It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. While 2016 was mostly upbeat for our local food scene, 2017 was bittersweet.
New restaurants sprang all over the metro, while old concepts began to fade. Fast food chains started inventing outrageous food items, while traditional restaurants fought to show they were the most authentic of the lot. Social media continued to be a powerful force in marketing restaurants, while food bloggers and critics became the subject of controversy.
Despite being a year that’s been tinged with drama, 2017 was still a successful year for our local food scene. Slowly but surely, we established our reputation as a formidable foodie destination in Southeast Asia.
So Many Restaurants, So Little Time (And Money!)
Finally found a place that will become a game changer for #Maginhawa. At @soruizakaya, all dishes are given a creative spin to give you a one-of-a-kind experience you won't find in just any other Japanese restaurant. Expect nothing but artfully presented and great-tasting #aburi #sushi and #maki here. #MNLFoodCrawl #newnippon
This year, it seemed as if a new interesting restaurant opened every week. And while this was a less eventful year compared to 2016, it was still tough for regular foodies like us to keep up with the restaurant openings.
If you also found it hard to keep up, we’ve rounded up a list of restaurants you need to try before the year ends.
- Soru Izakaya
- Kko Kko
- Tim Hortons
- Kushikatsu Daruma
- Ping Pong Diplomacy
- La Chinesca
- Plank Sourdough Pizza
- Rico Rico
- Raging Bull Burgers
Say What?! A Year of Outrageous Food!
In order to keep customers interested, restaurants and fast food joints invented a string of out-of-the-box food items. Some of the strange things we saw this year were Ramen Nagi’s Manila Kings, which included the Binagoongan King, the Bicol Express King, and the Cheesy Kaldereta King. Fortunately, even though these ramen bowls would give any purist a heart attack, they received rave reviews from foodies who dared to try.
Some new products weren’t as well-received, like Jollibee’s Strawberry Fries. There are those who found it “weirdly good,” (looking at you, @MasarapBa) while there are others who found it outright disgusting. Nevertheless, it did achieve its goal of compelling us to walk into a Jollibee store.
Another outrageous product that became available this year was Kiss The Tiramisu’s Midas Touch Ice Cream, which is basically a sundae garnished with real 24-karat gold. It’s great for Instagram, but it isn’t for anyone who wants to keep their privilege in check.
Emotional Restaurant Closings
THANK YOU FOR FOUR GREAT YEARS! As our last hoorah, Project Pie Block 28 in Alabang shall continue to operate and serve our guests. All other Project Pie stores shall graduate from the Philippine market. Towards this end we sincerely "THANK YOU" for your patronage in making our "PROJECT" a success as a game changer in the pizza industry. It has been an awesome four years of being the only artisan pizza in the Philippines. DBE Project Pie is the first international brand to open in the Philippines ahead of highly industrialized Asean cities such as Singapore and Hongkong. This success is a product of your freedom to design your pizza, of our sincere service to build your artisan pizza, and the wonderful experience to eat in a relaxing atmosphere as you bask in an innovative atmosphere. As how we have served you, we now say "PIZZA OUT!"
Various websites and news outlets gave us a mini-heart attack sometime this year when they announced that Little Tokyo was closing. Thankfully, the rumors didn’t turn out to be true. Restaurant owners and managers of the much-loved Little Tokyo restaurants clarified that they will continue to operate. They also stated that they are not affiliated with the string of Mile Long Restaurants that received an eviction notice.
However, a few restaurant closings were more than just rumors. Here are some beloved restaurants that closed this year:
• Project Pie
• Hard Rock Cafe
• Kimpura (Greenhills)
• Cafe by the Ruins
Zubuchon Lands in Manila
One of the landmark events that happened this year was the opening of Zubuchon’s first branch in Manila. Zubuchon’s specialty, the roast suckling pig, was famously dubbed by Anthony Bourdain as “the best pig ever!”, although further fact-checking may suggest otherwise. Technicalities aside, Zubuchon still made waves on social media after it opened its first branch in Makati and another branch in SM Megamall.
Anthony Bourdain Claims Sisig Will Win The Heart of the World
Now that we’re on the topic of Anthony Bourdain, it’s important to note that the witty Parts Unknown host visited the country this year for the World Street Food Congress. He was invited to be a speaker for a discussion on the future of the street food industry. In one of his interviews, he noted that sisig will “win the hearts and minds of the world.”
Anthony Bourdain famously enjoyed the sisig he ate during one of his Parts Unknown episodes last year.
Jollibee Breaks The Internet With Its #HugotPaMore Commercials
As if we don’t have enough things in our lives to cry about, Jollibee makes things even sadder for us by releasing a string of heartbreaking commercials for Valentine’s. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, we’re pretty sure that these commercials invaded your newsfeed for at least a week.
To balance out Jollibee’s #HugotPaMore series, KFC came up with a series of fun-filled ads featuring their new Filipino colonels. All three colonels were later used to promote KFC’s new products, like the Salted Egg Chicken, Teriyaki Flavor Shots, and the Sisig Burrito.
Turkish Chef Nusret Gökçe, better known as Salt Bae, also rocked the Internet with his awesome moves.
