Capsule Review: Ikkoryu Fukuoka Ramen

Welcome to my first ever capsule review! Realizing that I DO NOT have to go so deep into a restaurant and write some voluminous review, I’ve come up with this - thus enabling me to put more content on this little blog (hehehe!). I’ve divided it into three parts: The Good, The Bad, and The Swangit.I promise to be concise and meaty. Just like me. :P



The Good:

I am in agreement with C that the interiors of this place are easily in the top three of all the new wave of ramen joints. It’s classy looking and modern - very Japanese - and I for one am quite the fan of Japanese aesthetics.

The service was good too – the wait staff were attentive without hovering around you, and the orders came really quickly. You can go in and out of here in an hour or even less.

I ordered some Black Garlic Tonkotsu ramen, essentially their house specialty tonkotsu (pork stock) broth with a lashing of roasted garlic oil. Some people don’t get this, and may even find it “bitter”, but I guess it’s a base to base casis. :) I thought it was interesting – tasty even – and was content with it. An extra order of ajitama (soft boiled egg) was sweetish, custardy and properly made, and was a nice contrast to the broth.


Our companion ordered a Spicy Tobanjan Tonkotsu – a tonkotsu base with tobanjan paste, which added an appealing zing of spice and even some acidity. If I ever found myself here again, that’s an order I’d consider.

Their gyoza was a bit of a revelation – it was actually dribbling juices as you munched on it (much like a Shanghainese xiao long bao), as I think excellent gyoza should be. Not too garlic heavy, and crispy skinned, it’s a recommended side to your ramen.


Tori karaage (aka Japanese fried chicken), with a splash of lemon, was relatively grease free, crispy and tender even. I can imagine coming here just for this and some rice.


The Bad:

We also had an order of teriyaki chicken wings. In fairness to the waitress, she confessed they were on the smaller side.

When they arrived, I had to snicker – they were a bit beyond small. They looked like fried toothpicks!

I’m guessing they lopped off most of the meat to make some karaage or whatever other uses for chicken the kitchen had – but still. It wasn’t annoying, really.. it was FUNNY!

And to top if all off – it didn’t taste bad either.

Dual purpose food: teriyaki wing appetizers/toothpicks. There’s an idea for you!


The Swangit:

Well, to be honest the house tonkotsu broth on it’s own was kinda blah. It didn’t have a big punch, considering it was a pork stock that was supposed to be boiled for hours. There was a fishy taste to it (though I do understand that each broth is a different creature, and some do use fish bones or dried shrimp or whatever else to add flavor), which I don’t usually mind, but all in all it just didn’t do it for me (nor for the other two in my table that ordered it.. wrinkly noses and all.) With added seasonings like the roasted garlic oil or the tobanjan paste it amped up, but of course it would be better if the base were already kick ass on its own.

The ugliest thing here, for me, was the noodles. All these new ramen joints are going out of their way to ensure a top notch carb experience – a lot even importing expensive machines just to produce the good stuff. Now I don’t mind if you’re not that hardcore and use packaged noodles or you buy your noodles from elsewhere – as always it’s about managing expectations.

The thing with this place was they bothered to specifically asked you how you wanted your noodles. Immediately I chimed in: “firm please. Al dente.” As did everyone in our table. When the bowls showed up and us hungry peeps started slurping, it was soft and mushy – across the board. I ain’t gonna hate on ‘em for this – maybe it was a mistake.. whatever – but I won’t lie: it’s disappointing, especially since this is supposed to be some Japanese chain who knows their stuff, coming into town at a time when ramen is the hot shit dish of the year. If they continue on like this, they will get left behind. And I would never want that for anyone – it’s a huge undertaking to open a restaurant, much more a specialty restaurant like this.

I would like to root for them to have a steady crowd, but they have stuff going against them. Already I’ve heard many grumblings about their broth and their noodles ---- which to me essentially IS ramen. So, powers that be, please please do something – the ball is in your court.

SM Aura Premier Branch:

2/F SM Aura Premier , McKinley Parkway

McKinley Hill, Taguig

Shangri La Mall Branch:

5th Level, Shangri-la Plaza Mall
Shaw Blvd. cor. EDSA, Mandaluyong

Phone Number
(+63 2) 477-8333

Popped and Loaded

As we greet the sun kissed months, the ever morphing local restaurant scene seems to be getting THAT much more interesting.

Like, for example, never in my wildest dreams would I have thought that a place like the vaunted International House Of Pancakes (that’s IHOP to you, bud) would show up on our shores. A US diner chain in the middle of urban BGC, with people queuing up for hours to eat there is absolutely crazy! (Have you lined up yet? Because I haven’t. haha!)

And for that matter, how crazy is it that US West Coast burger giant In-N-Out went and did a one-day test run to dip their toes in our food obsessed waters? Considering that they’ve gone on record saying that they hardly have plans of expansion in the US, that they bothered showing up in Southeast Asia at all is just a bit shocking (they did this stunt in Singapore and Hong Kong as well).

Many more chains are popping up like mushrooms: Cold Stone Creamery, Saboten, Paul Patisserie – all just around the bend.

Not that I’m complaining, of course. Bring it on, chain restaurants – Manila is a hot place to be now (literally and figuratively!)

It’s a really interesting time to be a diner in Manila – many new local joints are popping up as well, with some of them pushing dining into new directions, which is fantastic for the dining community. Check out spanking new places like VASK and Grace Park.

Speaking of “popping up”, just last night, I found myself in a pop-up concept in Salcedo Village. My buddy Jeremy “The Delicious In Mr. Delicious” Slagle just texted me saying he had extra seats to this event by a group that called themselves Pop Up Manila, so I jumped at the chance. The pop-up restaurant, in case you haven’t read about it yet, is basically a restaurant within a restaurant: a cook, often one without his/her own place yet, takes over another restaurant’s kitchen on it’s quieter night, cooking his/her brand of food.

Yes, we are goofballs - but that just makes us fun!

Does that make sense? Well, let me just say it’s pretty fun.

The people behind this – Erwan Heussaf (who doubled as the waiter. Saan ka pa?!), Dee Jae Pa’este (well, that’s his Twitter handle..haha!) and some members of the Concepcion family (Michael, is that you behind this?) – hooked up with young chef Bruce Ricketts (yes, he’s related to Ronnie..) formerly of the now defunct Robot and currently of his own place called Sensei Sushi in BF Homes. The food concept: Latin American via Vietnam.

