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Christmas Holidays in Manila

pilinut Oct 11, 2013 01:57 AM

We've got an inordinately long holiday season in Manila. It's not yet mid-October and the malls are playing Christmas carols. By mid-December, nothing but shopping, eating, and sitting in traffic is going to happen here. It starts to calm down on Christmas Day. There should be 5 working days in the 2 weeks between 21December and 3 January, but we'll be lucky (or not) to see 4.

Fret not, the malls and restaurants will be open even on Christmas Day, and--more importantly to people like me--the Salcedo Saturday Market and the Legaspi Sunday Market will be open over the December weekends! klyeoh and prasantrin, and anyone else visiting friends and family in Manila over the holidays should bring loose clothing. Very loose clothing. Any hounds interested in meeting up to chow down at any of the markets can e-mail me. (I go to both when I'm in town, but I try to get out before 11am when I have to compete with ravenous crowds.)

  1. a
    artbycynthia Oct 18, 2013 02:04 PM

    Hi, pilinut,
    My husband and I will be in Manila in February 2014. He would like to experience very good authentic Filipino food. Any restaurant recommendations?
    Thanks!

    9 Replies
    1. re: artbycynthia
      pilinut Oct 20, 2013 07:42 AM

      Hi, artbycynthia, I'm glad you're coming during one of the better months, weatherwise. Manila has improved a lot in the past decade as far as Filipino restaurants are concerned and there are new ones coming up in Manila often enough that I can't keep up with them. Below are some of my favorites:

      1. Milky Way - my clan's go-to restaurant for Filipino food, specifically Pamapangueno, Tagalog, and Ilonggo dishes: fried catfish with mustasa salad, crispy pata, Lechon kawali, adobong pusit, crab in aligue sauce, lumpiang ubod, ginataang vegetables. . . (skip the kare-kare). For dessert, the homemade avocado ice cream, halo-halo, and guinomis are wonderful. Comfortable, clean, nothing fancy, but it sets the standard for many dishes. 2/F Milky Way, Pasay Road corner Paseo de Roxas.

      2. Via Mare--one of the best places to have pancit palabok, crab shells stuffed with fresh coconut and crabmeat, bibingka galapong, puto bungbong, and many other dishes. They also have good, safe-to-eat local oysters. Several locations in Manila.

      That's just for starters, Will add more later.

      1. re: pilinut
        a
        artbycynthia Oct 21, 2013 05:26 AM

        Thanks, pilinut. Please keep adding suggestions. My husband loves seafood. He went crazy over Ilonggo Grill in Glorieta saying it was the "best fast food" in the world.

        1. re: pilinut
          a
          artbycynthia Jan 2, 2014 12:03 PM

          Happy New Year, pilinut! I am going to Manila in mid-January. I have gathered a list of possible venues for a really good Filipino meal. Please tell me what you think:

          Milky Way, Fely J, Namnam, Abe, Dampa, Mesa Filipino Moderne.

          1. re: artbycynthia
            pilinut Jan 6, 2014 01:20 AM

            Hello again, artbycynthia, and Happy New Year!

            My first choice for a Filipino meal would be Milky Way--the main restaurant on Arnaiz Avenue. The steam table branch in Rockwell is not in the same league, since they don't cook anything over there.

            I haven't been to Fely J in several months, but the Larry Cruz group of restaurants, which includes Abe, Lorenzo's Way, Cafe Adriatico, as well as Fely J's, is usually quite reliable and I'm looking forward to returning to Fely J's myself. I'll have the dills rice (steamed rice with tiny, crisply fried dried fish and a few salted black beans), possibly the kare-kare, and definitely the crispy pata.

            I haven't been to Namnam, so I can't comment on it. And if Dampa is the seafood market with restaurants attached just off Manila Bay, I'd have to say I'm ambivalent about recommending it: I haven't been there for several years, and while I can appreciate the attraction of buying your own impeccably seafood at the market and getting it cooked nearby, I was not very impressed by the restaurant we went to. I suspect one can do better by going to the Seaside Market, which is less touristy, and getting the food cooked at one of the restaurants behind that market.

            I've been to Mesa Restaurant at the Rockwell mall only once. I have a theory that the smell of a restaurant when you walk will tell you whether it will be any good or not, and it was not promising when I walked into Mesa. I only stayed because I detest CPK and Shi Lin, the other nearby choices. But the food was actually pretty decent, and I was glad I took a chance.

            If you want to try the Filipino equivalent to farm-to-table dining, Green Pastures in Shangrila Mall is very good. It isn't Filipino in the traditional "lutong bahay" (home cooking) sense, but it uses local ingredients in a very cosmopolitan way, with delicious results.

            Don't forget to check out the Saturday and Sunday markets, if you are in town!

            Have a great visit to Manila, and let us know how your dining adventures go!

            1. re: artbycynthia
              pilinut Jan 6, 2014 01:34 AM

              Check out this old link. Sam Fujisaka, quintessential chowhound, was always right.

              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/532298

              1. re: pilinut
                digga Jan 14, 2014 05:14 AM

                I miss Sam. :(

                On a happier note, we'll be in Philippines for Lunar New Year. Are there special dishes we should look out for (we'll be in El Nido but I assume there are some universal dishes that Filipinos dig into during New Years)?

                Just a note - I don't eat meat (hubby does) but I do eat seafood.

                1. re: digga
                  pilinut Jan 14, 2014 09:01 AM

                  Hi, Diggs, I miss Sam, too. He'd have had something pertinent and colorful to add to this discussion.

                  Chinese New Year is not observed in the Philippines to the extent it is elsewhere in Asia, possibly because there are proportionately fewer Chinese here than in other Asian countries. The Filipino Chinese do maintain some of the CNY traditions and foods like tikoy, a sticky rice cake and a few other items.

                  1. re: digga
                    p
                    prasantrin Feb 1, 2014 07:59 AM

                    Where's Sam? I have a feeling a should know this, but I can't remember!

                    I'll be in Manila Feb. 27 to Mar. 2. Will be in touch with pili (as soon as I find your email address again!) for a possible meet-up! Anyone else want to join?

                    Will also be in Cebu Feb. 20 to Feb. 24, and Bacolod for any dates between Feb. 17 to 20 and Feb. 24 to 27. (with a possible overnight trip to Siqijor in there somewhere) if anyone will be in any of those places during that time!

                    1. re: prasantrin
                      pilinut Feb 2, 2014 08:29 PM

                      To get the sad part out of the way, Sam passed away almost 4 years ago, but lives on in many a chowhound thread (and heart.)

                      To get to the happy part, I'm really glad you'll be back in town! Don't forget the weekend markets in Salcedo and Legaspi. They make for some delicious grazing and shopping. Are you still looking for enseimada? When will you (and any other hounds in town) be free to meet up?

          2. k
            klyeoh Oct 12, 2013 06:26 AM

            Hi pilinut, I'd not made any flight/hotel bookings yet, but will be sure to touch bases with you once my X'mas vacation plans are confirmed. Right now, a business assignment in Germany Nov-Dec beckons but the timelines are not confirmed yet.

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