Foodie Trends: Irvin’s Salted Egg Chips and Wagyu Cubes
Regram @roannesarmiento : Craving satisfied!!!👍🏻👌🏻 . 🚧🚧🚧 . Sometimes reading all your captions crack us up 😂 but we’re always happy to read and hear of ‘em. . If you have any feedbacks on the snacks you purchased or your experience, pls reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org . December is coming and as we mentioned, we’ve got some exciting things coming ahead 😈😈😈. Meanwhile, see you all at BGC High Street and Megamall Cartels 😊. . More details can always be found here or on irvinsaltedegg.ph . 🚧🚧🚧 #irvinsaltedegg #irvins #irvinsaltedeggph #DangerouslyAddictive #DangerouslyMasarap #saltedeggchips #saltedeggfishskin #saltedegg #saltedeggyolk #masarap #masarapba #filipinofood #pinoyfood #discovermnl #forkspoonmanila #manilaeatup #foodph #yummyph #wheninmanila #pepperph #zomatoph #spotph
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Most of the foodie trends that caught on this year simply carried over from the years prior. For instance, our addiction to salted egg chips finally prompted Irvin’s Salted Egg to open a booth in Metro Manila. We also saw a great rise in restaurants offering Wagyu cubes in their menu. For a time, it felt like this was the only acceptable way to eat Wagyu.
Samyang 2X Spicy Noodle Challenge
People will do anything to go viral nowadays, including eating things that are spicier than what they can handle.
For some people, that means taking videos while suffering through a pack of Samyang’s 2x Spicy Noodles. During the latter half of the year, it seemed like everyone was scouring their local Korean groceries to get their hands on a pack. Things got so bad that some sellers even started offering Samyang noodles for P100 or more. Thankfully, SM Supermarket has started carrying the products, making them more accessible to everyone.
By the way, in case you haven’t heard yet, the purplish pink Samyang noodle is NOT a 4X spicy version of the original.
Did you know that #Samyang's Hot #Chicken Flavor #Ramen is now available at SM Supermarkets? You can buy a pack for P78. No need to buy them off the black market anymore, lol. #MNLFoodCrawl . . . . . . . . #manilaeatup #discovermnl #buzzfeedfood #foodgrammerph #foodgasm #pepperph #noodles #spicy #eatsplorations #eater #wheninmanila
Tupperwaregate, the death of food blogging, and the controversies that mired our industry
The year opened with JJ Yulo boldly declaring that there is no legitimate food critic in the Philippines. Naturally, the article drew a lot of comments from the foodie community. Some bloggers started publicly declaring themselves as critics, while others expressed that they agree with Yulo’s sentiments.
Another interesting issue that happened concerning the industry was “tupperwaregate.” In case you haven’t heard, it concerns a certain person bringing a plastic container to a massive food event, where, naturally, free food is handed to food journalists to feature on their respective websites and blogs.
All of these issues undoubtedly hurt the credibility of our famous bloggers and journalists. People started saying that these writers only do it for freebies–or worse, people started saying that bloggers even threaten restaurant owners to give them freebies in exchange for positive reviews.
Since a lot of people have lost their trust in our food writers, they turned to social media instead. This year, massive public groups on Facebook became the channel where people sought honest food reviews. Groups like Let’s Eat Pare or the Masarap Ba Community have garnered 60,000 members and 24,000 members respectively.
For the Masarap Ba Community, specifically, they set up rules discouraging members to promote their own food businesses in honor of objectivity. Members are also encouraged to share their honest opinions on food using the wittiest quips.
In many ways, Facebook groups, as well as review sites like Zomato, have democratized the way we choose where to eat. There’s no longer just one blogger who can hype a certain restaurant and compel absolutely everyone in the Metro to queue in front of it.
This year, a lot of us found our voices. We only hope that people start educating themselves about the cuisines they try, and the restaurants they review, in the hope of forming informed opinions (but that’s a discussion for another time).
Filipinos Develop an Appetite for Authentic Taiwanese Cuisine
Starting November 1, 2017, Filipinos can enjoy visa-free entry to Taiwan. Because of this, there was a rise in local interest in authentic Taiwanese cuisine, which will most likely continue in 2018. Anyone who’s still hungover from their trip to Taiwan can troop to the following restaurants:
- Tien Ma’s
- Fat Fook
- Hot Star
- Taipei Taipei
What Happened to the Michelin-Starred Restaurants We Were Promised?
If there’s one thing our local media is good at, it’s at hyping upcoming restaurant chains that have earned Michelin stars from abroad. We mentioned in a previous post that Tsuta Philippines’ opening date has been set for December 16, which was a long wait, considering its arrival has been in the news since late 2016.
Other establishments that are set to open in Manila are Kam’s Roast Goose as well as Hawker Chan. The details are still hazy as to when the two will open, but these two would definitely be awesome additions to our restaurant scene.
2018: Where Are We Heading?
As we end 2017 on a bittersweet note, we begin 2018 with a lot of uncertainty. There are still a lot of restaurants that are slated to open in the next year, and we’re sure that a lot of them will pique the interest of foodies all over the metro. We’re excited to see how stiff the competition will be and what brands will do in order to stay competitive.
Perhaps one of the biggest things that will impact how we’ll eat in the coming year is the new tax reform packages, which are being reviewed by the bicameral panel. The new tax reform packages hope to reduce taxes for the middle class, increase taxes for the wealthy, and exempt many people in the working class. Depending on what the bicameral panel agrees upon, it may also add excise taxes on petroleum, coal, and sugary drinks.
Naturally, changes like these will likely impact how we spend our money–including where and how often we eat out. As for Manila Food Crawl, we believe that our restaurant scene can continue to thrive in this environment since we’re a nation of voracious eaters. We’d love to delve into the topic further, but we feel like that’s an essay for another time.
How about you? How do you think our food scene will change in the coming year? Send us an email at editor[at]manilafoodcrawl.com. We welcome opinion columns and editorials.