Essays

Looking Back at 2016, Another Strong Year for the Philippine Restaurant Scene

Picking up from last year’s success, 2016 was another awesome year for our local food scene. The rapid expansion of shopping centers in the Metro paved the way for restaurants to expand to new locations and to reach a wider audience. We embraced an exciting range of international franchises and opened new, homegrown ventures.

foresPhoto credit: Margarita Fores

Margarita Fores Hailed As Asia’s Best Female Chef

As a testament to the strong momentum of our culinary scene, some of our local chefs garnered international acclaim. One of them was Margarita Fores, who was named as Asia’s Best Female Chef for the year, according to Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants. More than 300 industry experts from our region voted on who should earn the title (they also made a selection of restaurants that should belong in the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list). Being the chef behind popular local brands such as Cibo, Grace Park, and Lusso, Fores definitely deserved the recognition.

your-localPhoto credit: Your Local

Condé Nast Names ‘Your Local’ As One of The World’s Best Restaurants

Earlier this year, Your Local was proclaimed as one of the World’s Best Restaurants by an international travel magazine, Condé Nast Traveler. CN’s list, which included only 207 restaurants, was prepared by chefs, food writers, and travelers. For those who are still unfamiliar with the restaurant, Your Local is a small place in Legaspi Village, Makati, popular for its fun interpretations of Southeast Asian dishes.

streatPhoto credit: Maginhawa StrEAT Food Park

Cool Trends: Food Parks, Poké Bowls, Cheese Tarts

One of the trends we didn’t expect to catch on in 2016 was the huge rise of food parks. While there were some food parks, like StrEAT Food Park, that began operating before the year started, more of them opened this year. Today, we have an entire roster of food parks, offering a range of trendy and Instagram-worthy meals.

Whether it’s due to the variety of affordable food being offered, or the casual, laidback atmosphere that appeals to millennials, food parks have something that make them a hit. Some of the food parks you can visit on your nights out with the fam include:

poke-2Photo credit: People

Aside from food parks, Poke Bowls captured our hearts. A light, fresh raw fish salad that originated in the Pacific Islands, Poke is popular all over the United States. According to data from FourSquare, Hawaiian restaurants that serve this loveable dish doubled in the past two years. Google searches for Poke bowls are also 355% higher in the summer of 2016 compared to last year.

Picking up steam from its success in the US, local restaurants followed the Poke trend and began offering this hip, healthy dish. Some of the places we can find Poke in the Philippines include:

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Undoubtedly, one of the most highly anticipated foodie events this year was the opening of Pablo Cheese Tart, a Japanese franchise offering mouthwatering cheesy treats. Foodies lined up for hours to get a taste of their offerings when their first branch in Robinson’s Manila opened.

Aside from Pablo, a number of cheese tart franchises also opened in Manila, such as Bake and Kumori. A local contender, LAVA Cheese Tarts, also stole the show. Pretty soon, we’ll also see the opening of LeTAO Cheesecakes from Hokkaido.

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Weird Trends: Outrageous Milkshakes, Raindrop Cakes

We have nothing against over-the-top milkshakes, but we find this one of the year’s most curious trends. Like, how do you eat/drink those things? Nevertheless, these decadent treats are both wonderful to eat and behold, whether topped with entire popsicle sticks or pretzels and breakfast rolls. Here are some of the places you can get these drool-worthy milkshakes in the metro:

  • The Lost Bread HQ, Maginhawa
  • Café Kumori, SM North Edsa
raindrop-cakePhoto credit: Huffington Post

One of the things we couldn’t stand this year was the popularity of raindrop cakes. Popularized in New York by Darren Wong, the raindrop cake looks exactly like, well, a giant raindrop. Made out of spring water and agar, topped with black sugar syrup and roasted soy flour, this “cake” became such a huge hit with New Yorkers that it sold out in Smorgasburg, an outdoor food market in Brooklyn.

The most unacceptable part about it is that it cost $8 per raindrop. If you look at the ingredients above, you’d be shaking your head as to why people would pay that much for what is, essentially, just water.

Riding on the raindrop cake’s popularity, some of our local food entrepreneurs also sought to offer this “cool” and “mesmerizing” dessert. Locally, you can find it at Dew Dew Cake in Malingap Marketplace and The Dessert Kitchen at Powerplant Mall.

maxresdefaultPhoto credit: eat@home2nite

Unexpected Boom: Salted Egg Dishes

From salted egg pork ribs to salted egg custard buns, salted eggs were one of the most sought-after ingredients this year. While these were traditionally eaten as sides to some of our most beloved fried dishes, we’ve now learned how to harness their potential and use them as main ingredients to some of our meals. With the salted egg’s naturally rich and salty flavor, it makes a great sauce or coating to chicken, prawn, and other ingredients.

cheesecakePhoto credit: Hey Stamford

International Franchises: Cheesecake Factory, Fat Burger, Denny’s

2016 was the year big American brands looked to the Philippines for expansion. Denny’s, a full-service pancake house that’s been a longtime rival to IHOP, opened its doors in October. Aside from that, Fatburger opened a branch in Glorietta, serving S-XXXL delights. Lastly, Landers Superstore has begun offering cheesecakes from one of America’s most popular restaurant chains, The Cheesecake Factory!

Best Comeback: Bistro Manuel, The Girl + The Bull, Whammo’s and Fat Fingers

The closing of Lolo Dad’s was one of the saddest moments in our culinary history in recent years. Thankfully, Chef Ariel Manuel has opened a new place where we can taste his creations again – Bistro Manuel. In his new restaurant, the renowned chef serves up beautifully presented and technically excellent meals.

Gab Bustos and Thea de Rivera’s The Girl + The Bull also made a big comeback this year. Now in a spankin’ new location in Makati, they offer some must-tries: Buttermilk Fried Chicken, Pork Belly with Pineapple Salsa and Angus Rib. Fun fact: Gab and Thea are also the people behind 12/10, a popular restaurant in Makati whose name is derived from the couple’s anniversary.

whammosPhoto credit: Our Awesome Planet

An integral part of our childhood was snack time. And during the ‘90s, there was one snack that permanently etched its way into our hearts: Whammo’s. While Quake Cake and Fudgee Bar have tried to replace Whammo’s, nothing really came close to the original’s perfect fudge-to-cake ratio and rich, chocolatey taste.

Fat Fingers also made an appearance in 2016. A moist, golden cake bar with a white, creamy filling, Fat Fingers is our local answer to Hostess’ Twinkies.

nigellaNigella Lawson

adam-richmanAdam Richman

Adam Richman and Nigella Lawson in Manila

Establishing itself as a solid foodie destination, the Philippines welcomed some Food Network celebrities, such as Nigella Lawson and Adam Richman.

Nigella came here to be the face of Contadina, a high-end line of pasta, sauces, and olive oils. On her Instagram, the food writer and TV personality shared that she tried Adobo, Sizzling Sisig, and Sinigang.

On the other hand, Adam Richman came here to shoot an episode for his show, Secret Eats. Some of the places he visited include: Mendokoro Ramenba, Elbert’s Steak Room, and Pepita’s Kitchen.

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2017 Predictions: Stay Tuned!

With everything that happened in our local culinary scene this past year, we’re all pumped for 2017. Watch out for our next posts to see what trends we see in the coming months. Will it be the year we finally see more American barbecue joints in the Metro? How will our local food fare? Stay tuned and find out!

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Get the latest scoop on our local culinary scene at Manila Food Crawl. This is a foodie hub where anyone can share food reviews, cookbook insights, recipes, feature articles, opinion columns, and essays. We publish compelling and interesting food stories from all over city.

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