Sunday, October 06, 2013

Back in Manila - Rediscovering the city's food scene

Manila - Skyline
I had free time at work and I took that chance to go somewhere where I can relax. The first thing that came to mind was to go back to Manila.

My time off was not a lot so I made sure that I plan my days carefully and this included the places to eat. Luckily, my vacation turned out not only good for the soul but for the taste buds as well.

However short my vacation to the Philippines may be, I was blessed with great weather, great time spending with family and great food. Here are the food that I enjoyed during my stay in Manila.

Novaliches home cooking.

I landed early morning Sunday. The cab to the Makati condo took less than fifteen minutes from the airport. I freshened up and three hours later, I was back in my mom's house in Novaliches.

My first dish in the Manila? My sister prepared this super delicious cheesy meaty Filipino style spaghetti that it summoned all my good childhood memories back the first fork full of pasta reached my taste buds. What better place to reminisce than at my mom's place with my mom, siblings and family? Thanks Renelee for the spaghetti!

Manila - Spaghetti by my sis 

Ayala Triangle - Kanin Club, Banapple

The following day was a Monday and it was a national holiday. My brother Randy, my sis-in-law Kaye, nephew Tuts and my sis Renelee all went to Ayala Triangle to have lunch at Kanin Club.  I've been here before but I wanted to go back to try their other dishes.

Manila - Kanin Club front

First, we ordered this ultra delicious Tinapa rice. Tinapa is smoked fish and this fried rice is mixed with this smoked fish flakes. This fried rice was so tasty it is a meal in itself. Just the right smoked fish, garlic and salt tastes.
Manila - Kanin Club Tinapa Rice

We also ordered the restaurant's famous fried rice called Sinigang na Sinangag. Sinigang is a Filipino broth flavored with tamarind. This fried rice looks like it is mixed with a reduced version of sinigang broth. I've tried this before so I knew it was going to be good too(I am salivating while blogging right now).
Manila - Kanin Club Sinigang Sinangag

I've never tried their calamari so we also ordered it. It was cooked perfectly because they were not chewy at all. They topped it with sliced green peppers. The sweet and sour sauce was good too. I love that they top the calamari with a lot of freshly ground pepper.
Manila - Kanin Club Fried Calamari

I've tried their Crispy Dinuguan and I loved it. Dinuguan is a pork cooked in pork blood with spices. This particular version of the dish is crunchy and the sauce has been tremendously reduced. We ordered it again so everyone can sample it as well. Tasty, crispy and it looks neat served. Look at that!
Manila - Kanin Club Crispy Dinuguan

I loved everything we ordered for lunch but this one rocked my taste buds. It is called Kare-kare. This dish is peanut based and cooked with oxtail. This particular dish is also a reduced version of the traditional style and with seafood variation. My first time to order this but it was so delicious that we cleaned this plate empty. I'll order this again next time.
Manila - Kanin Club Seafood Karekare

A few steps from Kanin Club is Banapple. Banapple serves both savory and sweet dished but we came here for desserts.
Manila - Banapple inside

This Americano was good.
Manila - Banapple coffee

This Praline Banana Creme Pie was good too.
Manila - Banapple Praline Banana Cream Pie

As well as this Oreo Brownie Fudge Cheesecake which was chosen by my cute nephew Lancie.
Manila - Banapple Oreo Brownie Fudge Cheesecake

Mary Grace Cafe @ Trinoma Mall

My good friend Pastor Mayet came back from her weekend at the Touch of Glory Prayer Mountain that same weekend I arrived in Manila. She immediately asked for a lunch slash get together and I obliged. We went to Mary Grace cafe on a Tuesday. Is Mary Grace becoming our favorite cafe for catching up?