Did you get that? Again, let me just say it’s pretty fun. Mind you - it’s not the time and place to expect haute cuisine. No, son, you come here to enjoy the ride.

Called Barba Cua, they decked out this small Thai restaurant along Valero with DIY attitude: South American posters, sombreros, rice paddy farmer’s hats, and ukuleles – and presented a cool little menu of small plates – perfect for sharing.

Being the adventurous peeps that we were, of course we just proceeded to order most of the menu (research, my friend. All in the name of research.)

Besides, the small plates concept – like tapas with international flair – is a great way to eat without feeling like you’re going to rip your jeggings.

A lapu lapu ceviche type thang came with little cubes of watermelon, crab, citrus bits and fresh dill.

Shredded oxtail and lengua rode in on a slightly greasy garbanzo based tortilla and topped with salsa verde and pickles. This was one of the tastiest stuff we ate. High on fat it seemed too (which may explain why it was so good.)

Some rolled and fried bits of pig head, topped with a little salad and some pig ear bits, was quite over the top. Did we like it? Well of course! Wouldn’t you?? But this was the kind of food that you could only eat a few bites of, and it begged for an ice cold beer which unfortunately was not available. (They had a cocktail menu instead – which I think could have used a bit more booze. Apparently I can be a lush too.. heehee!)

Kulit mo, Mr. Delicious.

Piggy in all it's glory

The slightly more virtuous smoked tofu came with a nice “relish” of cauliflower, raisins, carrots and other veg in a nuoc nam (fish sauce) based dressing and would’ve been great with rice, with the other vegetarian offering crispy tamales (more like a veggie and quesong puti taco of sorts) being equally tasty as well.

Virtuous? Nah...

A steak and eggs with black garlic, and an avocado sauce was good – something every meat loving Pinoy will take to like a moth to a flame – but it was the lone starch dish of rice cooked in what was probably crab stock and topped with uni and prawns that took it all home. All in all, pretty loverly stuff.

For the meat lovers in the house!

Considering that this was probably a bitch to pull off (when we do dinner events like this with Pinoy Eats World, my body definitely takes a beating!), I gotta hand it to their team for producing a fun, let down your hair sort of evening. I had no expectations whatsoever – which is probably the frame of mind you want to have entering events like this. The food was pretty good, the room was pretty vibrant, there were lots of celeb sightings (well, Anne and Solenn, plus fashion icon and provocateur Rajo), and my company was great. (A side note: Rajo introduced me to Solen, and she said she remembered me!!! Of course, I don't think we've ever met. I would've remembered by now. Sorry Erwan. You probably get this all the time.haha!)

I can’t think of a better way to close out the weekend. The Manila Pop Up guys and gals throw a great experience our way – just the kind of thing this town needs more of. I’m looking forward to seeing what else they have up their sleeve.

Pop Up Manila is on Twitter. Follow them at @PopUpManila to find out about their next gig. Pareng Erwan said sometime in April - wait for their announcement!

Kevin Fortu  

If you're my Facebook friend or follow me on Twitter, you may have heard of a little project my friends and I started in support of our local barista champ, Kevin Fortu, who's representing us in a prestigious event in Melbourne.

We'd like to send his folks with him on this incredible journey and are raising money to do just that! Get to know more about Kevin by watching this. Be inspired by this really humble guy. PILIPINAS, REPRESENT!

Coffee, Tea, or Me (..with Coffee)?


My love affair with coffee is like one of them super colorful relationships, filled with twists and turns, long stretches of both true passion and empty, meaningless MOMOL sessions. O ha.

Back in the day, I used to frequent this Japanese coffee shop: a dimly lit, often cigarette smoke filled cafe with old movie posters of James Dean and Humphrey Bogart (I'm not even going to say which it is. You'll figure it out - and it will date you. haha!). On the menu was everything from chahan (fried rice) to tuna sandwiches, and of course, coffee (or rather, coffee concoctions): sweet drinks filled with chocolate and cream and honey and whatever else you could pile on there - plus some coffee. Emphasis on the "some". Yeah they were basically milk shakes.

Of course I loved it, as did the girls my buddies and I took there. It was the perfect place to chat with the ladies (*shudder*) and get to know them, and is definitely the starting point of a lifetime of “having coffee”. I felt very cool sitting there in that dim room, reeking of "yosi" (cigarettes), and with a steaming cappuccino, albeit one that tasted like candy. And thus the said affair began at this “getting to know you” stage.

By senior year of high school, during our last retreat as classmates, my buddies and I would pounce on our classic breakfast of red dyed hot dogs, cold eggs sunny side up, and rice – and wash them down with a very potent (and seemingly adult-like) instant brew with a shitload of sugar in a Styrofoam cup, its color lightened by a heaping spoon of powdered “creamer”. That certainly kept us up throughout the weekend.

Coffee became a “friend” of sorts.

At some point (I forget when), the juggernaut known as Starbucks marched into town and made quite a splash. I won’t deny – I was crushing on that mermaid pretty bad.

And how could you blame me? Their flagship at 6750 was gorgeous! 2 stories, full of couches and obscure background music and the heady aromas of coffee – it was seductive. The seduced came in droves, like zombies, and learned to sip….. frappuccinos. In their best clothes, too – I remember spotting couples out on prom night dropping by for a mocha frap.

At that point I tried to up my coffee game by trying the more “serious” offerings: apart from my staple cap, lattes soon entered my vocabulary, and - when I thought I was ready and following the footsteps of my Pops – an espresso (con panna,though, with that dollop of whipped cream smoothing out the rough edges). I felt so dirty and macho. Yes, yes, this was definitely a MOMOL moment.

It went on for a long while, all this emotionless making out with coffee. The mighty S had become a de rigueur hang out space, even a place to see and be seen. Lots of pretty young things doing their hair toss, all the while displaying their cute little frothy cream mustaches from their fraps. Cute.

Even during my travels, I’d make a beeline for Starbucks to beat my drowsiness, or any other place that served coffee. No deep feeling, no emotions. Triple espressos, usually after a long haul flight. The coffee equivalent of the walk of shame.

