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Jun 24, 2008 12:48 PM

Two Days in Manila

I'm going to be in Manila for two days in August. I'm interested in eating as much authentic cuisine as I can (in other words, dives don't scare me), and perhaps taking some sort of culinary tour to visit markets etc. Suggestions, anybody? Thanks!

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  1. If you're feeling adventurous and don't mind crowded areas, check out Quiapo / Divisoria / Binondo (Old Manila). You're bound to find something interesting there. Good luck!

    20 Replies
    1. re: SqualorMTL

      SMTL is right. And take a jeepney to get there. The destinations are marked on the sides. Explore and eat. You'll have a great time.

      1. re: Sam Fujisaka

        Thanks. I'm going to be staying at the Malate Pensionne in, I'm assuming Malate. Is it relatively convenient? Is Malate at all interesting?

        1. re: foodpro13

          Yes, explore Malate/Ermita as well for food and night life; and the other interesting areas are pretty close.

          1. re: Sam Fujisaka

            Thanks again! What do you think of the restaurants Ambassador and Kamayan?

            1. re: foodpro13

              Those are fine, as I recall, good for locals and visitors alike. Try the sisig, dinaguan, fresh lumpia, pinakbet, singang ng kanduli, and more. As SMTL indicated, don't miss the traditional markets in Quiapo/Divisoria. Have a balut, some chicken feet. Look for bulalo (carabao knuckle/joint soup).

              1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                The area around the Golden Mosque in Quiapo has some very interesting looking Muslim eateries, although I've never tried them. That part of Manila in general is quite a sensory overload! :)

                1. re: SqualorMTL

                  Thanks all for the suggestions -- keep them coming. Don't worry...I plan on eating at markets as well as at restaurants. And as far as I'm concerned, there's no such thing as too much sensory overload! (Or too much interesting food for that matter...)

                2. re: foodpro13

                  Kamayan's one of my fave restaurants in all of Manila. Their lechon is fabulous.

                  Since you're staying in Malate, check out Lolo Dad's in Remedios Circle. Definitely one of the best restaurants in town - love Chef Ariel Manuel's cooking.

                  1. re: klyeoh

                    Thanks! I've heard that Kamayan is fairly casual and traditional...what's the food and vibe like at Lolo Dad's?

                    1. re: foodpro13

                      Lolo Dad's as close to an independent fine-dining restaurant as you can get. Food's very French-influenced, but very well-executed. Nice ambience when I was there 2/3 years ago - open-kitchen, starched white table-clothes, impressive menu degustation. Prices are not cheap, though.

                      But if you're looking for some more Filipino-influenced fusion cooking, you may have to make the trek to Fernando Aracama's Uva at Greenbelt 3, Makati. The traffic's pretty horrendous between Malate & Makati, especially on weekends/Friday evenings. I'd suggest you stick to Malate, with its rich pickings of good eateries.

                    2. re: klyeoh

                      Thanks for reminding me about Kamayan's lechon! Haven't been there in years, but I remember that you could order a portion of lechon de leche to eat at the restaurant. I think it was good for at least 2 people. We used to order whole suckling pigs to go from Kamayan. Foodpro might want to give the lechon de leche at Kamayan a shot.

                      BTW, unless Lolo Dad's has moved in the past few months, I think its location is on Quirino Avenue, near an LRT station, rather than on Adriatico Circle.

                      1. re: pilinut

                        Just an update from my recent trip to Manila - Kamayan in Makati has seriously gone "downmarket". Gone were the days when it offered a nice, traditional ambience. The lechon's still there. But so are the noisy crowds now!! In Makati, it's moved to Glorietta mall, merged with its sister-restaurants, Saisaki and Dads, into one huge family restaurant!
                        If you're in the area & looking for a nice Filipino restaurant, I'd suggest either Sentro 1771 (Greenbelt 3) or Fely J's (Greenbelt 5). Forget Kamayan!

                        BTW, there's also the Lolo Dad's Brasserie at 6750 Bldg on Ayala Ave (next to Makati Shangri-La Hotel)! Legendary chef Ariel Manuel & his wife, Mia, now cook there!

                        1. re: klyeoh

                          Hi klyeoh,
                          I'll be in Manila for the next week, after some years of being away. any other places worth noting in Malate? (other than the ones mentioned already)

                          And also to Pilinut, et al, is the Seaside Market def. the go-to 'paluto' type marketplace in Manila? (considering i'll be based in Malate).

                          Lastly, that Binondo food tour posted below looks pretty cool, I might have to check that out! I'm looking for the veggie-style fried lumpia; kinda rare here in California, places here mostly serve shanghai which is kinda Meh, imo.

                          1. re: pushslice

                            Sorry, pushslice, can't help you there. I didn't have the chance to check out Malate this time round, hence could only give Makati updates. I'd hate giving you outdated advice vis-a-vis Malate, but I heard from locals that Malate's hip quotient seemed to have regressed quite a bit in recent times - can any Manileno-Chowhound attest to that.