I quickly noticed these beautiful little shell table decor at Mary Grace. I thought it is a creative and playful use of clam shells.
  Manila - Mary Grace Cafe Table decor

We ordered this salad with what they call XO sauce. It was very tasty with a little spicy kick. I don't really know what XO means other than it is short for eXtra Ordinary. It had hints of shrimps and salted fish. We also tried their Sangria Ice Tea which tasted like sangria but without alcohol. It is bursting with fruit flavors with the strong taste of tea.
Manila - Mary Grace Cafe Salad 

We also shared this sardines pasta. I love sardines so it was easy for me to love this pasta. The linguinis are perfectly cooked and the dish is not overwhelmingly fishy. It came with a slice of toasted garlic bread.
Manila - Mary Grace Sardines pasta

 Mall Of Asia - Kusina Ni Gracia, Chichabog

What's a Filipino to do when he or she needs to get a whiff of mall life? Go to Mall of Asia. This mall is huge. I get lost inside this mall but that is fine. What is even better is that I discovered I can eat a good Filipino lunch in Manila for less than $3.

Kusina Ni Gracia is in the mall's food court.
  Manila - Kusina ni Gracia sign

Here are the food choices. All I needed to do was point on the food. Though, it was a challenge to figure out what to eat with all these goodies in front of you.
Manila - Kusina ni Gracia food

Since I didn't want to eat a lot, I decided to get one of their set menu. I chose Bicol Express and Bopis which are hard to find here in the SF Bay Area. This Bicol Express is pork with extra spicy hot coconut sauce. Bopis is finely chopped pork and beef lungs and very spicy. The meal comes with a huge serving of rice and a glass of soda.
Manila - Kusina ni Gracia lunch menu

After that satisfying lunch, I came across this snack cart next to the food court selling peanuts, cashews and chicarones.
Manila - Chichabog sign

I grew up eating these peanut snacks so I knew they are garlicky and freshly roasted. I asked for their smallest serving and I took it back to the condo with me.
Manila - Chichabog peanuts


Back in the condo, I got hungry late in the evening. The great thing about staying in Legaspi Village (and it reenforces my belief that buying the condo was a good decision), I was near everything including this fast food place selling meals with grilled meats. I ordered this Fish Sisig which was very good. Fresh sisig is grilled fish meat with spices. It came with a small serving of soup and a glass of iced tea.
Manila - Chic Boy Bangus Sisig

XO 46 Bistro Filipino

My mom, brother Randy and sis Renelee went for a late lunch on a Thursday. XO 46 Bistro Filipino happens to be near my sister's office in Makati. Though we didn't have a reservation, the four of us were seated right away. I immediately noticed their nice interior and elegant lighting.

Here are some freebies at the restaurant. Roasted corn bits and rice cakes with spiced butter.
  Manila - XO 46 Bistro Filipino freebies

It also came with this riddle in Tagalog. Think of fortune cookies  in Chinese restaurants.
Manila - XO 46 Bistro Filipino Bugtong

Everyone ordered this caramelized sugar drink with tapioca locally known as Sago.
Manila - XO 46 Bistro Filipino Sago

I ordered this Mango shake, or Kinalog na Mangga, which was refreshingly good.
Manila - XO 46 Bistro Filipino Mango shake

This is Bagoong Rice. Bagoong is fermented shrimp or fish paste which is a delicacy in the north and an acquired taste. Its flavor totally changes when mixed with other ingredients like in this fried rice. This fried rice was so flavorful it is a good dish in its own.
Manila - XO 46 Bistro Filipino Bagoong Rice

This one is stuffed eggplant or Relyenong Talong. The eggplant were grilled and went very well with the sweet and spicy sauce. I found them good to eat as appetizers.
Manila - XO 46 Bistro Filipino Relyenong Talong

This is grilled pork belly or Inihaw na Liempo which was nicely served on bamboo sticks paired with deliciously spiced soy sauce. This went very well with the rice.
Manila - XO 46 Bistro Filipino Liempo

This one is a Bohol island specialty called Halang Halang which means spicy hot. It was very good though. This was timely because the family was flying to Bohol island the next day.
Manila - XO 46 Bistro Filipino Halang Halang

For dessert, this is a Filipino dish I associate with Christmas. It is called Sapin Sapin Bahaghari. It is a sticky rice cake topped with coconut milk curds and served with ice cream and sweet syrup. This was decadent! I should call this a designer sapin-sapin. Of course, the four of us shared this.
Manila - XO 46 Bistro Filipino Sapinsapin Bahaghari

This one is Ube cake served with ice cream and coconut milk curds. This was heavenly and the creamy ube flavor was long lasting! And look at the presentation. We also shared this one.
Manila - XO 46 Bistro Filipino malaubeng panaginip

As if we haven't had enough, we also ordered their halo-halo which was what I called a well balanced halo halo because not one flavor dominated. The four of us shared this. I think I ate my share very slowly and savored each spoonful of halo halo.
Manila - XO 46 Bistro Filipino Halohalo

Via Mare @ Greenbelt 1

After our Bohol trip, my mom bunked with me for a couple of days at the Makati condo. While she was in Makati, we both sample food together. Our journey led us to Via Mare.

