December 15, 2015
Here is the year-end round up of our favorite homegrown restaurants that opened in Manila in 2015!
I decided to separate The Most Awesome Restaurant list into two lists: "homegrown" vs. "franchised" restaurants because I want to celebrate local brands amidst the foreign franchise invasion and to promote the unique resto concepts in Manila.
Related Blog Post: 10 Most Awesome NEW (Homegrown) Restaurants in Manila 2015!
1. RESTAURANT TAPENADE
TAPENADE is the all-day Mediterranean dining restaurant of the newly opened Discovery Primea in Makati. It is named after the centuries-old Mediterranean recipe of olives, capers, olive oil, and anchovies.
The concept comes from the insight that Filipinos love Mediterranean cuisine as much as Chinese cuisine--if you count the number of Chinese restos vs. the collective number of all Mediterranean restos (including Italian, French, Spanish, Greek, etc.) in Manila.
TAPENADE is a great place for that healthy, power lunch meeting with business partners or foodie friends. I love their Salad Room concept and the well-curated selections on the menu.
I recommend starting with the Stone-baked Feta Cheese and the Salad Room, then following with a few of their meat entrees like the chicken, seafood, or meat dishes. End on a sweet note with the Gianduja Cake! For coffee lovers looking for something new, try the Turkish Coffee. Budget about P1,000/head.
- TAPENADE: Mediterranean Goodness and The Salad Room at Discovery @PrimeaMakati
- TAPENADE: Dinner with a Heightened Sense of Celebration! @PrimeaMakati
Ground Floor, Discovery Primea
6749 Ayala Avenue, Makati City 1226, Philippines
Telephone: +632 955-8888
Facebook: Discovery Primea Makati
2. SMITH BUTCHER AND GRILL ROOM by Chef Tom Hines
SMITH Butcher and Grill Room by Chef Tom Hines and Dixie Marinas of Lulu + Hooch aims to elevate the steakhouse experience in Manila to whole different level. Their selling proposition is a personalized steak experience and an extensive selection of meats--from Japan, Australia, the US, and Europe--which are either directly flown-in or sourced locally from importers.
A unique feature of the place is the Steak Room--an art museum-like showcase of their meat offerings, providing patrons with complete flexibility over their choice of steak and how they want to enjoy it. All this in a not-your-typical-steakhouse ambiance, surrounded by beautiful handcrafted furniture.
The name SMITH is meant to project images of a skilled purveyor and in this particular case, a purveyor of an awesome steak experience (think blacksmith for steaks). There is no relation, however, to the other "Smith" steakhouses--Smith & Wollensky or Smith Brothers.
We all agree that the steaks at SMITH are awesome! I especially loved the Irish 45-day aged, grass-fed beef variant. But Wagyu lovers may want to take advantage of their air flown Matsusaka beefwhile it lasts. For a healthier and leaner steak, go for the French Fillet Mignon Tenderloin steak.
There's a perfect spot you can always reserve, depending on the occasion you're celebrating. But it's best to be near the open kitchen and have a good view of the Steak Room.
For starters, order the Big Eye Tuna Poke, Beef Carpaccio, or the Veal Cheeks Open Ravioli. And for your wines, begin with the Pizzini Rosetta, then go for the Layer Cake Cabernet Sauvignon 2002 or All Saints Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 to pair with the steak.
Budget about P2,000/head for the complete steak experience.
SMITH Butcher and Grill Room
ACI Building, 147 HV dela Costa St., Salcedo Village, Makati.
Operating Hours: Monday to Saturday, 6pm to 1am.
Mobile: +63 927 375-9467 or +63 915 429-5167
Facebook: Smith Butcher and Grill Room
3. ARROZERIA by Chef Chele Gonzales
You can enjoy your paella in 5 different ways--the classic PAELLA (Al dente and thin), CALDOSO (Soupy), RISOTTOS (Creamy), MELOSO (Saucy), and FIDEUA (Thin Noodles).
In partnership with the International Rice Research Institue (IRRI) in Los Baños, they were able to source an heirloom rice from Cordillera to use in their paella, which is similar to the Spanish arroz bomba rice.