                            BTW, I'd love to check out Ambos Mundos (one of the Philippines' oldest restaurants, Est. 1888) and Wah Sun, the atmospheric Chinese restaurant with the gigantic pet pig in front, at Binondo, the next time I'm in town.

                            1. re: pushslice

                              Hi, pushslice, I hope this isn't too late. While I haven't had a chance to get to Seaside this trip (I;m in Manila for a few more days), I'm pretty sure the market is the same fascinating place. The restaurants behind it are not the most sophisticated, but if you keep your choices simple, you should be fine. Caveat: there are a couple of other places calling themselves "Seaside" or some variation thereof, be sure to go to the original one near the Baclaran church and Lydia's lechon.

                              Since you will be in Malate, if you want really good seafood, go to Tao Yuan at 508 Gen. Malvar St. corner A. Mabini. Try the mantis shrimp, mud crabs, and prawns. And the Hainanese chicken rice is the best I've had outside Singapore and HK. (They have 2 HK chefs and 2 Singaporean ones.)

                              For Filipino food, go to the Adriatico Arms Cafe at the corner of Nakpil and Adriatico.

                              If you can get yourself to Makati on Saturday or Sunday, don't miss the Salcedo Market on Saturday or the Legaspi Market on Sunday. The latter doesn't have the same level of food vendor concentration as the Salcedo Market, but it does have more non-food items and a more relaxed feel.

                              1. re: pilinut

                                And not fogetting, of course, the granddaddy of all those hip eating places in Malate: Bistro Remedios.


                                1. re: pilinut

                                  Hi Pilinut,
                                  I just got back, and sorry to say I missed those places. I had heard about Seaside, and even had an open invite for a cousin to take me, but time did not allow :-(. Also walked right by Tao Yuan, noticed it, thought it looked mighty interesting, but was on my way to another engagement!
                                  Anyhow, as it turned out, besides home-cooked meals in Malate, didn't really end up eating around there when we ate 'out'. had some good food at Cena in Greenbelt 5, Kanin Klub in Alabang, and did the Old Manila Tours food 'wok' of Chinatown/Binondo. good stuff!

                                  As for that 'home-cooked' food? well, lets just say our family's cook of 20+ years loves to spoil me :-)
                                  Rellenong Bangus, Daing na Bangus, Adobong Pusit, Vigan Longganisa, Beef Nilaga, fried Galonggong (sp)...oooff..not even sure why I bothered eating out! oh, and green mangoes from the backyard + bagoong each day.

                                  1. re: pushslice

                                    Well, pushslice, it doesn't get better than that! You may have missed some restaurants, but there's no restaurant I wouldn't gleefully skip for a meal cooked by my family's former cook (also 20+ years--now retired).

                                    1. re: pilinut

                                      Doubtless, the best food to be had in Manila are homecooked.

              2. You'll be withing striking distance of Seaside Market on Roxas Boulevard. It's probably the best seafood market in Manila, and you can find squid so fresh that their chromatophores are still pulsing. Lots of different kinds of fish, live shrimp (ask for suahe--wild shrimp--NOT the black tiger stuff), and some very good live mud crabs, which are some of the finest crabs anywhere. (Be sure to choose those carefully--ask the seller to show you how fat the crab is.) You can go to one of the rather basic restaurants at the back of the market and have them cook what you bought. It may also be possible to ask someone from a restaurant to help you choose your seafood. (Now I'll probably lose sleep fantasizing about big, fat mud crabs cooked in fresh coconut cream with lots of garlic and ginger. . .)

                Seaside is also beside a pretty decent lechon place whose name escapes me at the moment (but it's a woman's name), so you can kill at least two major Filipino delicacies in one shot, assuming you have a really good appetite. If you go for the lechon, ask for some of the crisp skin around the back or shoulders, and the meat from near the ribs.

                In Malate, a nice place to hang out in the evening is the Cafe Adriatico at Adriatico Circle. Great hot chocolate. Very thick, very rich. And I haven't been there for a while, but the Adriatico Arms Cafe is an old favorite for Bicolano food: kilawin, Bicol Express, prawns in coconut milk.

                Eat lots of everything for me. I still have many months to wait for my turn.

                BTW, arrive prepared: August is probably the worst month to be in Manila. Hot. HUMID. But you can still eat very well!

                7 Replies
                1. re: pilinut

                  Thanks for the heads up on the Seaside Market. Those crabs sound fantastic. And as for lechon...isn't the crisp skin the whole point?
                  And one more thing...I'm coming from Houston, Texas -- I live hot and humid.
                  Thanks again -- and keep the suggestions coming!

                  1. re: foodpro13

                    Oh, I forgot to mention: in addition to hot and humid, it can be wet. And Seaside is-- literally--a wet market. The mud crabs can be male, female, or something in between. (The males are often bigger, with a greenish, slightly bttter tomalley. The she-crabs have a deep orange roe which hardens to a cheese-like consistency. The in-betweens are harder to come by, but are the best, in my opinion, with a sweeter tomalley than the males.) Mud crabs, with their thick shells, will make you earn those sweet morsels of meat, so be sure to pick a good-sized crab--at least 600g per person.