The day I fell I love was special. Down right torrid, even. I was in the Bay Area, and had read about this newly opened place called Blue Bottle Coffee. C and I, both intrigued, gave it a go.

I had an espresso, because my gut told me so. With no sugar sachets in sight, they pretty much discourage you from putting any sugar in their drinks – though there is a container of really nice Japanese sugar crystals if you insist – so I didn’t. It had the thickest crema I’d ever seen (that head of brown froth that forms after the barista pulls a shot) that didn’t go away and dissipate in 5 seconds. One sip of that stuff, smooth and not bitter, with a finish of chocolate, took my breath away. I sipped C’s cappuccino – even THAT made me curse out in it’s deliciousness. We went back for more: New Orleans style coffee with chicory, flat whites, lattes, even a mocha. Best I've ever had.

And it was the place itself – the baristas who all looked like displaced hipsters (even before I even knew what a hipster was!) all tattooed up and moving with purpose; their rows of sleek machines, grinders, and siphons (something UCC had going even before them, I might add); and one of the funkiest things I’d seen – hand filtered coffee, where you put coffee in a special filter and hand pour the water in a steady stream to produce one of the cleanest tasting cups you’ll ever sip. Apparently this was how coffee was done waaaay back in time, and it was just a method that was being reintroduced.

This was when coffee and I left the MU stage and just went for it. The Third Wave of coffee is the movement where Blue Bottle was smack dab in the middle of – a time when coffee obsessives opened shops, sourcing the best beans often straight from the people who planted them,  and trying their best to extract the most flavor they could from various methods. These guys treat coffee like fine wine, and that concept just blew me away.

The only problem was that the Bottle was all the way in San Francisco. I don’t know about you – but I hate long distance relationships. I tried my best not to think of it, but the separation was unbearable. Worse, I got spoiled by it too. Where o where was I going to find someone to pull that kind of shot for me?

That quest went on for a loooong time. My espresso connoisseur father and I would order an espresso in every local restaurant we would visit. Time and time again, we were let down by watery shots, some found in the best of restaurants in the city. Restaurant peeps – you really should consider upping your coffee service game – it’s always disappointing to have a great meal be drowned out by bad coffee.

Then during my travels, I chanced upon Fuel Espresso in Hong Kong. This gweilo (Canto-slang for “white dude”) hangout, a New Zealand chain owned by a couple of Kiwi gents, made KILLER espresso and only did espresso-based drinks. Their flat white (ristretto with milk, no foam) was really fuel for me, putting a bit of strut in my stride, and their iced latte cooled me and boosted me during warm days. Every trip I made to the Fragrant Harbour made me visit Fuel every day, sometimes twice a day, even if it was out of the way. My only gripe with them was that they forbade me to take pictures of their location –although it was a great set up, I don’t get how they think it’s so “unique”. There’s nothing there that hasn’t been done before! But well gee – who cares, right? It was the coffee I was there for.

A way cooler experience came last year, when a coffee blood brother of mine – Nicco Santos – happened to be in Singapore the same time I was (see my “New Order” post) and wanted to take me to this special coffee temple, knowing that I was hooked on the stuff.

We took the subway and emerged in the middle of nowhere, walking in a neighborhood I had never been to before. It looked like the Singapore ‘burbs, if that’s possible. Nicco then pointed to this high gate, like something you’ll find at a big home in, say, New Manila, and entered.

Chye Seng Huat Hardware then proceeded to greet me like we were old lovers. Yes, torrid. Super. Where was this place all my life?

Located in an old (duh) hardware store, this was so my kind of place: airy, chill, full of light – the main room had a long bar where all the coffee magic happened,; a few cozy tables; a music corner with a vintage turntable, speakers and vinyl; a wall full of coffee machines, gadgets, grinders.. like all cool places that get to me, the atmosphere was intoxicating. And the coffee…  well, let’s just say they knew what they were doing. Like Blue Bottle, they had it all – shots, pour overs, siphons, and a new creature for me: cold brews. Cold brewed coffee is simply coffee that is filtered for a loooong time (24 hours or more!) and chilled. The result is akin to sipping the cleanest iced tea, but with a mild hit of coffee at the back of your mouth. Delicious! But don’t be fooled – this shit will keep you up spinning and dancing if you fool around with it at night. The caffeine level is through the roof.

Beside the main room was an area for roasting (because that’s how respectable Third Wave shops roll!) and arguably an even cooler spot than the main room called The Annex. Basically a room with equipment and a small bar, it was used to hold coffee classes, as well as what I went there for: pairings and tastings. Nicco’s cousin, Andre Chanco (who works there as a barista) and one of his colleagues (whose name escapes me right now) did the session. I left smiling, like I had found something I had long been looking for. That was the closest I had gotten to my Blue Bottle experience, and I went home with a wealth of knowledge too.


However, Singapore and Hong Kong still aren’t in the vicinity, obviously. It’s not like I can drive over and ask for a date to Tagaytay and have dinner at Antonio’s. It was still long distance. My heart ached, and longed to listen to some balladic Journey. I needed some Faithfully. In a dark room.

But fret not, dear reader (and THANK YOU if you’ve read this far! Haha!), because this does end with a Happy Ever After.

The Third Wave has landed on our shores, in case you didn’t notice, and hopefully like our penchant for 80s New Wave, it will never go away.

One of the joints in the frontlines is this place called Craft Coffee Workshop. Located on a sliver of storefront along 14th St. and Broadway in New Manila, Craft is a great way to get introduced to the world of coffee. I had only heard about them, and was quite surprised that to find that they also knew the people who ran Chye Seng Huat through my man Nicco. It was high time to investigate.


The 3 gentlemen who run it (Raymond So, Peter Ong & Sly Samonte) are obsessive, like most of the Third Wave generation: they source their own beans, roast them, and do everything they can to get good flavor – siphon, cold brew, espresso shot, pour over. Its vibrant and alive inside - some people even mistake it for a bar – and if it weren’t a little far from me I’d go there everyday. The crowd is a mix of people who live around the area, and young med students from nearby St. Luke’s --- all looking for a place to be still and enjoy the java. At least you know that if you cut your finger or bump your head you will be in awesome hands.

