Tagaytay, the Garden Restaurant Capital of the Philippines
Top 5 Food Trip Destinations in and around Manila (1 of 5)
by Anton Diaz, Founder, www.OurAwesomePlanet.com
Published in San Miguel Great Food Club Newsletter (November-December 2009).
(Please register in MyGreatFood.com if you want to become a member of San Miguel's Great Food Club)
Food has always been a big part of our culture, especially when traveling from one place to another. If the sights in the destination are great but the food is not, the trip itself just becomes OK and nothing to really rave about. BUT, if the sights are just OK but the food is great, then the entire trip becomes more memorable and worth repeating.
The upcoming holidays will definitely be a season for eating and spending quality time with friends and family. Why not spend the time together, hopping from one foodie destination to another and creating a memorable food trip that you’ll cherish for years to come?
Here are the top 5 popular foodie destinations (just a few hours away from Manila) that you can consider for your next food trip with your barkada and family this coming holiday season:
1. Tagaytay, the Garden Restaurant Capital of the Philippines
In planning the perfect Tagaytay food trip, you need to answer two key questions: First, where is lunch? Second, will it be a day or overnight trip?
Every food trip in Tagaytay starts with an early lunch. Usually, you should leave Manila around 8am. You can choose to convoy or meet at Caltex (the last gasoline station before the Sta. Rosa exit). Depending on traffic and how early people will show up at the designated call time, you’ll arrive in Tagaytay around 11am.
Here are some garden restaurant venues to choose from:
1. Antonio’s Tagaytay – This is the number one garden restaurant in the country, a personal favorite of many and voted as the number 1 restaurant in the Philippines by the Miele guide for two straight years. Antonio’s is famous for the dinner menu where you can have a set meal of its almost-perfect salads, main course, and soufflé dessert… (Don’t forget to enjoy their dalandan juice!) Besides the celebrated dinner menu, Antonio’s now has a more flexible lunch menu with burgers and pizzas to choose from after moving the Breakfast at Antonio’s branch to the main restaurant.
2. Sonya’s Garden – This is an all-time favorite because of its fresh Tagaytay Greens salad with the signature sauce, and the make-your-own-combination of pasta. If Antonio’s ambiance is more of old world elegance, the atmosphere of Sonya’s Garden is more of kitschy-but-organized-chaos. People just love the flower garden, the serene spa feel, and the Bed & Breakfast area for those who want to stay overnight.
3. Bawai’s Vietnamese Kitchen / Avietta – If you want to eat healthy and try the number one Vietnamese restaurant in the country today, then Bawai Vietnamese is your lunch place. Try the fresh Vietnamese roll with shrimps and the authentic Beef Pho -- you’ll understand why Bawai (Vietnamese for Lola) is the best in the country. Recently, the owners opened Avietta on the first floor garden. It is a by-reservation-only, French-Vietnamese-inspired, all-original recipes degustation restaurant.
4. Chateau Hestia Garden Restaurant – If you are in the mood for European cuisine and want to feel as if you are eating at a house in the middle of a vineyard, then Chateau Hestia is the choice for you. European set meals that change every week are offered. The food service is not rushed so that you can fully enjoy the setting and your company. Chateau Hestia is best known for its desserts, especially the Grand Marnier Ice Cream, and its homemade wines like Limoncello and Vin d’Orange. This restaurant is located just beside Bawai, so you can walk over and have your coffee, dessert and wine here.
5. Kalamunda by Sylvia Miguel – This is the garden home of the parents of two of Manila’s famous chefs – Anton and Carlo Miguel. Kalamunda (the Australian aboriginal term for “home in the bush”) is best known for the cleanest-tasting lechon ever. You can reserve and order the pig months in advance, and Sylvia will make sure to buy the right size of pig and feed it with a special diet. On the day itself, it is roasted early in the morning and cooked just right before it is served for lunch (with smoke still coming out of its butt!)
Aside from the top 5 garden restaurants above, you can also go to Massimo’s Restaurant for Italian cuisine; or Bag of Beans along the main highway in Mendez for comfort food; or Hacienda Isabella (named after Kuh Ledesma’s daughter) for a set lunch similar to Sonya.
After lunch, which usually lasts for 2-3 hours, you can go to a few interesting spots in Tagaytay. You can consider the following recommended destinations:
1. Ilog Maria – One of the best bee farms in the country with a cult following for its effective health and beauty products such as honey, lip balm, propolis spray, insect repellants and homemade soaps. Don’t forget to have a chat with the interesting owners, Joel and Violaine Magsaysay, about their philosophies in life.
2. Yoki’s Farm – A hydroponics farm where they use mineral nutrient solutions to grow plants, such as lettuce, without soil. Most of the Tagaytay restaurants source their fresh greens from this farm. What makes this place additionally interesting is the collection of Chinese artifacts and knick-knacks found there. When put together in one big area, it becomes a very interesting display of kitschiness. A big Buddha that changes dress every so often welcomes you to the farm.
3. Cliffhouse Tagaytay – This is an interesting shopping and dessert stopover (for the Fling Frozen Yogurt) with a nice view of the Taal Volcano and lake crater. You can find it along the main Tagaytay highway where most of the Tagaytay ridge restaurants are located.
4. Balai Isabel – If you are interested in hiking to the top of the Taal Volcano, I would suggest you head to the Balai Isabel resort in Talisay, Batangas. It is one of the best resorts near the Taal Lake and the people there can arrange a relaxing trip for you going to the top of the volcano.
If you decide to spend the night in Tagaytay, check out The Boutique Hotel, T-House Tagaytay or 8-Suites. Each of these cute boutique hotels offers a relaxing escape and a recharging experience before going back to stressful Manila.
If you decide to just go on a day trip, you can end your food trip with a taste of the hand-me-down Filipino recipes of Pamana Restaurant near the rotunda; or a Crispy Dinuguan stopover in Kanin Club in Paseo de Sta. Rosa; or a Mango Bravo dessert stop in Conti’s in Nuvali.
A food trip in Tagaytay is not complete without a foodie pasalubong of the Buko Tart of Lou Mars, Ube Jam in Good Shepherd, or a few Tagaytay pineapples.
Live an Awesome Life,
P.S. Eli's BBQ Grill around the Tagaytay Rotunda is the latest resto to check out. I heard the Roast Chicken is good. Eli's is best known for their Roast Calf but it is not available in the Tagaytay resto.