I love Filipino food, and I’m not just saying that because I’m Filipino.
Filipino fare is always a celebration of what’s fresh and in season -- cooked slowly with love, served with warm hospitality, and enjoyed with the laughter of family and friends.
Here are the Top 8 Most Awesome Filipino Restaurants that Pinoys should experience in their lifetime:
Eating in Ka Lui (named after the owner, Louie Oliva) is like eating in a Filipino home, where each guest is treated like a VIP. Here, the menu changes daily, depending on what the freshest seafood, vegetables and fruits are available at the Puerto Princesa market. The dishes are quite unique, and their presentation can surprise you.
When you enter the restaurant, you have to leave your shoes outside. As you rest your feet on the clean and polished floor of Ka Lui, enjoy the bahay kubo-inspired ambiance as the fresh air of Puerto Princesa cools you off while you eat. Nothing beats the Ka Lui experience.
2. Isla Naburot Resort, Guimaras
This secluded and rustic island resort in Guimaras is a secret beach escape for foodies and beach lovers. There is no electricity on the island -- only solar-powered lights at night so that you can enjoy a no-TV, no-telephone experience. This Saldaña family-owned island resort does not advertise to preserve its “un-commercial” charm.
It really is back-to-basics, where the food is prepared using slow cooking methods and wood-fire oven techniques. They only serve the freshest seafood from the market and the best mangoes from the island of Guimaras. All you have to do is literally swim, sleep and eat five times a day. Indeed, Isla Naburot lives up to its name, which means “beautiful island”.
3. Claude Tayag’s Bale Dutung, Pampanga
Pampanga is the culinary center of the Philippines, and Claude Tayag’s Bale Dutung (House of Wood) is the best place to taste true-blue Pampanga cuisine. They offer a private dining group experience (minimum of 10) where you enjoy a long, slow-cooked, five-hour lunch.
You have the option of having the Kapampangan menu or the now-famous 5-Ways Lechon with Sisig menu. Each dish is cooked to perfection. They only serve one dish at a time to ensure that guests get to savor each one until the desserts are served. So when you’re there, just sit back, relax, enjoy the hospitality of the Tayags, and take in the simple yet artistic ambiance of Bale Dutung.
4. Breakthrough Restaurant, Iloilo
Breakthrough is the undisputed king of fresh seafood in Iloilo, and the number one tourist spot in the city. It is famous for its Aligue Rice and the Managat fish (also known as red snapper or mangrove jack). Native Chicken Inasal, and fresh and baked oysters are also served here.
The restaurant is the brainchild of marine biologist Raymundo Robles, who just wanted to have a side restaurant business for his wife. It was named after every scientist’s aspiration, which is to achieve a breakthrough in his/her field.
The best part of the Breakthrough experience is being able to enjoy the glorious food (and the popular vinegar called Sinamak) with the fresh sea breeze blowing around you.
5. Ugu Bigyan, Tiaong, Quezon
The internationally renowned potter Ugu Bigyan opened his garden for merienda, lunch and dinner in his private home in Tiaong. There are no signs leading to the place. In fact, his neighbors don’t even know that such a place exists.
Ugu Bigyan is famous for his Kulawo, a banana-heart dish that is charcoal-grilled in coconut milk, which tastes like creamy tuna. The Filipino set menu is fixed for a minimum of 5 persons.
Most visitors end up purchasing pottery before leaving, especially during the twice-a-year sale -- May 15 (to coincide with the Pahiyas festival) and August 14 (his birthday, where the discount increases every year, equivalent to his age).
6. Kinabuhayan Café, Dolores, Quezon
Every stay in Kinabuhayan Café is magical. Its bed & breakfast is designed in such a way that you feel like you are living in a theater stage set – any photo you take is photogenic. Plus, every dish that comes out of the kitchen is really good. Jay Herrera is the heart and soul of the place, with his charming, bohemian persona and magical touch when it comes to food. He is popular for his Alagaw Leaves appetizers, Risotto, and cooked-on-the-spot Lamb Chops.
Jay has a secluded place called Kubli Springs where they set up beautiful-looking lunches and dinners. The spring waters running down your feet and just-enough lights at night all add to the ambiance for a romantic evening under the stars.
The place is popular during the Holy Week because it is located at the foot of Mt. Banahaw. It is used as a home base by people who want to go to the blessed caves to recharge their powers.
7. Café Juanita, Pasig
Dr. Boy Vasquez wanted to honor the culinary heritage of his family by serving their heirloom recipes in this colorfully homey restaurant. Artistically done comfort Filipino food is the specialty of the house -- from Molo, to Kare-kare, to Twice-Cooked Adobo. But you also have the option of ordering other Asian-inspired dishes.
The most unique feature of Café Juanita is its kitschy ambiance. The place has a hodge-podge of decorative items. Dr. Vasquez makes it a point to move one piece (or more) each day so that the restaurant feels alive as small changes are made. Café Juanita’s vibrant, evolving, eclectic collection is actually a good reflection of the “halo-halo” culture of the Philippines.
8. Pendy’s, Bacolod City
When it comes to good food in Bacolod, Pendy’s is the foodies’ choice because it is run by Omon Maravilla’s family (a family of foodies too). Pendy’s is already an institution in the area, and it is resisting the temptation to expand to keep its quality and consistency intact.
There’s a wide array of dishes on the menu, but don’t leave Pendy’s without trying the well-made Negrense cuisine. Among the crowd favorites are the Chicken Dinuguan, Pancit Molo, and Batchoy with Lechon. The menu is quite diverse because it is based on the food that the family likes and the food that they can cook well. Some people actually line up for their Korean Beef Stew, Spareribs and Pad Thai.
But the best part of the Pendy’s experience is having the Napoleones and Half-moon for dessert!
Besides the comfortable and homey restaurant, Pendy’s also has a pasalubong center that carries the best pasalubong: Bailon’s Piaya and Dulce de Gatas.
I'm still looking for 2 more to complete the Top 10 -- What's the best Filipino Restaurant for you in the Philippines?
Live an Awesome Life,
Full Disclosure: Nothing to disclose. I'm not related to, connected with or compensated in any way by any of the establishments featured in this blog post.
P.S. This article is one of the awesome articles in My Awesome Life Book in 2011 (a Travel Log Planner). Since only 1,000 OAP friends will get a copy, I decided to share the article with all the loyal subscribers of OAP. :)
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