The baristas and owners will gladly discuss you about what exactly is going on in your cup, and if wish to learn even more, they sometimes conduct classes in their second floor “extension”. The good people behind this place have managed to grow a small community – a “Cheers” for coffee – and the surroundings are all the better because of it. I was there one night when they held an impromptu “latte art” competition – regulars and baristas went at it head to head, producing tulips, ballerinas, and..uhm.. ganja leaves made of milk, as the crowd cheered them on and judged the winners as well. Good fun!


So that’s my love story in a nutshell. From Manila to the San Francisco Bay Area, to Hong Kong, Singapore, and finally back to Manila, I am happy to say that the torrid affair has blossomed into marriage: Life long and strong, an endless love. Lionel and Diana would be proud.

BLUE BOTTLE COFFEE (66 Mint Plaza, San Francisco, CA .. +1 510.6533394;  1 Sausalito, San Francisco Ferry Building, San Francisco, CA .. +1 510.6533394)

FUEL ESPRESSO (Shop B47A, The Landmark, 12-16 Des Voeux Road Central, Central, Hong Kong .. +852 2869 9019; IFC Mall, 1 Finance St, Central, Hong Kong .. +852 2295 3815)

CHYE SENG HUAT HARDWARE (150 Tyrwhitt Road, Singapore .. +65 36960609)

CRAFT COFFEE WORKSHOP (66 Broadway Ave., New Manila, Quezon City, Philippines .. +632 5703436)

The 83 : Best Stuff Of The Last Year

No, it’s not a number I popped from out of my butt -1983 was the golden year my idol Dr. J won his first and only NBA championship.

So here is my first “food” related post on my new blog: a seemingly random 83 things I ate in the year 2012 that rocked my socks. Why 83? No, it’s not a number I popped from out of my butt -1983 was the golden year my idol Dr. J won his first and only NBA championship. So in homage to that, my list goes up to 83. Doesn’t make sense? Well, it’s my blog, innit? (I kid, I kid..)

My only criteria was that it had to be something I bought and paid for, and something I could drive to – so stuff I ate in, say, Cebu, doesn’t count. I know Baguio is a stretch, but hey – it’s MY BLOG. ;p

Anyhoo – Here’s my list. A lot of them are things from good friends of mine – hats off to them – what can I say? I have cool friends! Without further adieu, the good new eats in my life this past year, in no particular order. If you disagree with my choices, well tough – because (all together now!) it’s MY BLOG! Harhar!

  1. Grilled Cheese & Tomato Soup (Wild Flour) – Yeah, I know their service can be spotty sometimes, but there is no denying that this little “corner bakeshop” churns out quality grub. I’ve yet to have something here that didn’t appeal to me – a great burger, a killer short rib sandwich, breads and desserts that are the real deal – the list goes on. But it’s this grilled cheesy sandwich, paired with a spot of tomato soup, which got my attention the most this past year.  
  2. Claypot Rice (Sir Raffles) – This tiny plain Jane joint has awesome Sing/Chi home style grub. The owner cooks most of the stuff, and chooses prime ingredients. For his claypot rice, he flies in special duck sausages to make it that more special. If he suggests something, I say take it. Great stuff, and worth the drive to BF for me.
  3. Chai Masala ( Tea Lounge) – For me, this is the center of the tea universe  (at least in Manila). If you’re even remotely interested in teas, best to sit with the supafly owner, Renee Sebastian, and pick her brain. My fave? Hot and spicy chai masala – it’s got all sorts of stuff going on, kinda like salabat on ‘roids.
  4. Shabu-shabu Spaghetti (Yomenya Goemon) – A Japanese spaghetti joint may not make much sense to you, but gosh darn it, it just works! Fans of the defunct Dean St. Café may be familiar with Japanese style pasta – here at this Greenbelt outpost it’s amped up to a whole new level with so many variations. My favorite is this one with thinly sliced pork and a sesame flavored sauce. Pizzas ain’t bad either!
  5. Tsukemen (Mitsuyado Seimen) – Their service was also crappy for awhile, but I do enjoy their basic tsukemen – a dipping type of ramen where you’re given these thick-ish house made noodles to dunk in a steaming bowl of pork stock cooked with a shot of yuzu, a great complement to cut through it’s richness. If you have any soup left over, drizzle a little chili oil on it, ask for some white rice and pour the stock on top. It may even be a better experience than the noodles, depending on your mood!
  6. Paitan Ramen (Kitchitora) – Yet another ramen player with a very neat trick up their sleeve – a rich, viscous stock made of chicken, paired with house made noodles and broiled chicken chunks. Yes, if you’re looking for “healthier” options, this just may be the ticket.
  7. Tantan men (Ramen Yushoken) – These guys take their ramen very seriously, going down the route of authenticity. No “house tea” or any of that here, just straight up traditional ramen, some gyoza and fried chicken. Their secret? The chef is pedigreed from the “Tokyo Ramen God” himself, with the result being refined, clean tasting ramen that’s guaranteed pleasure for the ramen aficionado. A decently spicy tantan men is my personal fave, with miso coming in a close second.
  8. Dimsum (Golden Bay) – Brought to my attention by the food lover elites (notice I didn’t say “foodie”, because I really frikking hate that word), this is a huge, cavernous Cantonese warship of a restaurant that I suspect caters to high rollers in the nearby casinos. Sure, you can blow thirty grand on lobster and abalone, but my thing here is the dimsum, which is (for now, anyway) always 50% off, coming out to 70-80 per dish. 500 bucks should get you all sorted out. Good fillings, with thin wrappers, and a damn tasty XO sauce to help you along – you’d be hard pressed to find better value for this quality.
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  10. Crabs with salted egg (Hong Kong Master Cook) – Rob and Sunshine Pengson turned me on to this little corner of Dampa. The come on is the real deal HK chef in the kitchen overseeing all the grub – producing (literally) finger licking, decently priced food. My friend loves this crab dish so much, he licks the salted egg sauce of the shells. True story. 

10. Buffet (impressions) – Ok fine, blow your wad over at the newly redone Spirals (for the record, I haven’t been there in its new incarnation just yet) but for me, this little buffet that could is the shiznit, not just for pure deliciousness but also for value. From the house smoked salmon, to the cold seafood station, salad bar, carvings, fresh pasta and crazy dessert station – I guarantee an experience that will shock you with it’s quality and commitment to have you eat so well that you’ll have to waddle out like a fat penguin.

