Jammed in the middle of a red light district with bars lining the neon streets for block after block, lies one of my favorite places on the planet. This is where I go when I have an urge that finds no relief elsewhere. The ambiance of this place is thick and brimming with culture. The air is alive with an electric aroma that gives you goosebumps. The electric aroma of tacos.
Approaching the street front restaurant, the crowd sitting outside is the first thing I noticed. This is because they are the most diverse group of people I have seen gathered in one place here in Manila. There are literally people from every walk of life represented here. From European backpackers to a group of Japanese businessmen, the customers are united by one love. Tacos.
The night began at Phat Pho in Serendra. This is my favorite Vietnamese spot in Manila and I really need to do a go-to feature about them soon. I am always on the lookout for great authentic Vietnamese food so if you know of a place please lemme know! we tried the fish sauce chicken wings and they are on point. They have really great flavor and I highly recommend trying them!
Here is the info for Phat Pho, if you have a craving for authentic Vietnamese give them a try because everything I have tried there is fantastic!
Bonifacio Global City, Ground Floor, Serendra, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City
After a “smallish” meal, we stopped by a new Japanese Whisky bar in Serendra called Lit. Now you may be thinking to yourself “whisky, doesn’t he mean whiskey?” Well, since we are talking about the Japanese variety it is spelled whisky. Check out this link to find out more interesting facts about Whiskey vs. Whisky.
One of my favorite all-time guilty pleasure meals is traditional Japanese Ramen. But, I didn’t fall in love with Ramen until I moved to Los Angeles just a few years ago. LA had a much bigger Japanese culture than the previous city I had lived in, Houston. Houston seemed to have a much bigger Vietnamese influence versus Japanese, so I spent years diving into the Vietnamese savory noodle soup called Phở. But that is another story. I have always loved Japanese food, so it didn’t take long until I had discovered several tasty Ramen places in Los Angeles. It was very trendy in LA to eat Ramen, and some of the more popular joints would have lines for a block of people waiting for their bowls.
Well it wasn’t until I arrived in the Philippines that I really experienced Ramen perfection in my first bowl of Tantanmen from Ukkokei Ramen Ron. Just call it Ukokkei. It sits quite high on my list of go-to restaurants. My list of go-to restaurants are the few places I can always eat at that are consistently delicious. They are the kind of places easily recommended to a friend and serve as a fail-safe spot for those moments when you just can’t decide where or what to eat. I am not a food critic, I am only writing about Ukokkei because I love their Tantanmen. I won’t go into the history of the restaurant, the “ramen nazi” era, or even their other two locations. The San Lorenzo Ukokkei is king of Tantanmen in my book. I love Ramen of all types and there are certainly a lot of varieties of Ramen, but if I had to choose one bowl over all, Ukokkei Tantanmen is it. Not everyone agrees with me on this, and that’s ok. They are idiots. 🙂
The soup broth itself is oily, creamy, and spicy all at the same time. It’s a secret mix of chicken broth, pork broth, miso broth, and chili oil that never quite emulsifies into blended broth. The richness is crazy; crazy like it’s only served in limited quantities per day (60 bowls), after certain times of night (6 PM), and after cooking for days (2). Yea, it’s that level of crazy. It has thick, curly noodles and ground pork throughout and is topped with green onion. And that’s it. No frills, plain-as-day soup and that is why it is the best. Here are some pictures to do the rest of the talking. But heed my advise and if you crave Ramen, go to Ukokkei.
Here are the locations and contact details for Ukokkei:
You know, sometimes it can be hard to decide what to eat. I can totally forget about solid restaurants during those hungry moments. I end up trying some place new and usually disappointing, or I thankfully remember one of my Go-To places. Your Local truly feels set apart from most restaurants here in the Philippines. It is one of my favorite escapes due to its cool ambiance and great comfort food. The decor is not overly hipster and has a very New York feel to it. I stopped by for lunch today and they really delivered some great items to the table. Their ingredients are obviously some of the freshest in the city and are presented on a menu that is a lively mix of dishes that have a familiar feel but unique interpretation. Their food feels like a fusion of many of my favorite cuisines like Japanese, Chinese, American and Spanish but all prepared with local ingredients and plated in a very unpretentious fashion. For lunch today, I had my favorite: the Beef Rendang Buns, as well as the locally well known Salmon Donburi. The salmon dish is served over rice and is easily big enough for two people to share. It was actually recently featured in a Bon Appetite article. Good stuff.
