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Apr 29, 2009 07:19 AM

One weekend in Makati/Manila

I am staying at the Renaissance Makati in early June for a conference. During the conference, our meals are provided and I will hence have only a limited opportunity to get out and try the local cuisine, maybe three or four meals (2 lunches, 2 dinners, on a Saturday and Sunday)

Not being very familiar with Philippino food, beyond adobo and lumpia, I am at a bit of a loss. I have no interest in trying anything "international" (i.e. seems to be a lot Thai and Japanese places near the hotel, but I just got back from Japan and I get lots of Thai food in Toronto).

I will be by myself, and will try to see Intramuros, as well as Makati.

So, those are the parameters...what are your suggestions, Manila Chowhounds!?

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  1. Here's a good thread:

    And if you scroll down the Greater Asia board, there are a couple of more recent threads on Manila and the Philippines. But my favorite place to eat and shop remains the Saturday morning market in Salcedo Village. The Sunday market in Legaspi Village is smaller, but not bad, and it's a few blocks from your hotel. The Salcedo Market would probably be a leisurely 15-20 minute walk, or you could cab it.


    1. if you're staying at the renaissance, definitely have lunch or dinner at Cirkulo. it's just a few blocks away (just when the neighborhood starts to look less like the sterile mall that is makati and more like a real city) and easy to walk to. this is a spanish restaurant, so not truly food of the Philippines, but given the history i think it's fair to eat there while in manila. food is excellent.

      1 Reply
      1. re: justintime

        Cirkulo is one of my favorites, too, and I almost never visit Manila without a meal at Cirkulo for, among many other things, their version of sisig (a dish made with pork face--ears and skin included). I think they call it cabeza de cerdo, and it is wonderful: crisp, chewy, garlicky. . . Filipino pork heaven with the quintessential bowl of rice on the side. As a solo diner in a land of communal dining, you may find yourself a bit frustrated.

        As justintime mentioned in passing, the Philippines has strong historic ties with Spain, having been a Spanish colony for over 300 years. In fact, Filipino cuisine is probably the original Chino-Latino melting pot, and many Filipinos would be more familiar and comfortable with the food at a place like Cirkulo than at say, a Korean or Japanese restaurant.

        That said, there are several very good, casual Filipino restaurants near you in the new Greenbelt Mall. Fely J's has some very nice food, and my favorite dish there is the rice with tiny dried fish and salted black beans. Have a halo-halo for dessert, or go to the cafe beside it, Pia y Damaso for the Brazo de Mercedes or something with mangoes. Pia y Damaso is also interesting as a study in the culinary history of the Philippines: you'll see the Spanish influence in some of the desserts, as well as the very strong American imprint (50 years as an American colony), in the use of local and imported ingredients.

      2. Actually, the best way to truly experience and enjoy Filipino cuisine is by invading the locals' homes and sharing a meal with them. Hands down, the food is much more delicious and, of course, cheaper. I rarely go out to eat when I crave for Filipino food. I just ask our cook who has been with my family for almost half a century now to whip me up some adobo, kare-kare and sinigang, and I'm sold. But in your case, we have to make allowances.

        Manila does have a lot of restaurants offering excellent international cuisine, but you may head over to The Fort, Taguig for some Filipino fusion food, which I've heard are some of the best, prepared by Filipino chef, Chef Laudico. Appetizers are about $4-5 while main dishes go for around $7-25. A bit expensive for Filipino food, but then again, I've heard it's worth it. Just ask for their house specialties as service in the Phils is quite friendly. Taxis may take you there as Taguig is near Makati.

        I'm not sure about dining in Intramuros but a place several kilometers away offers authentic Filipino cuisine. Visit this website and see for yourself what I'm talking about. You need to book in advance and choose your set menu about several days in advance, I think. But it's a must-try! The ambiance alone is worth every penny. Oh, and you have to bring someone along. A minimum of 2 persons per reservation is required.

        For Kapampangan dishes (dishes from Pampanga, a city in the Phils), which are some of the most popular of Filipino dishes, try Mangan. It's name means "Eat" in Kapampangan. They have good dishes and offers generous servings at very reasonable prices. Must-tries are kare-kare and umba. They have a branch in Glorietta 2, which is just a short walk from your conference venue. Just ask around for directions.

        In Greenbelt 3, try Sentro 1771. They also serve good Filipino food. Meals may cost around $5-10. Some specialties are Corned Beef in Tamarind Soup, Grilled Tilapia, and Garlicky Adobo. This is also in Makati.

        I also agree with Salcedo Market. You'll grow confused over which dishes to try first. They open at 7am and close at 2pm. I tell you, I've been there a lot of times and I still can't say I've tried everything.