11. Sliced Pork And Ampalaya (Hanaichi) – This neighborhood Japanese restaurant grew on me and is now one of my favorite places, with home style dishes like this sliced pork with egg and ampalaya that will satisfy your hunger without busting a hole through your wallet.


12. Chicken Meatballs (Mangetsu) – I’ve always loved Mangetsu from the first time I tried it. It’s solid grub with some twists and turns, and it’s always a good experience (except sometimes when service lags a bit – which is rare). My last time there I had these awesomely tender chicken meatballs, floating in a dashi broth. With a swipe of Japanese mustard, these morsels and light, guilt free and delicious  - my kind of meal.  

13. Coconut Gelato (Morelli’s) – This kinda pricey gelato joint impressed me with this coconut flavor. It’s quite..erm..”coconut-y” – a good thing for coconut lovers like me. I know there aren’t that many coconut fans, so a treat like this is always a welcome surprise.

14. Beef Tendon Curry Noodles (Nomama) – I don’t know if the good chef Him is going to permanently put this on his menu, but I tried this at an event and it blew me away. Melt in your mouth tendon in curry, on top of noodles – we need more food like this around here.

15. Cheeseburger (Burger Bar) – The new kid on the block, cousin of ‘Cue, produces many things – a lot of them dangerously good – but the one that stands out is their basic cheeseburger, with a juicy, crust rimmed patty, melted cheese, raw onion, lettuce and a smoky “secret sauce” cradled in a toasted bun. We’re getting closer to becoming a burger town because of “better burger” places like this.


16. House Burger (‘Cue) – For me, it wasn’t the barbecue that turned me on here, but the house burger – a simple patty of local beef blends (with a decent meat/fat ratio – crucial to burger success!), cheese and bread. They can build a rep on this sandwich, if you ask me, which may explain their next project, Burger Bar. (see above!)  

17. Chicken Parmigiana Pizza (Nolita) – If you’ve ever entered a slice joint in, say, New York, then the aromas wafting around this place might seem pretty familiar. The other menu items are just ok for me – the best stuff to explore here are the pizzas. Of all the variants, I dig this one with eggplant and chicken on a crust with a nice crunch to it. Eat with lots of black pepper and chili flakes.

18. Bulgogi (Sariwon) – I’m normally not a big bulgogi person, but this place does an excellent job. After eating all that meat (cooked in a special inclined grill) the wait staff start cooking potato noodles in the left over sauce that’s pooled at the bottom: the best part.

19. Pickle plate (Tajimaya) – This Cebuano via Tokyo transplant does everything right. Good quality meats for grilling, soups, sides and yes – a killer pickle plate that I really enjoy. You know a restaurant is good when they take the effort to make stuff like pickles an awesome thing.

20. Moussaka (Argos) – This Turkish owned little hole in the wall in the red light district of Burgos is a real find. Kebabs are good, but it’s this moussaka that I enjoyed even more. They close late (well, early morning actually) and they love their beer and football (and their water pipes!)

21. Lamb Chops (Savoy Bistro) – This little gem, on the bottom of a gallery of sorts, is another great find. Throwback recipes on a very decent price range is the card up their sleeve here – they serve food that reminds me of dinner out with my lolo (Tournedos Rossini, escargot, et al) My choice are these lamb chops in a supremely flavorful brown sauce, with a siding of eggplant and more lamb bits. Enough to satisfy cave man like hunger pangs.


22. Thai Ravioli (Thai Bistro) – I follow owner Cecille Chang wherever she lays her hat, because this is a woman who loves her food, especially stuff with Thai touches. Her “ravioli”, really thin rice wrappers, stuffed with pork and mushrooms and served with an addicting sauce laced with Thai patis, is a revelation. Light and full of flavor, it’s the perfect starter at this little restaurant that could.  

23. Iced Macha Latte (Chez Karine) – Home of the Frenchy creations of my awesome friend Karen Yang, I go to CK for something her boy friend Johnnie turned me on to – this iced drink with macha from the mountains of Taiwan. I don’t normally order this in other places, but theirs is really refreshing and healthfully delicious!


24. Beef Tendon Rice (Mien San) – I love this place. We had a good relationship going, so it really saddened me when MS moved out of Makati. This dish, a legacy of Him Uy de Baron to me, is crazy – meaty and gelatinous tendons slowly cooked til they’re soft and luscious, served with rice and a fried egg. After a long night of whatever you’re doing, this is the way to come down to earth.  

25. Lunch at Antonio’s (Antonio’s) – After many years, this man Tony Boy can do no wrong. It’s always a good thing – something to be enjoyed every so often. If you can, order the steak tartare, by the way – exemplary!

26. Smoked Bacon (Premio) – This is one of my favorite eating partner Xandra Rocha’s legacies to me. A restaurant that flies a bit below the radar, Premio’s point guard in the kitchen (whose name escapes me) makes this killer smoked slab bacon, among other things. No one quite does this porky treat like her – so this easily stands out.

27. Lemon Pancakes (Pancake House) – Although there are things that I used to love that I don’t agree with anymore at PH (taco shell is sooo different! Boo!), they still have good pancakes, like this one. Guaranteed to induce food coma.

28. Fish Kebabs (Kasbah) – I don’t normally agree with Boracay to Manila transplants, but Kasbah is one big exception. They managed to transform the former Red Kimono space into, well, a Kasbah, and the food is pretty darn good. Fish kebabs, a standout for me in Boracay (where it’s the perfect food because it won’t get you bondat!), are great here too.


29. Chirashi Sushi (Inagiku) – I never really ordered chirashi (fish and seafood atop sushi rice) anywhere, preferring a sushi platter, but when I chanced up Inagiku’s – a place where I go only for special occasions – I was hooked. Premium stuff on top – eel, salmon roe, uni, salmon, scallop, etc – and a lower price point than mixed sushi make this a true winner.  

30. Fugu Congee (Kitsho) – A subterranean like Japanese restaurant in the rather cool Shangri-La run Trader’s Hotel, Kitsho is the only place I know that serves the legendary fugu. Done 3 ways (sashimi, fried, and shubu shabu), my favorite part is when the chef transforms the shabu shabu broth into fugu zosui (Japanese congee). Smooth as buttah.

