MANILA -- Central Metro Manila, roughly covering four cities — Pasig, Mandaluyong, San Juan, and the southern part of Quezon City — is an area known for its shopping malls, restaurant hubs, and business districts.
It is home to a lot of good eateries, from international brands located inside malls to small shops in hip food districts like Kapitolyo in Pasig.
However, there's a lot more to discover here especially since a lot of the commercial centers in the area are getting makeovers and expanding their operations. Ortigas Malls, one of the major mall operators in the area, for one, is opening more spaces for retail shops and restaurants.
Greenhills Shopping Center, one of the oldest malls in the area, is undergoing a transformation to become a more modern commercial complex, while new hubs like Capitol Commons is on schedule to finish expansion projects.
The mall group recently organized a food crawl in partnership with online food group Let's Eat Pare. The event highlights the many food finds at Ortigas Malls, specifically at Greenhills, Tiendesitas, Estancia, and Industria.
Greenhills Shopping Center's O Square is the latest addition to its collection of commercial buildings. O Square is both a commercial and a parking building. Most of the shops here are restaurants, catering to the tiangge shoppers and the residents of San Juan.
One of the restaurants that opened here recently is Vagabonds Artisan Comfort Food. It is the “Home of 1,000 Grams Steak.” Originally from Quezon City, the restaurant offers comfort food inspired by cuisines from all over the world.
Its 1-kilogram steak (P2,650) is one of the bestsellers and was inspired by the Brazilian churrasco. Good for sharing, the steak is grilled to customer preference and served with a variety of sauces like peppercorn gravy, chimichurri, barbecue, and soy ginger.
The restaurant is also famous for its Bleu Cheese Mac or mac and cheese with bleu cheese and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. There's also the chocolate chicken wings, fried chicken wings covered in savory chocolate sauce, similar to the Mexican mole.
Then there's Tittos Latin BBQ and Brew, a South American eatery. Its first branch is in Kapitolyo and like it, the Greenhills branch also has a hidden bar called the Vault.
Expect major flavors from this restaurant like its Nacho el Gigante, a big tray of crunchy tortilla chips smothered in four-cheese sauce, topped with cubes of slow cooked beef barbacoa, pico de gallo, chimichurri, crema, jalapeno, and shredded lettuce.
One of its newest dishes is the Chiquittos, cigar-shaped rolled and deep-fried chicken tacos served with salsa taquera, shredded lettuce, crema sauce, tomatoes, and onions.
But one of its classic and popular dishes is the Elote, their version of the Mexican street food. The grilled corn is brushed with mayonnaise and peppered with spices like paprika, herbs, crispy chicharon bits, and crumbled queso fresco (fresh cheese).
Tiendesitas became known as the first pet-friendly mall in Metro Manila. It even has a Pet Village, an area dedicated to pet shops.
But after its recent makeover, more restaurants have since opened in the mall. And one of the newest to open is KPub BBQ, a Korean barbecue restaurant that features a spacious theater-like dining area and continuous Korean pop music entertainment on big LED screens.
It offers the usual cook-your-own Korean barbecue and a buffet spread of other Korean dishes.
On the other hand, there's a small charming corner Italian restaurant located alongside furniture shops. Gabriele is a small eatery that offers authentic Italian cuisine and its kitchen uses ingredients straight from Italy.
The restaurant offers simple, hearty, and filing Italian dishes. Must-try is the four-cheese pizza and aglio e olio pasta. Fresh tomatoes are added to the traditional garlic and olive oil (aglio e olio) pasta to brighten up the simple dish.
Industria is the lesser known mall of the Ortigas group. Located at Circulo Verde mixed-used complex in Bagumbayan, Quezon City, Industria is a two-level open-air mall that houses mostly small retail shops, restaurants, and even offices.
It's a mall for people with active lifestyles. The whole complex features outdoor activities including The Bike Playground, which has an outdoor trail and the Philippines' first pump park. Industria also has specialized gyms like the Ninja Academy, an indoor parkour facility.
One of the newest eateries is the Liam's and Louis' Gourmet Cafe, a small restaurant that offers coffee and breakfast food. Some of its offerings include caramelized Spam on kimchi rice bowl, Miguel's cheeseburger with chipotle sauce, gambaretti pasta, and the crispy French toast banana Nutella sandwich.
Chef & Brewer, on the other hand, offers classic eats. Originally located at Ortigas Center, it offers Filipino flavors in a bar setting. If Vagabonds offers 1 kilogram of steak, Chef & Brewer offers 1-kilogram chicken wings.
The restaurant offers other unpretentious good food like the pancit sisig, which is a pancit bihon topped with meaty sisig and fried egg.
Estancia is Ortigas Malls' most upscale shopping center. Located at Capitol Commons in Pasig City, the mall boasts of high-end retail shops and established restaurant brands.
One of which is Alba, one of the oldest restaurants in Metro Manila. This Spanish restaurant serves classic Spanish fare, from paella to cochinillo to canonigo. The restaurant is known for its lunch (P795) and dinner (P850) buffet.
For after dinner drinks, Churchill is one of the go-to bars at Estancia. This corner bar is inspired by United Kingdom's former prime minister, Sir Winston Churchill.
The bar has a wide selection of whiskeys, including rare Macallan whiskey and whiskey cocktails. It likewise offers a wide selection of gins and gin-based cocktails like negroni and martini.
The bar/restaurant serves meals but for drinking sessions, pair drinks with easy-to-eat bar chows like the chicken cajun quesadilla and the dynamite cocktail prawns.