13 best restaurants in the Philippines

The best places to eat, from a tapas place run by an ex-El Bulli chef to the ultimate spot for ramen

Review by Teddy Montelibano as told to InFlight Traveller

Antonio’s, Tagaytay City

Antonio's Tagaytay

“Set in a lush two-hectare property in interior Tagaytay, Chef Tony Boy Escalante’s multi-awarded restaurant sparkles with fine crystal, bone china, crisp fresh linen, silverware and serves up some of the most scrumptious fare. My favorite starters include gratinated oysters with foie gras, ravioli of veal cheek, goat cheese and mint and creamed tartufo or warm Coeur de Lion Camembert with mushrooms and walnuts. For the mains, it’d be wise to have either Antonio’s Trio of meat dishes including beef fillet on plancha with seared foie gras and port wine sauce, grilled fillet of beef gratinated with morel black truffle, and honeyglazed lamb loin gratinated with goat cheese, or the house’s seafood sampler comprised of steamed Chilean sea bass, prawn thermidor and pan-seared scallop on celeriac mash and truffle cream sauce. When Escalante finally decided to have a bar, he didn’t just have one constructed; he had an adjoining property into an outdoor garden Lanai Lounge with a menu of serving customized drinks and classic cocktails from a bygone era. Here, a classic practice using a pushcart from which gin and tonics are prepared tableside has been revived. This is easily the country’s finest restaurant, consistently on the list of the Singapore-based Miele Guide’s top 20 Best Restaurants in Asia since the directory began over a decade ago.”
www.antoniosrestaurant.ph

Dos Mestizos, Boracay Island, Aklan

Dos Mestizos (photo by Mike Alcid) 

“Binggoy Remedios’ restaurant kickstarted Boracay Island’s transformation into a culinary destination. The cozy restaurant attracted prominent personalities and celebrities hankering for authentic Castillian paellas, bacalao, callos and the like. Word spread fast and Dos Mestizos became a byword for good food. A hearty sampling of tapas, along with a selection of choice entrees from the menu are served every Saturday on Saturday tapas night. Remedios’ paellas — Valenciana, de Mariscos or Negra — are among the favorites, along with the slow-cooked cochinillo, consistently drawing in the crowd since the restaurant opened its doors well over a decade ago.”
www.dosmestizos.com

Brasserie Cicou, San Juan City

Brasserie Cicou

“This is my go-to restaurant when I have a hankering for authentic French bistro food. Cyrille Soenen’s onglet poele; coq au vin; beef bourguignone; coquillete of bacon, mushroom and parmesan; egg cocottes; and chicken leg confit whisks you off to the City of Lights in a jiff, and his version of Kouign Amann — Brittany’s famous crusty cake made with bread dough containing layers of butter and caramelized sugar — one of the most delicious desserts ever concocted by man on this planet — is unequalled in this country. His eggs benedict, with ham and truffled hollandaise sauce, is also formidably scrumptious, one of the best anyone can have in the metropolis.”
Brasserie Cicou on Facebook 

Impressions, Resorts world Manila, Newport City

“If Antonio’s is elegance in a lush, verdant setting, Impresssions on the third floor of Maxim’s Hotel within the Resorts World complex is luxury in an urban hotel environment. The restaurant seats 70, boasts of a 2,000-bottle wine rack displayed in a temperature-controlled transparent glass running the length of one wall. Over and beyond the usual prime meats and lobster, what I hanker for here are such starters as the scallops and oysters with sea urchin parfait in a cucumber confit; the crispy Pamora farm egg in asparagus soubise with herring caviar; or the osetra caviar on blinis, crab salpicon with coriander and pannacota of cauliflower. Scrumptious! As is the duck liver terrine de foie gras de canard, grilled eel, cube of aspic lemon confit and red cabbage foam in teriyaki jam. The porcini cream soup with duck liver flan, truffle cappuccino and crispy chestnut is also a must try. The Sunday buffet here is stunning, with fresh oysters from France — belon from Brittany, fine de Claire, Special Gillardeau, Marennes-Oleron Basin — French cheeses; salmon roe, black caviar and uni, foie gras, and roasts and grilled fish. Chef Soenen, who heads Impressions' kitchen, is owner of Brasserie CiCou and former executive chef at Intercontinental Manila’s Prince Albert Rotisserie.”
www.rwmanila.com/restaurants/ impressions