31. Steak (Bugsy’s) – My friends started ordering this at Bugsy’s one day  - a 500 buck steak with gravy and mash. It’s several notches up from Pinoy sizzling meat with gravy, and it’s great for a quick meat fix.

32. Tonkatsu with Radish (Tonkatsuya) – The Japanese tonkatsu master who runs this makes magic with local pork. Tonkatsu with grated radish is da bomb (and pretty cheap too!)

33. Ravioli with Egg (Va Bene) – Massimo Varonesi, apart from being a really nice guy and Jean Claude van Damme doppelganger (no, really!!! I wanted to ask for his autograph!), is like Yoda with pasta. This giant raviolo, stuffed with a whole egg which just dribbles onto the pasta sauce and creates a whole new one, is something else.

34. Sole Meuniere (Masseto) – This cantina of the powerful execs (check out the suits during lunch!) has been churning out good, solid grub since they opened. I don’t get out here often enough, but the few times I have have been glowing meals. I do really dig this simple piece of fish, cooked in brown butter.

35. Fish Cake Soup (Poongwol) – My friends took me to this Korean beer house one night for dinner, and everything was huge and spicy! The champ for the evening was this bubbling cauldron of various fish cakes in a tear inducing broth. You dip ‘em into a tangy sauce, and gobble with rice. Oh yeah, baby.

36. Big ‘n Tasty (McDonald’s) – I am not going to discount fast food, even if I generally stay away from it. I hate McDo for releasing this onto the world, because I really like it, processed meat and all. Boo. And yum.

37. Fried Wings (Yellow Cab) – Easily one of the classiest of the local quick service joints, they make killer pizzas, pasta (!!!) and.. really crispy wings. Me likey once in awhile – it totally took me by surprise when I first ordered it.

38. Lengua Flautas (B&T Mexican Kitche) – Speaking of wings, this tiny joint makes great mango habanero wings, but it was their flautas stuffed with lengua (tongue) - that I NEVER order anywhere – that impressed me the most.

39. Sausage And Lentils (My Kitchen by Chef Chris) – Look beyond the signature panizzas and discover gems like these really delicious grilled house made sausages on top of tender lentils. Or be a good piggy and have BOTH.


40. Anchovies (Terry’s Selection) – The food here is always good, but this one, the most suave of anchovies served on top of cheese and toast – really simple! – was one of the best things I’ve had this year for sure, hands down. Part of Terry’s Asturian food festival, I don’t know if I’ll ever see this again, but I sure will remember it!   

41. Pancit Choko en su Tinta (Asiong’s) – My buddy Ige Ramos, a fiercely proud Caviteño, took me on a mini-tour of the town where he grew up. The eats were amazing – and this was definitely the one that rocked my socks: humble bihon, with squid ink, garlic and a ton flavor. This, and bihod (fish roe) are worth the drive over.

42. Sangria (Las Flores) – The winner of the most chichi bar of the year, in my opinion – this hot spot has a great cocktail program, and their white sangria is most ace.

43. Beer Mussels (Draft) – Well, gee – what better way to show off your beer selection than cooking with it too. Steamed mussels in a broth of beer and bacon and chili. Saan ka pa? Watch yourself slurp the broth like soup!

  1. 44.  Lamb Stew (Hill Station) – The much storied Hill Station is a beacon of culture, good times, and good eats in the City of Pines. This Moroccan stew, filled with all sorts of spices and with a kick that will heat your chilly bones, is one of the most interesting things I’ve tried all year.

45. “Tiago” Burger (Burger Project) – How can you go wrong with customizable burgers? If it sucks, you have no one to blame but yourself! My first time at this transplanted Maginhawa joint was inspired by the little boy – a double patty extravaganza with caramelized onions, mushrooms and an egg.

46. Corned Beef Sliders (Mr. Delicious) – Marooned Bay Area gent Jeremy Slagle developed a killer corned beef recipe and sold it from a food bazaar as sliders. He is a naughty man – and hell yeah, they were good, and sold out too!

47. Ensaymada Ice Cream (Fog City Creamery) – Edy Liu, proprietress of FCC, is really sweet and super friendly. Who would’ve thought she had a dastardly mind with the ability to come up with evil concoctions like this, a tie up with the equally sweet and despicable Homemade Treasures’ Chona Ayson? Heaven on your tongue.. havoc on your jeggings.

48. Guava Basil Sorbet (Pinkerton) – Xandra Rocha models for her ice cream brand in a bikini (yes, she has that model swag). But beyond her looks is a genuine passion for her product, resulting in excellent treats like this refreshing sorbet, a happy flavor bomb with all the right notes.

49. Chocolate Bars (Risa Chocolates) – One of the nicest and most intensely knowledgeable chocolate lovers I know, Pam Cinco has come a long way from when I first met her. Her newest product, chocolate bars, (some made purely of locally sourced chocolate), is smooth. I totally see her leading the pack and introducing Filipino chocolate to the rest of the world.


50. Hiyashi Ramen Goma (Ukkokei Ramen Ron) – Much ado about this controversial place, their troubles, their tantanmen, and their so called “nazi” in the kitchen – but at the end of the day, it’s just good grub, and that’s how I’d like it to stay. Went out of my comfort zone and ordered this, a room temp sesame ramen, which right now is something I am actually craving for.   

51. Salted Sumatra Ice Cream (Mad Mark’s) – In the restaurant test zone of Barrio Kapitolyo in Pasig sits this sammie and ice cream hole in the wall. Their coffee flavors are top notch!

52. Mixed Sashimi (Azami) – One of my new favorite casual Japanese go-to joints, Azami does practically everything pretty well. But it’s their magical sashimi platter, with the sweetest seafood selection, that hits a home run. While it’s not exactly cheap, it’s cheaper that what you’ll pay for in much higher end restaurants, but with the  same quality.


53. Kouign Amann (Brasserie Cicou) – The highest echelon of the food obsessed were all about this, and I finally saw why. Basically it’s a butter and sugar bomb – and yeah, it’s a good thing. I can’t finish one order, especially after eating a meal there, but I will gladly take a bite of yours. If you’re a sweet tooth, this is the ticket to a foodgasm.  