I love the authentic Spanish Paellas and the artistic interior vibe by Carlo Calma, with different installation art pieces around the resto.
Order the big jar of Rose Sangria or the Agua de Valencia signature drink for a taste of Valencia.
Start your meal with tapas of Gambas con Gabardina Negra, Croquetas, and Carpaccio de Atun while you wait for your paella to be cooked. You can also go for the Tabla de Pates if you're with a big group.
I recommend the al dente and thin Paella, like the Abanda seafood paella, but I'm sure most people will still go for the Meloso variant (either with Marinated Pork or Stewed Beef Cheeks). For something unique, try the Fideua Negra.
The desserts were just OK and can still be improved. Budget about P500/head + drinks.
ARROZERIA - "Rice is the Hero"
Level 4, Century City Mall, Kalayaan Avenue Makati City
Mobile: +63920 974 4742
4. BALAY DAKO by Antonio's
BALAY DAKO is the latest Filipino Restaurant by Chef Tony Boy Escalante serving Filipino comfort dishes and classic Tagaytay food. It's name means "Big House" in Negresense, and refers to the gathering place of Filipino families for milestone celebrations and other special occasions.
My brother and parents went there last Independence Day weekend and they found the food salty. We visited with our foodie friends last weekend and they were also disappointed with the food. I suppose those who visit Balay Dako have high expectations of the food quality and service, which the Antonio's brand is known for.
At the end of the day, I believe it's all about setting the right expectations, ordering the right food, and going there at the right time and for the right purpose.
Overall, I love the Balay Dako ambiance with a beautiful panoramic view of Lake Taal and quite affordable pricing. It's a great place to enjoy Filipino food with family, tourists, and balikbayans.
I recommend the Sizzling Bulalo na Baka, Bulalo na Baka soup, Chicken Inasal, Bangus a la Pobre, and the Pinakbet na Kanin with Lechon Kawali. The rest of the menu is just OK and really nothing to rave about.
Budget about P800/head. Our bill for 16 people was only P12,000+.
The service is bad during weekends--when the place is packed with 500+ guests eating at the same time. My balikbayan brother and some foodie friends vowed never to come back, saying it's just good to try once.
Most foodies expect a higher quality of Filipino food that is very tasty and not tempered. I don't mind paying a bit more to get better-tasting Filipino cuisine that proudly represents the Philippines.
Versus other Filipino restaurants in Tagaytay, Balay Dako is good, but it won't match up well with modern Filipino restaurants in Manila who offer better food and more innovative Filipino cuisine.
The best part of Balay Dako is the Terrazas Bar, which elevates the bar scene in Tagaytay, making it the best place to be seen at night in the city.
I recommend Balay Dako, but it's best to go during weekdays. You can just order the bulalo then hang out with your friends at Terrazas.
BALAY DAKO (TAGAYTAY) by ANTONIO'S
A Filipino Restaurant by the Antonio's Group
Tagaytay-Nagsugbu Highway, Tagaytay City
Telephone: +63 917 899-2866
Facebook: Balay Dako
NIKKEI is a homegrown restaurant by Chef Christian Cejas, specializing in Japanese-Peruvian cuisine known as "Nikkei". The cuisine was popularized by Nobu Matsuhisa of Nobu Restaurant fame.
The restaurant is owned by Dodjie & Monica Violago of Banoi's, Carlo Lorenzana of Shi Lin & Refinery, and Chris Daez of Fully Booked, together with Ramon Quiros and Jon Tajonera.
I would go with the Causa, Parmesan Scallops, and Ginger Salmon to start off your meal. It's also best to order Sake or a refreshing Spicy Sake Martini to pair with the ceviche starters. If you prefer non-alcoholic drinks, order the Strawberry Basil Lemonade or the Nikkei Mojito.
Order a Yellow Pepper or Classic for the ceviche, and Lomo Saltado for your meat main course. Finish off with the Tres Leches for a nice sweet ending.
The sushi rolls are just OK; don't order the fried ones. The Kobe and Miso Kurobuta can still be improved and hopefully they can add rice options to their menu. Budget about P700/head with drinks.