Grace Park, Rockwell, Makati City

Grace Park's popular Muscovado Beef Belly  

“Margarita Fores who holds court at the kitchen here, is a staunch advocate of the farm-to-table eating, so this restaurant’s home-cooked style dishes uses ingredients produced and harvested in small batches from various organic farms around the country. I’d start with Fores’ absolutely delectable baked chicharon or pork scratchlings with prosciutto and salmon roe; and then a quinoa, smoked bacon and farmer’s vegetable soup, and go on to a river prawn scallop roll in a squid ink bun, a baked chicken with prosciutto and salmon roe or the popular muscovado beef belly, pairing any of those with an authentic carbonara using organic egg yolks instead of cream, and parmigiano reggiano.”
Grace Park on Facebook 

Green Pastures, Shangri-La Mall, Mandaluyong City

“Chef Robbie Goco, the guy behind the successful Cyma restaurant chain, has come up with another winner of a restaurant in Green Pastures. The always-packed restaurant uses organic ingredients, locally sourced produce, shuns preservatives and tinned food. I love Goco's kombucha — fermented tea with live bacteria — in mason jars, his 5-minute chorizo-crusted duck egg, toast with organic wild mushrooms and ricotta topped with runny quail eggs and the 80/20 Burger — 80 percent Kitayama wagyu and 20 percent double-smoked organic pancetta with homemade stracciatella in a buttered brioche. Cap your meal with Goco’s plain but deliciously ingenious Milk Eggs & Honey dessert, which uses natural honeycomb from Batangas, homemade Greek yoghurt and lemon curd made from Benguet lemons. Expect third-wave coffee in your cup, from a selection of organic coffee beans sourced from various Philippine farms."
Green Pastures on Facebook

Lusso

Lusso's Demi Pound Burger

“This is one of the most genuinely luxe restaurants in the metropolis. The restaurant is not massive, but its high ceiling, crystal chandelier, strip lighting, and glass walls make the space breathe. The interior has marble walls with gold trim and travertine touches, velvet-covered slipper chairs and floor-to-ceiling glass walls looking out to the al fresco tables in the Greenbelt V area. Waiters in full white jacket serve up Lusso’s demi-pound foie gras burger with a cambozola bath and proseco onions, paired with Asiago cheese and truffle salt fries; or a lobster and scallop roll and luxe mac & cheese, with pancetta and trio formaggio. Lusso chef Margarita Fores’ foie gras and Portobello eggs cocotte are also a delight, and on special occasions, order a tin of Acetra laid on ice in a silver bowl, along with a bottle of Moet & Chandon Rose; or a bottle of Moet & Chandon Brut with Sevruga caviar served on white toast points and blinis, dry egg yolks and whites, onions and chives.”
Lusso on Facebook 

Vask, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig

“You come here for world-class dining and in particular, the traditional tapas. Vask Spanish Chef Jose Luis Gonzalez has worked in some of the highly rated Michelin-starred restaurants in the world — El Bulli, El Celler de Can Roca, Arzak, and Mugarritz. The dining room is funky and doubles as a gallery for architect artist Carlo Calma’s modern art work. There is a separate room which exhibits visual art by various artists and doubles as dining space for Gonzalez’s multi-course degustation, which changes every so often. I once dined on a tasting menu that started with parmesan xiao long bao, gorgonzola moshi and apple wontons; terrific tuna and lemongrass ice cream; marinated anchovies, frozen powder, olive marmalade and bread crumbs; sea urchin, foie gras and beer; 16-hour cooked cochinillo; banana chips, foie gras and coffee sauce, wagyu with slices of apple and radish and wasabi sauce; and baby carrots sous vide, cardamom, yoghurt, truffle crumbs and a tomato basil sorbet.”
Vask on Facebook  

Mamou, Serendra, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig

Mamou (photo by Jocas See)

“Homey class, it’s as if you’re having really good home-cooked food in your own house. That’s the appeal Malou and Oye Fores’ Mamou restaurant has. The all time favorites here are steaks reminiscent of Peter Luger’s Steakhouse in Brooklyn — 28-day dry-aged USDA prime grade Porterhouse steaks and the Angus ribeye USDA prime grade steak, served family style. The menu is tempting, from the beer-battered fish and chips with malt vinegar, the steamed live Maine lobster drizzled with lemon butter sauce, the open face pan-seared foie gras-topped prime rib sandwich, the duck adobo flakes rice, the pastas — truffle flavored cream and Grana Padano, or the bottarga al olio, to the best Key Lime pie, with schlagsahne in town.”
Mamou on Facebook 