54. Stuffed Pljeskavica (Bankah) – A small joint serving Eastern Euro grub, Bankah’s main playah is this sort of “burger” stuffed with molten cheese . Eating it is like swallowing a brick and letting it sink straight to your gut, but deliciously!

55. Lamb Shank Caldereta (Villa) – This homage of Chef Sau del Rosario to his roots and then some produces some keepers, with this slowly cooked stew of lamb shanks leading the pack, in my opinion. This could easily pass for a winter dish in Winterfell.


56. Cuapao (Spring by Ha Yuan) – I love the story behind Spring (and the people behind it too!) with 3rd generation Suzy Lee steering her family’s food into the future. Her spins on their traditional cuapao are fun, inventive and tasty. Love the chili crab variant with a splash of sriracha.   


57. Crab on Crispy Noodles (Wooden Spoon) – The food pedigree of Sandy Daza is impeccable. His foray back into the restaurant biz, WS, produces his spins on familiar flavors. A smoky, tasty crab and egg on top of crispy rice noodles begs for chili sauce and rice – sarap!  


58. Modern Triptych of Fish (Bar Lounge, New World Hotel) – I tried this seafood in squid ink concoction at a special dinner in the private dining lounge of the new and improved New World Hotel. Concocted by their then-newly installed Italian executive chef, it proved to be a sneak peek into the interesting directions they want to take their food, apart from it being truly flavorful and a great conversation piece.   

59. Sabich (Café Mediterranean) – Café Med has always been a staple for me, with food being satisfying and generally healthful. Their sabich, with fried eggplant and egg and chickpeas in pita, is something I can eat all the time.


60. Foie Gras Carbonara (L’Entrecote) – On the other end of the spectrum, here’s something you SHOULDN’T eat all the time. To be fair about it, though, it wasn't as rich as I thought it was going to be. Was it good? Oh, hell yeah. Take a bite or three and share the rest.  

61. Longgiyoza (Manila Maki) – Longganiza in gyoza wrapper. An inspired combination from this little Jap/Pinoy hybrid that serves great bang for the buck meals.

62. Blue Cheese Wedge Salad (Chops) – Interestingly enough, the thing I enjoyed the most in this steak house concept was this wedge of iceberg with bleu cheese dressing, a throwback dish from classic steak houses of yore. The steak I had? Not so.

63. Starbucks Sandwiches (Starbucks) – ’12 is the year I sampled the variety of Starbucks sandwiches. While I’ve tried these in other countries, like say, the States, I am proud to say the best ones are the ones I’ve had here in Manila. Props to their sandwich supplier!

64. Latte (Craft Coffee) – If finally happened – a serious coffee geek’s lair opened up, with enough Third Wave coffee to keep you up until 2014. My kinda joint. Watch out for the good things coming from them.

65. Eclairs (Gourmandise) – Showing off her Parisian pastry skills, the loverly Sunshine Pengson puts a little bit more love in your belly via her decadent eclairs. Sure, there are now cakes, cookies, and parfaits, but I’m a sucker for these. Will not help your summer fitness goals, though.

66. Buttermilk Pancakes and Eggs (Malcolm’s) – A great surprise for breakfast lovers like me, Malcolm’s makes buttermilk pancakes from scratch. With sunny side up eggs (something I picked up in American cafés), it’s a hearty way to start your day and a great weekend treat.


67. Strawberries, Cream And Wild Honey (Café By The Ruins) – Ok I know this is a stretch from my “rules”, but you still drive to Baguio so this counts. What’s so great about it? It’s great in its simplicity – Benguet berries, cream and  some local honey.   

68. Cheese Sticks (Pino) – Hey hey – don’t judge me. Good food is good food. These little lumpias of cheese and nori with a bit o’ jam (the twists) are just good, period. Fun stuff!

69. Eggplant And Tofu Miso (Pipino) – I’m stoked that there are finally more veg options in my area. Pipino does hearty vegetarian fare, and this dish of eggplant and tofu in a savory miso sauce served with brown rice is one us meat eaters can definitely tuck into without missing a beat (of meat!).

70. Ensaybites (Home Made Treasures) – Sometimes all you want is a treat in two bites. Chona Ayson’s ensaymadas of sin (oh my, you gotta try – they’re confession worthy) are even satisfying as her new ensaybites. Perfect for dipping in hot chocolate. You sinner you.

71. Crepe Samurai (Desserts By Roshan) – I’m a little late to this Roshan game that everyone else has been playing (then again I’m not a dessert person), but her stuff is genuine and obviously made of the good stuff. She began with Crepe Samurai, and I personally think it’s definitive.

72. German-style Cuchinillo (Pepita’s) – This lady Dedet dela Fuente serves  lechon tasting menus if you so desire (4 kinds!), though personally it’s a bit too much piggy for me. I’d rather small doses, with this oven roasted cuchinillo stuffed with baby potatoes my choice among her concoctions.

73. Radish Cakes in XO (Kirin) – I don’t even know how this place is still standing – not that I don’t like it! – it’s just that I don't know many people who eat here. However, their food is decent enough, and these crispy little radish cake cubes in XO sauce are absolutely yummy. We’d go there just for this!

74. Curry Fish Balls (Tao Yuan) – It’s way too easy to direct your sights on their Hainanese chicken and laksa and other best sellers like that, but one day I went out of the comfort zone and ordered these: light little fluffy fishballs in curry, and was duly rewarded by it.

75. Lolo Art’s Chicken Sarap (Catering) – My family’s go-to guy for fun get-togethers. Mr. Art, an Ilonggo, specializes in that Southern delicacy chicken inasal, served with all the fixings. I love this stuff – simple food cooked really well.

76. Speculoos Gelato (Bono Artisanal Gelato) – A spanking brand new player in the gelato field (just two weeks old or so as of this writing), they’re the first ones to capitalize on this whole “cookie butter” mini-trend by mixing it into their gelato base. I smell a hit. It’s a goody.

77. Quesillos (Cavite Market) – About the same time I tried that squid ink pancit, I got to try this stuff – a Caviteño white cheese that I think trumps any I’ve ever tried. Too bad it’s all the way out there (or probably just as well!)

78. Kitayama Beef (Kitayama Meat Shop) – Pinoy Eats World has been flogging this beef the whole year. Bred in Bukidnon, it’s the greatest local beef ever. EVER. You can even eat this raw, like tataki. I adore this stuff.

