The start of a new year is always a good time to reflect on what has transpired in the past year. In 2019, the Manila dining scene saw a marked slowdown in new restaurant openings compared to 2018. But it was still a relatively good year for both the restaurant industry and for food lovers who live to dine out. Dominating the scene was an unusually large number of Italian concepts, plus chef-driven modern Filipino establishments, popular foreign franchises, and a handful of notable comebacks or major revamps. If one of your resolutions is to try more new restaurants this year, then here’s a short list of what stood out in 2019, and what will hopefully continue to shine in 2020.
You may also like:
- The night Rene Redzepi paid homage to the ‘silog’ and cooked other Pinoy recipes at Noma
- The restaurant that turned Chef Josh Boutwood into a culinary star is back
- There’s a new Argentinian steakhouse in town—but it’s Vietnamese by birth
- Chef Chele Gonzalez will host Perth’s farm-and-forager king for a special dinner
- Cacio e pepe and hand-rolled pizza are the real stars of this Italian joint shaking up Rockwell
- How to enjoy Poblacion without the crowds—go for brunch at Hola Bombón
Best New Concept: a mano
Power Plant Mall, Rockwell Center, Makati City, (0917) 552-6266, Instagram @amano.ph
a mano is respectful of Italian ingredients and its traditional cooking methods but is not bound by them. Amado Fores gathered a culinary dream team to execute this vision to open his first restaurant venture, featuring some of his favorite Italian dishes from different regions, to rave reviews.
What to order: Pasta Bianco, Foccacia di Recco, Tuscan Butter Chicken, Lemon Tart
Best Comeback: The Test Kitchen
One Rockwell, Rockwell Center, Makati City, (0977) 288-5751, Instagram @thetestkitchenmnl
After roadwork hell forced it to close at its original Kamagong location, the restaurant that turned Chef Josh Boutwood into a culinary star has come back. It features a reinvented menu that is purely à la carte versus the tasting menu-only offering at its old location—a bold but wise move that increases the restaurant’s appeal to a bigger market, especially those diners who are not into tasting menus.
What to order: Housemade charcuterie platter, Mojama (cured tuna loin on squid ink baguette), Roast Chicken and Charred Cabbage, Burnt White Chocolate, Juniper-infused Milk with Grapes
Best New Modern Filipino: Hapag Manila
201 Katipunan Avenue, Quezon City, (0947) 560-1853, Instagram @hapag.mnl
Modern Filipino cuisine is alive and well at this cozy Quezon City restaurant helmed by three young chefs. They serve their take on traditional Filipino dishes and ingredients that Filipino diners can still easily relate to, thus the restaurant’s increasing popularity. At Hapag, diners are given the option to order an eight-course tasting menu or choose dishes from the à la carte menu.
What to order: Kwek Kwek, Bonete Oysters, Kare-kare ni Lola V., Ginataang Alimasag, Laing Stones
Best New Modern Italian: Wild Flour Italian
The Finance Centre, Bonifacio Global City, (02) 8244-3930, Instagram @wfitalian
The first Italian concept of the popular Wildflour restaurant group is housed in a warm and inviting space that echoes the familiar Wildflour aesthetics. With its unique barrel-vaulted ceiling design, diners are transported to a romantic old tavern in Italy. Wildflour’s commitment to sourcing the best possible ingredients guarantees that whatever is served is always of top quality and made from scratch.
What to order: Sweet Potato Agnolotti, Kurobota Pork Chops, Cacio e Pepe Pizza, Cioppino, Mascarpone Cheesecake
Best New Tasting Menu-Only Restaurant: Metiz
Karrivin Plaza, 2316 Chino Roces Avenue Extension, Makati City, (0917) 898-5751, Instagram @metizresto
This restaurant is definitely not for everyone, especially those who are not into experimental Filipino cuisine. But fellow adventurous eaters will be rewarded with a one-of-a-kind meal like no other, made from scratch using 99.5 % locally sourced ingredients. It’s considered a steal at P1.500 per person for a five-course tasting menu made with love.
Best New Neighborhood Pizzeria: Elbert’s Pizzeria
V Corporate Centre, 125 LP Leviste Street, Salcedo Village, Makati City, Instagram @elbertspizzeria
At this gem of a neighborhood spot, Elbert Cuenca and his brother, Chef Adrian Cuenca, are able to successfully bring a slice of Napoli to Makati. The secret is that 90% of the ingredients used, including flour, coffee, and other beverages are sourced from Italy to ensure the best possible products.
What to order: Spicy Pepperoni or 4 Cheeses pizza
Best New Restaurant in Poblacion: Mijo Comfort Food
4987 P. Guanzon Street, Poblacion, Makati City, (0917) 149-0148, Instagram @mijo.ph
This new restaurant tucked away on the second floor of a three-level building in Poblacion serves polished-up versions of dishes that its chef-owner Enrique Moreno enjoyed while growing up. It is a much welcome addition to the Poblacion dining scene, as its non-cuisine specific menu is filled with a lot of hearty choices that won’t break the bank. Mijo is the perfect pre-bar crawl pit stop for dinner.
What to order: Aligue Gambas, Wagyu Beef Brisket Tapa served with garlic rice and egg, Wagyu Picanha, Chocolate Bread Pudding with housemade honeycomb
Best New Thai: Samyan
Stall No. 16, The Grid Food Market, Power Plant Mall, Rockwell Center, Makati City, Instagram @samyanph
Stall No. 16 at the new wing of The Grid Food Market is a new Thai concept developed by Thai chef Ton Tassanakajohn of one Michelin-starred Le Du and Baan Bangkok. The stall features dishes inspired by street food dishes he enjoyed as a kid. Together with local partners Patrick Pesengco and Charles Paw of the Tasteless Food Group, they aim to make quality Thai fare more accessible to the local market.
What to order: Tom Yum Fried Rice, Moo Dad Deaw
Best New Foreign Franchise: Shake Shack
BGC Central Square, SM Mega Fashion Hall, Instagram @shakeshackph
Easily the most anticipated new opening for 2019 was the first ever Shake Shack in the Philippines, brought to the country by its exclusive Philippine franchise holder Specialty Food Retailers. Inc (SFRI), part of the SSI group. The Philippine branches shine with their Manila-exclusive menu as they have been able to bring in the quality burgers the legendary New York burger chain is known for at a low price, possibly the cheapest Shake Shack burger yet worldwide!
What to order: Burgers and Mango Concrete
Follow the author on Instagram and Twitter @cyrenedelarosa