This

Grace Park offers farmhouse cooking, the type that even the mother of your date will find enjoyable (plus, she will love the banyo!). The dishes are also made for sharing, so make sure your date and her chaperone are up for that. If not, then maybe you can reconsider your life decisions.

For appetizer, order the Roast Bone Marrow, Baked Scallops, or Chicharon Curls. Yes, chicharon for your first date! Why not? The meatballs never fail, and so do the fresh pastas, river prawns, and roasted fish. Hankering for something heartier? Go for the Carabao Butter Organic Chicken, Muscovado Beef Belly, or even Lechon Sinigang. Nothing too complicated and complex, so you can focus on each other and decide if swiping right was a good move.

Please save room for dessert! Say yes to the Eton Mess, Cuatro Leches & Berries, and the Avocado Pie if it’s available.

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Ground Floor, One Rockwell, Rockwell Drive, Makati City

Ninyo

For the very special proposal

Is it finally time to go down on one knee, bring out that ring, and let someone else—hopefully the love of your life—decide your fate? All of that better happen at Ninyo, which has been named as the most romantic restaurant in Manila. Specializing in fusion cuisine since infancy, this Quezon City spot will always be one of the top choices for celebrating the most special occasions with your loved one. Ninyo has been witness to numerous engagements, proposals, anniversaries, and receptions, and for very good reason.

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If you’re not coming from Quezon City, make sure to leave your house early because you’ll most likely traverse Katipunan traffic to get here. Remember that you’re sharing the road with students, trucks, and corn vendors. In any case, you’ll feel transported right away upon your arrival. No, you’re not in Antipolo or Tagaytay! You’re still inhaling the fumes of Katipunan! You’ll be welcomed into a transformed home, replete with vibrant greens, rich woods, and light Filipino touches. No, you’re not in a spa. You’re going to propose! Remember to reserve one of the gazebos for maximum effect!

Order This

Ninyo’s menu reveals the genius of chef Niño Laus who has mastered fusing multiple cuisines and flavors, ranging from French to Japanese and Filipino and everything in between. You can have a taste of his masterpieces by ordering from the ala carte menu: Nori Sushi Taco, Duet of Oysters, Tuna Tartare, Black Truffle Mushroom Soup, Duck Leg Confit, Grilled Tiger Prawns, Grilled Hanger Steak, Rack of Lamb, Short Ribs Ravioli, and so much more.

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But if you want a good sampling of everything, and if you want to up the romance, go for the degustacion menus, composed of at least six courses. Then pair all that with wine, please! The tastes and textures of this combo cannot be found anywhere else. We hear Liza Soberano and Enrique Gil agree! The best part is dining here doesn’t require consuming all of your month’s salary (hooray!), especially considering the overall experience you’re getting.

Pro Tip: Chef Niño constantly updates his menu and he’s coming out with new degustation options soon.

66 Esteban Abada Street, Quezon City

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