Manila: Food Adventures (Top 5)

There are tons of great food places to go to when you’re in the Philippines. From it’s traditional food to international cuisine, there’s definitely a great variety of choices! Definitely prepare your stomach if you’re going to make a trip here. I’ll only include my top 5 restaurants here (in order), but make sure you get that street food (especially BBQ!) and home cooked meals during your stay! These restaurants are the ones that really impressed me during my 2-week stay.

1. Sambo Kojin – This is definitely the best all you can eat (AYCE) I’ve ever been to. Imagine both unlimited Korean BBQ that you can grill on your table, plus a Korean and Japanese buffet? I can’t believe this exists! It’s runs about $15 for dinner. The place is organized into stations: tempura, katsu, raw meats and seafood (for Japanese yakiniku and KBBQ), soups, noodles, Korean appetizers, sushi, and other various Kore-Jap delicacies (takoyaki, furai, bulgogi, bibimbap, hotpot, etc.). I had a blast here and so did my tummy! The food I ate had great quality. The dessert bar had a person making CREPES for you (that’s the best thing I’ve ever seen). There are a variety of sauces available at your table for all your grilling needs. I was very impressed with this place and I’m definitely going to visit this place again if I ever find myself in the area.

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2. Dencio’s – If you love great quality Filipino food with a great view, this is definitely the spot. Their specialty was definitely their sisig (sizzling minced pork cooked with calamansi and chiles). My friends and I also ordered their bulalo (beef stew with marrow), crispy pata (deep fried pig knuckles), and bagoong rice (fried rice with shrimp paste). Of all the Filipino restaurants I’ve been to (excluding my grandmother’s cooking), this was probably the best.

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3. Mama Lou’s Italian Kitchen – Mama Lou’s is an Italian restaurant that has received multiple recognitions for its exemplary food and venue. I believe they took a resident house in the area and transformed it into this cute restaurant, which gives it a very homey feel. I’ve been to multiple “authentic” Italian restaurants, I wouldn’t necessarily call Mama Lou’s very “authentic” Italian. For me, it had a very Filipino, homey vibe from it’s decor to its food. I definitely loved their seafood alfredo, lasagna (creamy, cheesy goodness) and special pizza (with mango, arugula, prosciutto and balsamic glaze). These foods had the sweetness that a Filipino loves and craves. I also enjoyed drinking their homemade lemon iced tea with basil!

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4. Alba Restaurante Español – This is a restaurant with a Spanish-flare. I went here for an all you can eat lunch with my aunts. The AYCE was a great option, considering the amount of food you get will be better than ordering menu items separately (which is also offered). They do have a variety of options for food such as cold cuts, salads, entrees and desserts. What you must have here is their lengua (cow’s tongue), chicken meatballs, balsamic grilled veggies, cochinillo (lechon), and paella. For dessert, skip everything else and get the canonigo (soft meringue cake with vanilla custard sauce).

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5. Mystic Brew Café and Curios– Mystic Brew is a cute cafe with a very Harry Potter-inspired decor and vibe. With potions as center pieces, it’s a definitely redesigned theme and style. They also celebrate some ‘wicked’ art and culture here. One of my good friends owns this really great cafe. They have amazing food and drinks, and they even serve butterbeer! But my favorite here is definitely their mango crepe (shown below). It has Filipino ripe mangos, dark chocolate and a bourbon glaze with a sweet whipped cream in the middle. I never thought I’d find any other place that will serve a great crepe, but I found my favorite spot for it. They also have a “deconstructed” carbonara that I got, which was creamy and light. They also serve rice bowls, sandwiches and other desserts. Great grub and great vibes here at Mystic Brew. The concept is very unique and one-of-a-kind. I would love to come back here to have an acoustic jam session, enjoy grub and drink or to study. I’m definitely a fan!

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Runner Ups

The Smoking Joint & Outré – Both of these places are found in BF Parañaque (Aguirre) and they almost made it to my top 5.

The Smoking Joint is a good Southern BBQ place (my friends and I went here because of the name). It was quite a small place, maximum seating probably 25 people. They had pulled pork, ribs and brisket (of all 3, the best are the ribs). I thought that their house BBQ was a little too smoked and strong for my palate. But their mac & cheese and coleslaw was DIVINE. They’re so cute they even give you gloves to eat the food. It’s served family style for sure.

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Outré is a gelato place, who also serves cooked snacks. What impressed me here was their tiramisu gelato. It’s not just flavored tiramisu. They layered it with the soaked lady fingers, like a real tiramisu! The mascarpone gelato was on POINT.

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So much great food here. My tummy thanks you Manila!

Until next time,

Jea

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