                    Re lechon: you are absolutely right! The skin is the point. If you have a choice, go for suckling pig, a.k.a lechon de leche. Tell the seller that you've come all the way from Texas to eat lechon (a white lie, but it should help), so you want the best parts!

                    And here's a link to a popular group that organizes walking tours of Manila. I haven't tried them out yet, but I've heard good things about the Binondo tour.


                    1. re: pilinut

                      Damn -- you guys are great. And just so you know...I've already been in contact with the walking tours...they sound terrific, and I'm booked.

                  2. re: pilinut

                    nut! I had been missing your posts. That is good advice!

                    1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                      Thanks, Sam! I must say that you really know your Pinoy food. It's obvious you've been places and eaten things in my country I never even knew existed.

                    2. re: pilinut

                      Regarding that lechon joint, are you thinking of Lydia's Lechon?

                      I don't think I've ever been to Seaside Market on Roxas but it sounds like a great place to visit. I'll make a point of going next time which would be sometime next year.

                      1. re: SqualorMTL

                        Yes, I do believe it is Lydia's! Once you gave me the name, it sounded right, and I googled it. Here's the link:


                        My family prefer's Elar's and Lechon Family de Cebu for medium-sized lechons, but these have to be bought whole, and might not be an option for the OP. Lydia's will sell as little as 250g.

                        Seaside Market never ceases to fascinate me. But it is terribly frustrating in the sense that there is so much to buy, and so little time and tummy space.

                        If you or the OP will be in Manila over a Saturday, the Salcedo Village market is an absolute must! You can--and should--plan on spending a couple of hours grazing on the wide range of regional specialties.

                        Given only one Saturday, a person need not choose between the Salcedo market and Seaside. Salcedo can take the morning, and Seaside the afternoon, as I believe a second round of seafood arrives around 4:30 pm, though the catch may be different from that of the morning.

                    3. If you're there on a Sat I would definately suggest braving the traffic (shouldn't be too bad Sat am early) to hit Salcedo Market in Makati. The lechon there (two types, Cebu and Luzon-style) are better than at Lydia's and there's so much more - the blue crab-stuffed rice flour empanadas at the Pampanga stand, boneless bangus (milkfish) stuffed with tomatoes, shallots, cilantro and grilled (look for the foil packets), good puto (rice cakes), huge annatto seed-tinted deep-fried empanadas stuffed with Visayan sausage and an egg and grated green papaya, ukoy (fritters of small whole shrimp to dip in vinegar) .... I'll stop in case you're not there on a Sat and this is a complete waste of space.

                      If you venture into Makati for restaurant food I'd give Filipino fusion a miss and go for some classics. Milky Way Cafe does an very nice sinigang and an wonderfully crackly, lite-on-grease crispy hito (catfish). I also like their pinakbet (a sort of veggie 'stew') and, if you can take bagoong (fermented shrimp sauce), green mango with bagoong. There's also Abe at Serendra -- yes, yes, it has its Filipino detractors but unless you can wrangle an invitation for a meal at the home of a Pampangan you'll be hard-pressed to find better versions of specialties of the province (which is known as the Philippines' 'gourmet province' by the way) like bringhe (rice cooked somewhat like a paella, but with coconut milk and served with chicken) and mole crickets (tastier than they sound). This place is always packed at lunch and dinner though, so you might want to reserve or go a bit off hours. Their desserts are quite nice as well.

                      6 Replies
                      1. re: foodfirst

                        My brother took me to Abe at Serendra straight from the airport after a grueling 20+ hour journey from Montreal. The food was fantastic especially the crickets! So good that I ordered it twice! It was a nice break from the average/terrible Y class meals of China Airlines.

                        1. re: SqualorMTL

                          Now that's a real chowhound family! I've had a couple of meals at Abe, and yes, they were very good indeed. I remember eating crickets ages ago, and they were not what I expected. I thought they were going to be crisp on the outside and squishy inside. But they were rather chewy. . . What were the crickets at Abe like? Could you taste anything other than the adobo seasonings?

                          1. re: pilinut

                            The crickets at Abe were somewhat crispy and chewy at the same time. It appears that they were deep fried first, then quickly stir fried with adobo seasonings and green onions. Flavour-wise, almost like bacon!

                            1. re: SqualorMTL

                              The crickets at abe are good, but it's a bit overpriced, they are about 40 philippine peso at the market, and costs around 250 at the restaurant for only a couple of spoonfuls, sory abe fans

                              1. re: johnybefood

                                No one ever said that restaurant was cheap.

                                1. re: johnybefood

                                  You're talking apples and oranges. I'm a huge proponent of street food but to rag on Abe for charging 6 times what they do at the market is silly.

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