        Oh yeah, in Intramuros there is ILUSTRADO. It's a mix of Spanish and Filipino cuisine. It's sometimes hard to separate the two due to the long period of Spanish colonization of the Phils. Perfect if you hate crowded places. Try any of their house specialties which may cost around $5-12. It's located along Juan Luna Street (near San Agustin Church) inside the walled city of Intramuros. It's beside the Silahis Arts and Artifacts.

        Also, try BINALOT in Intramuros. As their ad states, "Coined from the Filipino term that means “wrapped”, Binalot is just that: classic Filipino fare wrapped in banana leaves in traditional local fashion. The Binalot menu reads like a list of favorite Pinoy meals: delicious Adobo, Tapa, Bistek, Tocino, Longganisa, all atop steaming rice and garnished with appetizing sidings of either atchara or itlog na maalat and kamatis, all affordably priced. Think fiesta with an urban twist!". It says it all. Binalot is the place to go to if you want cheap food with big servings. Enjoy their unique utensils. You might have a difficult time finding them in Intramuros so I suggest you head over to Greenbelt or Glorietta as they also have branches there.

        Oh...and Filipinos have an obsession with food so snacks, or "merienda" as these are called, are a must. Try the famous Filipino dessert "halo-halo" and "Pancit Malabon" at Razon's. They have a branch in Greenbelt 1.

        If you have time, I suggest you head over to UP Diliman in Quezon City to sample street food and hidden restaurants scattered around the campus. They have carts selling "isaw" which is barbequed intestine, your choice of pork or chicken. Yum, yum! There is this restaurant, Chocolate Kiss, which is a mixture of American, Filipino, and Italian cuisine. Try their cakes...they're quite well known for this. Ask where the Bahay ng Alumni is and the restaurant is located on the 2nd floor.

        There are still a lot I haven't included. I think these may be enough for now. The next time you visit, you should stay for at least a week just trying to get to restaurants alone. A lot in Tagaytay and other Central Luzon provinces are well-worth the trip.

        Hope you enjoy your visit to Manila!

        1. Regarding Salcedo and Legaspi Markets, are both or either of them open during the December holidays?

          I'm thinking specifically of any of the weekends between December 19 and January 3. I may end up in the Philippines again in December, and I don't want to miss going to one of the markets!

          5 Replies
          1. re: prasantrin

            With the possible exception of the 26th, the markets should be on over those weekends. I;m sure the weekend before Christmas will be especially busy with Christmas specialties. I have every intention of being in Manila over the holidays myself: despite the traffic and the crowded shopping malls, there is a palpable joy and excitement in the air. And certainly no better time to enjoy the food!

            1. re: pilinut

              Great! I just have to figure out how to get there in time for the market! Well, I suppose if I miss the Salcedo, I can do the Legazpi, but I really want to try the ensaimada I missed last time!

              1. re: pilinut

                A follow-up question. . .

                Is there any possibility that the Salcedo Market will have extended hours the Saturday before Christmas?

                I've been trying to work out a way to arrive on Friday night, but there's not way I can do it since I have to work that day. That means a Saturday arrival at 1:30pm (if my flight gets in on time).

                I'm hoping they extend their house, so I can go straight from the airport to Salcedo!

                1. re: prasantrin

                  I plan to be in Manila next month and will try to remember to check with the market. You are right to be skeptical about getting out in time the weekend before Christmas, as it will be a very, very crowded weekend at the airport. I don't know where you'll be coming from, but PAL sometimes has extra flights into Manila.

                  Two years ago (like this year) we planned to arrive late Friday night on NWA--specifically so I could catch the Saturday market--and the plane got stuck overnight in Tokyo. I arrived on Saturday (at 1:30 p.m.), a too late for the market, so I know that intensely frustrated feeling. (I did find consolation in the weekend dessert bazaar at Rockwell and the Legaspi Sunday Market--and the enseimadas that inevitably arrive as Christmas presents;-))

                  1. re: pilinut


                    If I can't do Friday and if the market isn't open late on Saturday, I'm going to have my mother fly from Bacolod Friday night or very early Saturday morning, so she can pick up the ensaimada for me!

                    And if we both miss it, well, I guess I'll find something at Legazpi, or I'm sure there will be things around when I get to Bacolod!

                    If I even make it to the Philippines, that is. Darned swine flu is really interfering with my plan-making!

            2. I know this is a bit late for your conference, but just to add to this thread, my Philippino friend took me to Market Market while I was there, and it was a great place for a foodie. There are many "stalls" from which you can choose different types of food. We had sinigang, bulalo (sp?), oysters, bbq, green mango, adobo, and maybe another dish I can't remember. There are also stands selling snacks from various regions of the Philippines.