Rada Street, Legaspi Village, Makati (Beside Wildflour)
Operating Hours: Open Daily 11.00am to 2.30pm Lunch, 3.00-5.00pm Desserts, 6.00-11.00pm Dinner
Facebook: Nikkei PH
Phone Number: +632 880-0231
Mobile Number: +63927 273-0114
6. LE PETIT SOUFFLÉ by Chef Miko Aspiras
LE PETIT SOUFFLÉ is a French-Japanese Comfort Food concept by Pastry Chef Miko Paras, with Kristine Lotilla and Chef Noel Mauricio, in partnership with Charles Paw of Hole in the Wall.
LE PETIT SOUFFLÉ is happy place for foodies in Century City Mall for those looking for a cute café hangout with French- and Japanese-inspired food and, of course, Chef Miko's decadent desserts.
I recommend starting with the Champignon Frittes, then ordering the Japanese Boeuf Curry Soufflé, Foie Gras Mac and Cheese, and Squid-ink Rice for your main dish. End with the Valrhona Grand Crus and Matcha Parfait for dessert.
Most of the yummy food is so rich so this is not a place for people on a diet. Budget about P700/head.
It's a great place for celebrating a special occasion like your anniversary or for even just simple get-togethers with friends if you're in the vicinity of Century City Mall.
7. BAR PINTXOS
BAR PINTXOS is a neighborhood tapas and pintxos bar in the south, serving Catalan/Basque food by Miguel Vecin and Tinchu Gonzalez.
There are no signs going to this place so it's a bit hard to find. People come here for the authentic Spanish food and to hang out with friends over drinks. We thought it would be a dark bar type of place but it was surprisingly family friendly.
Our family tried it together with my wife's cousin Pam of Risa Chocolates, who introduced us to Bar Pintxos.
This is probably one of those places that you would want to keep to yourself and wish that they don't expand. I like the hidden location and the accidental success story of this tapas bar.
Order the pintxos as small bite appetizers. I recommend the JAMON ALLIOLI, GULAS, PINTXO DE CHAMPIÑONES, and SALMON - TRUFFLE HONEY - CAVIAR. If you go in a group, order a bottle of TXOMIN TXAKOLI to pair with the pintxos.
For Tapas, I recommend the TORTILLA PATATAS CHORIZO and BUTIFARRA. Then the LAMB PAELLA and LENGUA for your main course. Check out Risa Chocolates for dessert. Budget about P500-800/head, depending on whether you order drinks or not.
Make sure to make a reservation, especially if you plan to go at night. It's definitely worth the drive. If coming from Manila, exit via Sucat and take the service road.
Overall, an awesome place to meet and eat with your friends living in the south.
Don Gesu Building, Don Jesus Boulevard (Near Alabang Hills), Muntinlupa City
Telephone: +632 831-0065
Tuesday to Saturday: 11:00 am-12:00 am
Sunday: 11:00 am-10:00 pm
8. BUTA + WAGYU
BUTA + WAGYU is a Japanese Wagyu Steak restaurant by the Villarica family, who also runs Wagyu Japanese Beef in Makati. The family is the only authorized importer of Japanese Wagyu Beef by the Japanese Government in the Philippines. The beef is air-flown in chilled containers and not frozen.
They only sell Grade A5, levels 9-12 Wagyu Beef (Ohmi, Saga, Kagoshima) plus homegrown organic pork, the source of which are exclusively fed okra and okra enzyme. Hence the name: Buta (Pork) + Wagyu (Beef). They also serve curated Korean dishes from the recipes of Grace Lee's mom.
Overall, I love that BUTA + WAGYU is committed to serving only the highest quality of Japanese Wagyu in Manila.
Start off with some Whisky Sour and their Organic Pork and Wagyu Gyoza. You can also get the one with Kimchi if you're looking for variety. But I really recommend ordering the Japanese Wagyu Sushi or the Yukhwe for a different kind of appetizer, and to experience how high the quality of their wagyu is.
While I love their ramen, I feel it quickly fills you up.
Order the Steamed Wagyu Sirloin as the first Wagyu course and then follow this up with the Stone Grill of Rib-Eye or Chuck Roll.