I always enjoy a good sandwich, and that is exactly why the Beef Rendang Buns at Your Local is my favorite menu item. For me, it’s like an East-meets-West style mash up of a classic American barbecue sandwich with pickles and a sweet/spicy Asian sauce. It’s served on fried Mantou, which I know you have had, but perhaps not known the name. Well, Mantou, is the white fluffy bread common in Northern Chinese cuisine. It’s steamed so it is very light and delicate. It’s found all over Asia and has a multitude of names depending on the place, but possibly where you have experienced it, is as the main component of the Chinese dim-sum star, shāobāo (steamed pork bun). Well, at Your Local, they take Mantou for the rendang sandwich and fry it. That’s the bun. Yum. I really have a weakness for fried bread. The beef is super tender, juicy and flavorful with just the right amount of spiciness. The serving is two buns, perfect for sharing. If it was served as one piece only, I doubt other people at the table would get to try it. Check it out, I promise you won’t be disappointed.
Vask, is a modern Filipino / Tapas restaurant divided into several different concept areas. There is a bar and lounge area, a casual cafe dining area, as well as a fine dining area. The overall feel of the place is very playful and relaxed due to the decor, even the fine dining area has a very chill and tranquil ambiance. The multi-concept establishment is headed by Spanish Chef, Jose Luis “Chele” Gonzalez. I had the immense pleasure of being invited to dine at Gallery Vask last week. I was truly surprised by their presentation and execution of the entire meal. It was a memorable and unique gastronomic journey exploring Filipino ingredients and food traditions interpreted in a very contemporary setting. Continue reading Vask→
I took a day trip a couple hours away to Tagaytay over the weekend. The area I visited is basically a mountain top overlooking Taal Lake and in the center of the lake are islands formed by Taal volcano. The fantastic view from the ridge is reason enough to visit, but the area also has some awesome produce and nice cool temperatures. It is a great scenic escape from the bustle and the heat of Manila, and I definitely recommend a visit! We arrived around breakfast time and decided to visit a locally famous spot called Breakfast at Antonio’s.Continue reading Day Trip to Tagaytay and Breakfast at Antonio’s→
When I first arrived in the Philippines, I was having huge cravings for fresh seafood. I went with a group one night to a wet market near Manila Bay. They told me that it was locally famous for specializing in cooked-as-you-like fresh seafood. My memories of that experience are quite funny because I was still very unaccustomed to the culture here in the Philippines at that time. I recall being a bit taken aback by the sights, sounds, and smells of the market.
In times of need, and when I can’t figure out what I want to eat I depend on my Go-To Restaurants. This is my mental list of the places I have discovered so far, that in my opinion, prepare their food the best consistently
I will not be doing many restaurant reviews, and when I do, they will be more of suggestions than critiques. There will be no pointing of the critical finger, I am just pointing out a good place to eat. If you want to know where not to eat check another blog.
Woodfire is that little Italian joint wedged between Rambla and Refinery in the Rockwell neighborhood. My first time there was a definite “thank god, they do exist in Manila” moment. I had been in the country about a month and was feeling the pressure of finding good but affordable Italian food. Having tried almost every restaurant in Rockwell (seriously), I decided to try Woodfire one night and it was incredible. It was so good that I came back for lunch there the following day. The dining area is small yet it promotes easy conversations to go along with a bottle of wine. The relaxed atmosphere is intimate and low pressure, and I imagine romantic with the right person. I have not had a bad dish here, the meat and cheese platters are great quality and quantity at an affordable price. The brick oven pizzas are all fantastic and the fresh made pasta dishes may be some of the best in the city.
I often find myself there during off-hours in the middle of the afternoon, but the food is always piping hot and fresh and the staff always are friendly and attentive.
So I keep going back, and they always treat me like gold. They have a no BS approach to generous portions of simple yet beautifully presented fresh ingredients. Its delicious Italian, the way it should be. Check it out.
If you have a Go-To Restaurant that you love, please suggest it to me in the comments below. I can’t wait to try it out!