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Mar 1, 2011 12:59 AM

Manila Update--Old Favorites and an Excellent New One

Before my chronic procrastination becomes terminal, I really ought to show my gratitude for all the great tips other hounds have given me by updating some info on Manila, based on my most recent visit this year. Manila doesn't get much attention, and though I am biased for my home town, I can see why: the inadequate tourist infrastructure and high proportion of uninspired eateries make it difficult to find the culinary gems. But make no mistake, those gems are out there, and well worth seeking out.

But first, here are links to a few threads that contain some relevant information:

The best Filipino food (aside from mom's, of course) was at Fely J's, previously mentioned by klyeoh, to whose favorite dishes I will add the kare kare. Fely J's is the only restaurant I've tried which makes a version of this Filipino classic that can compare with the one I grew up with.

Makati Shangri-la's Shang Palace still serves the best dimsum I know of in Manila, though the seafood (and Singaporean) dishes are appreciably better at Tao Yuan, which now has two outlets, one on Gen. Malvar St. in Malate, and the newer one at Resorts World not far from the airports.

Cirkulo on Arnaiz (Pasay Road) still shines for Spanish and Fil-Hispanic food--the cabeza de cerdo (a.k.a. sisig) is the center of many of my pork fantasies.

Other restaurants that remain pretty good: Sala Bistro and People's Palace (Thai) in Greenbelt, Tsukiji (Japanese) and Milky Way (Filipino) in the same building as Cirkulo.

My new favorite restaurant (if and when I have 2 hours for lunch, as the service is very slow): CiÇou. A real surprise, as I had given up finding first-rate, authentic French food in Manila. I had 3 excellent lunches there: melt-in-your-mouth pork rillettes, a silken soft-boiled farm egg topped with sea urchin and surrounded with cauliflower and green pea purées, a richly flavored bouillabaisse, braised beef tongue with sauce ravigote, pork belly confit, and perfectly cooked steak frites. . . And dessert--an improbably light, flaky, and salt-buttery kouign amann with caramel ice cream.

Other great places to check out the food scene: Saturday market at Salcedo Village, the Sunday Market in Legaspi Village, and the Mercato Centrale in Fort Bonifacio on Saturday and Sunday mornings.

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  1. The chef of CiÇou has moved to Resorts World where he is now the executive chef of Impressions. I discovered this blog on the internet that gives a good idea of what it is like:
    As written in the blog "But we were quite surprised to find that one can have a meal here for as little as P600." is simply a gift! Honestly I cannot think of any other place where one can eat 2 star Michelin food soooo cheap!

    3 Replies
    1. re: tkamp

      Well, your post was a gift, tkamp, as I am off to Manila next week, and I had heard that Chef Soenen had closed Çiçou and moved to another location that I would have to suss out upon arrival. Now I can hit the ground running and plan a meal there before the weekend crush. Thank you! I'll post back when I get to go. I can hardly wait--as you said, the chef is Michelin star caliber!

      1. re: tkamp

        I was in Manila again last week. Sad news: The P600 meal has gone. Prices have doubled since last year. The food was still ok. It is just that I will no longer fly all the way to Manila just to eat there.

        1. re: tkamp

          So, the P600 prices from last year was some kind of promotional gimmick? That usually happens with "new" places.

          I'm curious about other eating places in Resorts World Manila though - do they have any offering Filipino cuisine?

      2. Spot on! Except for Shang Palace though, the food was mediocre the last time I ate there.
        All the restaurants you mentioned are my favorite eating places here in Manila, very well prepared food, high standards and consistently prepared.
        Others that you should try next time, Masetto, Bistro Filipino, Mamou, Abe's, Lolo Dad's, and The Goose Station.

        1. What do you think of Harbor View Restaurant on the Bay? I've eaten there three times and loved it every time. This is where we had our rehearsal dinner the night before our wedding. I wish I could find rice tinapa here in the States the wayit is made there.

          1 Reply
          1. re: ForestHillsFresser

            Harbor View has been around forever and the last time I was there was 15 years ago. The food is good and it's one of those places that everyone knows about and yet is still considered "underground".

          2. I second the rec for Fely J's --- amazing Filipino food.

            1 Reply
            1. re: vorspeise

              Making ... me ... hungry!! Manila is a beautiful city in which to celebrate Christmas - the festive spirit of Christmas is in the air, Filipinos are naturally boisterous, warm and fun-loving people, and the food is absolutely gorgeous!