Yushoken, Muntinlupa City

“I once went to Japan and stayed two months without having a single bowl of ramen. Yushoken transformed me from someone indifferent to ramen into someone who hankers for ramen heaven, only if it’s Yushoken. The ramen here is from a recipe based on ramen champion Koji Tashiro’s recipe. Tashiro is the anointed son of Japan’s ramen god, 80-year-old Yamagishi Kazuo. The noodles here are homemade, and best done katame, or al dente. All four ramen variants — miso, shio, spicy tantanmen and my favorite, shoyu — come from the same 12-hour boiled pork bone broth. Only 170-200 bowls of ramen are made each day in Yushoken. Japanese chef Takane is in residence at Yushoken to make sure the authentic recipe is followed. He reports to ramen champion Hideaki Aoyama in Japan, and Aoyama, in turn, reports to the so-called Japanese ramen god Kazuo.”
Yushoken on Facebook 

Manolo’s, United Hills Village, Parañaque City

“This isn’t technically a restaurant; rather it’s a private dining place. You have call Manny Torrejon, the cook-patron, to book and discuss your bespoke menu. The paellas and Spanish tapas are quite stellar, as is his specialty, porcheta. Expect large portions and great coffee. Torrejon is a master roaster and the coffee he brews for you is usually paired with Torta Torrejon made from a family heirloom recipe.
Manolo's on Facebook

Tsujiki, Arnaiz Avenue, Makati City

Tsukiji's Toro Kamayaki

“Two things on the menu sets this apart from other Japanese restaurants in the country — Ohmi wagyu and its stupendous toro kama. Chef Jay Gamboa once told me, “Come to Tsukiji. I’ll serve up steak to make you never want steak from anywhere else again.” Well I did, and he was right. Ohmi wagyu beef from the Ohmi- Hachiman settlement comes from Japan’s famous wagyu breed, the most pampered cattle in the world and the beef of choice for the Imperial Household. My other favorite is toro kamayaki (grilled fatty tuna collar), which has the same fat content as the toro (tuna belly).”
www.tsukiji-restaurant.com

Tasting Room, City of Dreams Manila, Parañaque city

“Food is nothing less than superb with chef William Mahi at the helm. He comes from the French Basque region and had worked with Joel Robuchon and at Alain Ducasse Au Plaza Athenee in Paris. He was Chef de Cuisine at the Papillon at Land Club at the Bund and prior to that, was with the 2-Michelin star Spondi in Athens. You can order from five up to an eight-course degustacion meal, which you may or may not pair with wine. I suggest that unless you have money to burn, you steer clear of the 1982 Chateau Latour, which goes for P397,000 a bottle, or P50,000 for a champagne glass. The 1990 Chateau Lafite Rothschild will set you back P243,000 a bottle. Other options for fine wines range from P400 up, for a glass. I had a five-course tasting menu, which featured the most toothsome amuse-bouche I have ever had in my life — tiny 'lollipops' of foie gras with apple compote, dark chocolate, limoncello and watermelon jelly shooters. Course, after course just sends you off to another level of culinary heaven: the 52 degree egg poached in olive oil over caramelized onion and bacon, potato mousse with slices of Iberico ham and Perigord truffles powdered with porcini and cepes; next, a duck liver terrine stuffed in something akin to barquillos; a Marseille bouillabaisse of snapper, mussels and shrimps with wasabi, shrimp and beetroot rice chips dipped into a rouille of saffron, anchovy, cream and milk; then dry-aged wagyu (which I think was either Blackmore or full-blood Mayura) with a chlorophyll and beef jus and potato crisp and truffle mashed potatoes, and finally Guanaja chocolate ganache and espresso ice cream. That was a smashing first meal of the year setting the standard for great dining throughout the rest of 2015.”
www.cityofdreams.com.ph/restaurants

About our Insider: Teddy Montelibano
Teddy Montelibano is Manila Bulletin's editor and Rogue contributing editor. He contributes food reviews to Philippine Star and FOOD magazine.

Originally published in InFlight Traveller April to June 2015

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