For lunch, we both sampled their stuffed crab or Relyenong Alimasag. The plate came with a stuffed crab and a crab croquette wrapped in banana leaves, garlic fried rice and fried lumpia with spiced vinegar. This was a very satisfying lunch.
  Manila - Via Mare Crab dish

My mom and I also shared this very tasty Ginataan or mixed fruit with coconut milk. The sweet taste brought me back good memories from my childhood days. My dad used to make the best Ginataan in the whole wide world.
Manila - Via Mare Ginataan

My mom and I also wanted to sample more desserts even though we were already full. We ordered this very tasty Bibingka or traditional rice cake with the thought of bringing the rest back to the condo with us which we did.
Manila - Via Mare Bibingka

This Puto Bumbong or traditional steamed rice cake was also good but we were full so we just sampled a slice and took the rest back to the condo.
Manila - Via Mare Puto bumbong

Echo Cafe 

I had a few days remaining in Manila so I set aside a day to shop for stuff to bring back to the States. I went to the Echo Cafe in Bonifacio Global City to peruse for locally made goodies. Wow! This store is a haven for someone looking for pasalubong to bring abroad. I totally recommend this place to Balikbayans or a loved one of a Balikbayan. They have locally made coffee, jams, sauces, snacks, soaps, cosmetics, etc.

 Manila - Echocafe

After I finished shopping, I decided to sample what their cafe offers. I ordered this pandan iced tea which was unique in taste but very refreshing. It was also very fragrant.
Manila - Echocafe pandan iced tea

This is their pandan cake which was very flavorful and not overwhelmingly sweet. This cake has layers and crispy texture inside.
Manila - Echocafe pandan cake

Aida's Chicken 

One of my goals in this trip is to get myself familiar with the neighborhood near The Columns Legaspi Village. I haven't been inside Makati Cinema Square which is a mall across the street from the condo. My efforts were rewarded when I uncovered this chicken joint inside the mall. Too bad I chanced upon Aida's Chicken toward the end of my trip. I will definitely come back next time.
  Manila - Aidas Chicken

This is Ilonggo Express which was very spicy but packs lots of flavors. It is similar to the Bicol express but this one had lots of green beans. 
Manila - Aidas Chicken Ilonggo Express

This one is a set menu. It is called Chicken Inasal which is the specialty of the province of Iloilo. This chicken leg was very tasty. I didn't try the egg and veggie salsa that came with.
Manila - Aidas Chicken chicken inasal

More stuff...

Toward the end of my trip, I tried different restaurants with my siblings and friends.

This one is Okkokei Ramen at Okkokei which is near the condo. Now I know a good place for ramen the next time I am in town.
Manila - Okkokei ramen

This one is Jamaican Pattie's beef empanada which is very good. It has a generous amount of beef fillings.
Manila - Jamaican Patie empanada

Sweet cakes from Conti's in Trinoma. The whole family came here one time for brunch. 
Manila - Contis cakes

Across from the condo is Pansit Malabon where they serve (or deliver) very good Pansit Malabon.
  Manila - Pansit Malabon pancit

I also tried one of their lunch set menu one day and this was so good!
Manila - Pansit Malabon relyenong bangus

My sis Renelee also took me to Sinangag Express. There is a branch located near the condo.
  Manila - Sinangag Express menu

I ordered their longsilog meal and it came with soup, egg and an unlimited serving of garlic rice.
Manila - Sinangag Express Longsilog

That was a lot of food and I am hungry for more. I can't wait to try more restaurants on my next trip to Manila.


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