They import three kinds of Wagyu--Saga, Kagoshima, and Ohmi. Ohmi is one of the top brands together with Matsusaka and Kobe. But there are only two brands of Wagyu that are served to the King in Japan--Ohmi and Hida. Budget about P2,000/head.
BUTA + WAGYU
5/F SM Aura, Sky Park, SM Aura Premier, 26th St cor McKinley Parkway, Fort Bonifacio, Taguig
Operating Hours: 11.00am to 2.00am
Telephone: +632 946-7262
SiamAroi is a hole-in-the-wall Thai restaurant from Chef Nun and his wife Passon, who are originally from Pattaya in Thailand. They moved to the Philippines because of their son Kris who is studying in Manila to become a doctor.
Siam is the old name of Thailand and Aroi means "yummy" in Thai.
Most people who have been to SiamAroi like how authentic the food tastes and the quirkiness of the ambiance.
It's been a long while since I've tasted home-cooked Thai food goodness in Manila ever since Dek A closed down.
The ambiance is eclectic, reminding you of the kind of places foodies hunt down and discover.
I like the balance of flavors in their dishes. The food is not too sweet and they are unapologetic about the chili. I do hope they get better suppliers of shrimp and pork neck meat though.
Order the Papaya Salad or Kangkong fries as an appetizer and the Tom Yum Kung to start with. You can't go wrong with the Bagoong Rice, Pad Thai, and Green Chicken Curry as your main course. Be adventurous and order one new dish to try.
Budget about P500/head. It's best to go in a group of 4-5 so that you can taste more dishes.
It's a good place to celebrate with friends and enjoy good, affordable Thai food. Make sure to make a reservation if you are going with a big group.
SiamAroi Thai Restaurant
124 Jupiter St., Bel-air, Makati City
Operating Hours: Open Daily from 11.30am to 10.00pm
Contact Person: Krisanat Boonsriphaprasong
Mobile: +63 927 305-2957, +63 925 465-9981
Facebook: SiamAroi Restaurant
Note: Cash only.
10. ADAAM & YVES ORGANIC BISTRO
Adaäm & Yves Organic Bistro is a Scandinavian-inspired bistro concept with an organic all-day-breakfast food menu, by Sean Go and Leslie Tan of Davao. You can call it a millennial place that serves clean food, with an inspiring artistic industrial ambiance, and hip music. The name is Scandinavian for "Adam & Eve".
Overall, we enjoyed celebrating Joshua's birthday at Adaäm & Yves. We had our concerns at the start--whether it was good for a family celebration with kids--but the service was very welcoming and friendly. But it does feel more like bar than a restaurant.
I would recommend the Trifecta and the Portobello Road for appetizers, and for your main dish, order their Noli me Tangere (Beef Tapa) or Cornelius Vanderbeef. You can't leave without trying their Pink Floyd arroz caldo.
Budget about P600/head. It's a bit pricey compared to other usual breakfast places like Unit 27, but it's a cheaper and more hip alternative to Kitchen 1B. But it's still a great place to meet with your millennial friends this holiday season. :)
Adaäm & Yves Organic Bistro
Icon Plaza, 25th Street corner 6th Avenue, 1634 Taguig, Philippines
(Near Mecha Uma)
Telephone: +632 801-6084
Operating Hours: Open Daily 11:00 am to 10:00 pm
Facebook: Adaäm & Yves Organic Bistro
Related Blog Posts:
- 10 Most Awesome NEW (Homegrown) Restaurants in Manila 2015!
- 10 Most Awesome NEW (Franchised) Restaurants in Manila 2015!
- BEST OF MANILA: 40 Most Awesome NEW Restaurants in Manila 2014! (Top 1-10)
- Foodie Guide: 10 Most Awesome New Restaurants in Manila 2013! #AwesomeRestos!
Live an Awesome Life,
Disclosure: I wrote this article with my biases, opinions, and insights. Read Our Awesome Planet Complete Disclosure Policy here.
P.S. Let me know if there is a restaurant that you feel should have been included in this list for 2015.
Check out this list --> 10 Most Awesome New (Franchised) Restaurants in Manila 2015!