[UPDATED! As of February 2020, all the restaurants suggested by the respondent chefs are still open except the beloved Shang Palace at the Makati Shangri-la and The Century Seafood at the Century Park Hotel.]
Where is the best place for Chinese food? It’s a simple question but there is never ever just one answer. One can visit old-time Tsinoy haunts in Binondo and Banawe, pass through neighborhood spots in Greenhills, book a function room at a Chinese lauriat hall, or even venture into one of those Szechuan hotpot restaurants that have emerged in the past year or so. But if you’re looking for a solid recommendation, perhaps the best folks to ask about where to eat topnotch Chinese are those who really know their food—the chefs. So we asked 7 top Filipino chefs to divulge their go-to destinations for Chinese fare and their answers do not disappoint.
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Claude Tayag: Shang Palace, Choi Garden, Express Roasting
Tayag wears his Kapampangan heart on his sleeve, as the chef behind Bale Dutung and DownTown Café in Angeles City. But Tayag is also a Chinese food lover at heart, and makes sure to indulge whenever he comes to Manila. He swears by Shang Palace, the Cantonese restaurant of Shangri-La Makati, for its dim sum which he considers “the closest to the Hong Kong standard.” But for a full-course Cantonese meal, it’s Choi Garden on Annapolis Street, Greenhills that gets his vote.
For Hong Kong roast duck and char siu, Tayag makes sure to visit “at least twice a month” Express Roasting, Choi Garden’s takeout branch on Wilson Street. He continues, “It sits in front of DEC Chinese Deli where I’ll buy first a Chinese lumpia made on the spot with one sauce and one hot sauce spread on it for my veggies. Then a rice bowl with roast duck breast, and a can of ice cold soda. Ayos! I’ll have my feast inside the comfort of my car at half the price had I eaten in a restaurant. I find any excuse to pass by there on my way to Makati coming from Pampanga.”
JP Anglo: Hai Shin Lou and Summer Palace
Best known as the chef behind the popular Filipino restaurant, Sarsa Kitchen, Anglo happens to be a Hai Shin Lou devotee. He likes this Arnaiz Avenue, Makati establishment because, he says, “It’s a consistent Cantonese restaurant.” He usually orders the Fish Fillet with Beancurd Hotpot, Taro Puffs, Salted Fish Fried Rice, and steamed suahe or Live Shrimp. For dim sum, his restaurant of choice is Summer Palace in EDSA Shangri-La, which he considers “one of the best in Manila for me.” What does he like to order? He lists, “Our favorite is the Sweet and Sour Pork, Siomai (it’s so big and they put one whole plump shrimp) and the Hakaw is also very, very good. The Crispy Mango Shrimp Roll from the fried dim sum cart is also a must order.”
Myke “Tatung” Sarthou: Wai Ying Fast Food and Muy Hong
Sarthou prefers to go old school, venturing all the way to Binondo for duck and char siu at Wai Ying Fast Food on Benavidez Street. However, these days, he spends much of his time in Quezon City, overseeing Talisay The Garden Café in Maginhawa Street as well as his newest baby, Pandan Asian Café on Scout Limbaga. So he likes to quickly hop over to Muy Hong on Banawe Street to satisfy his cravings for machang, Chinese lumpia, and oyster cake.
Victor Magsaysay: Hong Kong Master Cook
He is the chef behind the secret private dining room in Poblacion that everyone wants to try. Having lived and worked in Paris for many years, he is known as discerning, with a palate that knows the finest of fine dining. So his choice for favorite Chinese spot in town is actually a surprising one: Hong Kong Master Cook Seafood Restaurant in Macapagal Avenue, Pasay City. He admits, “It basically looks like a canteen but it’s a perfect place to order vegetarian food. All the vegetables are amazing.” He particularly loves the Mushroom Pot Spicy Sichuan Cucumber and the Cabbage with Sichuan Peppers. But since it’s located at the Seaside Dampa, the seafood shouldn’t be ignored. “Don’t forget to order the Halabos na Hipon,” he adds.
Robby Goco: Century Seafood, East Ocean Palace, and Choi Garden
Goco may be best known for his Mediterranean food, whether it’s Greek at Cyma and Souv, or Spanish at his just-opened Cangrejos Locos in Molito Alabang, but he loves to indulge in all sorts of cuisines. For a full Chinese feast, Goco swears by two standards: Century Seafood in Century Park Hotel and East Ocean Palace in Macapagal Avenue, Parañaque. What does he usually order? “Lahat!” proclaims Goco, which basically means there’s no bad dish. But for dim sum, his restaurant of choice remains Choi Garden along Annapolis Street in Greenhills.
J Gamboa: Hai Shin Lou, Jasmine, and Mr. Sun Moon
Gamboa doesn’t have to stray too far from his Arnaiz Avenue, Makati headquarters (which houses his restaurants Cirkulo, Milkyway, Azuthai, and Tsukiji) to indulge in his favorite Chinese food. Just down the road is Hai Shin Lou where he always orders the steamed suahe (Live Shrimp) and Assorted Fresh Mushrooms Hotpot. He also loves Jasmine at the nearby New World Makati Hotel for the Spinach and Century Egg Hotpot, Chive Dumplings, and Seafood Fried Rice with Egg White and Pine Nuts.
If Gamboa needs to venture further afield, his restaurant of choice is Mr. Sun Moon in Club Filipino Avenue, Greenhills for Crab Sotanghon, Fried Crab, and Fried Squid.
Ed Bugia: Putien and Eat Fresh
Bugia keeps himself busy with his numerous restaurants: Pino Resto Bar (recently relocated to Malingap Street), Pipino Vegetarian, BRGR: The Burger Project, Pi: Breakfast and Pies, Mimi & Bros, and Bean and Yolk. But he always finds time to check out the city’s vibrant food scene, especially as one of three buddies behind the country’s only food podcast, The Sini Gang. His Chinese restaurant of choice? “I love Putien!” he declares. It’s a relatively new import from Singapore known for its Fujian food, and recently opened at The Podium. Bugia recommends, “Their Bee Hoon is to die for with their homemade chili sauce!”
But for more old-school delights, Bugia likes to go back to Eat Fresh Hong Kong Famous Street Food in Jose Abad Santos Street, San Juan for the Beef Tendon Claypot. But he also insists, “Don’t sleep on their Pork Buns! New on the menu but great!”
Photograph of Chef Claude Tayag from Choose Philippines