79. Oyster Mushrooms (Ministry Of Mushrooms) – Led by poster boy Marco Lobregat (literally a poster boy – he’s a model) and JJ Ortoll (well, they’re the only two I’ve met – I believe there are others), these cultivators produce big, clean, and bold mushrooms. Watch out for more products from them.

80. Mignonette (Tarte Manila) – Here’s something interesting: 2 ladies wanted to start up a business doing pastries and such. Their one savory product, this mignonette which is a concoction of pickled shallots and chilies in vinegar, is a lovely companion to all sorts of stuff: inihaw anyhow, chicharon, etc. If you want to guarantee eating more than you set out to, use this.

81. Korean Tapa (JAM Foods Tapa) – Well why not? Angus tapa of the kinda fatty variety (and that’s a good thing) marinated in some Korean spices. I tried it with sinangag, egg, kimchi and nori for a Korinoy breakfast mash up. Evil in two languages.

82. Hitachino White Ale (Global Beer Exchange) – You can now buy this stuff at GBE over in Magallanes. It’s a Japanese Belgian style beer, if I’m not mistaken, and it’s so refreshing. Goes great with sushi, ramen, or gee, even potato chips. And it’s nice and strong!


83. Don Papa Rum (Distillery, among other places) – Local rum that’s good enough to sip on the rocks. The bottle is a design coup – something that with a little push can definitely appeal to a foreign clientele.  best

In The Midnight Hour (or close to it, anyway..)

When I have dinner events to cook as I wear my Pinoy Eats World hat, I often wind up finishing late, say, around 1030pm at the earliest or so. Usually I get to step out around 11pm, almost always with a raging appetite. Luckily enough, it's easy to appease your stomach noises by simply seeking out the various 24 hour eating options that have sprouted up in this call center economy of ours. Yessir, I will not lie - a McDonald's Big And Tasty, freshly processed and cooked, with a side of synthetic lard fries and ketchup are damn delicious. They are, and I say this in all honesty. I love that shit.

However, as we all know, it is proven that it is just that - shit. No matter how yummy it may seem, this is not something you want to be chowing down on more than, say, once or twice a month. I'd like to think that if you eat something more "natural", like a shawarma for instance, instead of McD's or KFC, you did the right thing. But that's just me. Fine, go have a Quarter Pounder. I may just join you.

But seriously - finding alternative late night eats not of the fast food variety is a task I do not take lightly. For the sake of all the guys and gals who work late or work 'til late, someone has to find places that will stay open to satisfy their hunger pangs.

If you have any favorites, do share them. Here are some of mine...

  1. Pancake House - Surprise, surprise! Here is what the new kid in town, IHOP, managed to do (at least at the High Street branch): keep 'em open until 1am on Fridays and Saturdays. IHOP is open 24 hours on weekends, so I'm guessing PH didn't want to get left in their wake. Good for us who crave for a taco salad at midnight. Times sure are different! 
  2. Nihonbashitei - This is my staple go-to  because if I must eat late night, it's one of the few places I know where I can eat relatively healthy. I love to order salmon ochazuke - basically some salmon, rice and nori in a tea and dashi based broth. Mix in some wasabi and you're in business - and it only costs Php 150. Not something most Pinoys I know would order, but should, because it's quite yummy and soothing AND healthful. If not that, there's always grilled saba or sanma, supaghetti (no, I didn't misspell that. haha!), unagi don, and what have you. Eat alongside a large Japanese contingent - a sure sign that good things are happening here.
  3. Burger Bar - Newly opened burger-centric joint which stays open til 1am or so every day. That them discs of meat aren't processed is already an advantage over fast food options, but more than that there are OTHER options as well -- a fish burger, a veggie variant, wings, shakes, beers. Options are good, because you can choose if you want to be a piggy or a healthy piggy. Plus they work on their soundtrack - quite rare these days when all you hear at eating establishments is either "classy" bossa nova or cheesy dance bits.
  4. Bugsy's - This has become a staple not just because of their grub, but also because the owners have managed to make it pretty affordable but still a nice place to hang out: the holy grail of bars. Besides, who can resist their Buffalo chicken tenders (I know I can't!): boneless morsels of chicken with the skin left on, fried and tossed in hot sauce, with sour cream on the side. Not virtuous at all, but nirvana with a cold beer and after a tiring day. I have friends who come here to eat this with RICE. Jeez. If you wish to be a little more healthful, like I like to be as often as I can, I'd rock the tuna melt (not bad and cheap!) and the grilled fish burrito which is satisfying and will leave you feeling good because there is no slick of grease in your throat. But hey - sometimes you just want to be a bad boy/girl - if that's the case: steak n' gravy with a side of garlic rice is the ticket for you. Perfect to protect you from the alcohol imbibing right after.
  5. Orale - This little Mexican joint that could USED to close kinda early, but apparently on weekends they're open 'til 2am. Now, the thing I love to do here now is sit, eat and enjoy some Micheladas -- basically Coronas with lime juice and spices. A Mexican staple, this drink is literally a party in your mouth - your first sip will definitely raise your eyebrows. As for the food - they've always had some pretty good stuff. Soft tacos are always nice - grilled chicken or fish. Garlicky guac and chips are nice too, except don't expect your date to even want to hold you hand after eating it because hot damn the amount of garlic in it can make Nosferatu disintegrate.
  6. Argos - Smack dab in the middle of Makati's red light district is home of some of the cleanest tasting shawarmas I've ever had in Manila. The Turkish owned Argos is actually a pretty decent place to hang out: the owners will take good care of you, the drinks are cold and there's a flat screen showing everything from footie to belly dancing. But back to the shawarmas - I've only tried their chicken, and it's nice and juicy and again - pretty healthful and delicious. If you go deeper into their menu - which I highly recommend, by the way - do explore their moussaka (which - surprise, surprise - is apparently more Turkish than Greek!) and their dolmas - rice stuffed in vine leaves. Oh, and by the way, if you're a girl, I don't quite know if I'd recommend you going there late with other girls - DON'T get me's safe inside.. but it's the walking around there that I'm not sure about. To be sure, go with a guy.
  7. Maru
  8. Wrong Ramen
  9. Persian Grill
  10. UCC
  11. Draft
  12. Burger Project
  13. Poongwol