We ate well this year. But like in any degustacion, everything may be good, but some edge out the others simply for being more memorable. The impression they leave you with lingers just a little longer—like the following dishes:
Braised Jackfruit at Hey Handsome
It’s still hard to sell a vegetarian item in a pork-loving country. But Hey Handsome’s jackfruit dish proves it’s possible. Unripe langka is braised until tender, then draped with an Indonesian curry and supported by kailan, fried tofu, steamed jasmine and vegetables in different forms—cucumber stick, beetroot powder, dehydrated leeks, cilantro oil and galangal powder.
Hey Handsome, G/F,
Net Park Bldg., 5th Ave.
Bonifacio Global City (BGC), Taguig
Corned Beef Sisig at The Smoking Joint
The Smoking Joint’s version of sisig has an impressive, all-star cast. It comes as a delicious mix of corned beef, pig’s face, chicharon and brisket, all smoked in-house, then sautéed with onions and calamansi juice and served in a sizzling plate.
The Smoking Joint,
Green Sun Hotel, 2285 Chino Roces Ave. Ext., Makati
Negrense Sizzling Beef Rendang at Sarsa Kitchen + Bar
Send chef JP Anglo out of the city and he returns with a slew of inspirations. This year, among great-tasting dishes he introduced, the Negrense-style Beef Rendang made the strongest impact—rich, coconut milk-based gravy cloaking chunks of beef braised for hours in batchoy stock.
Sarsa Kitchen + Bar,
SM Megamall B; The Forum
in BGC; the Joya Tower
in Rockwell; Rada Street in Makati, and SM Mall of Asia
Shawarma Rice at Tipple and Slaw
Many offer shawarma rice, but none better than Tipple and Slaw. There’s no secret ingredient here, it’s just more flavorful than the rest. Grilled Angus beef tops a mound of buttered curry rice, salsa and grilled onions. It is then drizzled with homemade garlic sauce, sumac and cilantro.
Tipple and Slaw, 2/F,
The Forum, 7th Ave. cor.
Federacion Drive, BGC, Taguig
Butter Chicken at Grace Park
You’re hooked as soon as you hear the sizzle and get a whiff of the garlic aroma. Upon seeing the dish—breaded boneless chicken drenched in butter from Negros and liberally topped with fried Ilocos garlic—your mouth waters and your senses go on a frenzy. Such is the allure of this dish.
Grace Park, One Rockwell, Rockwell Drive, Makati
Beef Spareribs Sinigang with Mango at Angel’s Kitchen
It’s the sinigang I didn’t grow up eating, but somehow wish I did. The oil from the slow-cooked spareribs and the strips of unripe green mango are telltale signs of how potent and satisfying the broth is. And while the vegetables such as sigarilyas and alugbati leaves are not typical in the traditional sour soup, they manage to give the dish a new and most welcome character.
Angel’s Kitchen, Connecticut St., Greenhills, San Juan
Karai Zaru Soba at Kazunori Japanese Restaurant
Of the many delightful items in Kazunori’s menu, people keep coming back for the Karai Zaru Soba—cold buckwheat noodles dumped and seasoned in a spicy dipping sauce to produce a delicious dish.
Locavore hasn’t lost its appeal, thanks to the new ticket items chef Mikel Zaguirre concocted this year. The Pholalo and Adobo sa Gata are worth breaking the diet for. The Kimchinigang is unexpectedly good and clever—pork sinigang broth spiced with kimchi and given more body and texture with the addition of silken tofu and fresh arugula.
Locavore, 10 Brixton St., Pasig; Forbes Town Center, Burgos Circle, BGC, Taguig
Lechon Lumpia by Pepita’s Kitchen
Dedet dela Fuente has done it again, creating new delectable stuffing for her roasted pig. Her latest variant allows you to indulge more on the lechon as the stuffing is not as filling as rice—a medley of vegetables typically found in lumpia and served with a trio of sauces to achieve a balanced flavor.
Pepita’s Kitchen, tel. 4254605, 09178660662
Grilled Corn Cremeux by Hiraya Bakery
Colette dela Cruz of Laguna-based Hiraya Bakery continues to champion local produce in a sweet way, such as the Banana-Lipote Cake and Apple Cake with Panocha Caramel. But the Grilled Corn Cremeux with Coconut Crumble and Kapeng Bigas Puree is a standout—the Kapeng Bigas puree adding a toasted, bitter flavor to complement the sweetness of the corn, and the addition of coconut a takeoff from maja blanca.
Chef Boutwood’s multicourse menu at The Test Kitchen is always well-thought-out, down to the last dish. “We realized that we didn’t have a rice course on our menu and, being in the Philippines, that should not be, so we decided we would end on a savory/sweet dish which was rooted in our culture,” he said. The result is black heirloom rice fermented for five days and churned into ice cream. It sits on a pool of smoked salted palm sugar caramel and crowned with puffed black rice.
The Test Kitchen, 9780
Kamagong St., Makati
Cassava Cake at Little Flour
Wildflour Café and Bakery is known for doing basic food items very well. Its younger sister, Little Flour, whips up pancakes, fried chicken and burgers without a fault. The Cassava Cake, based on Ana de Ocampo’s family recipe, is generously topped with cheddar cheese and served with housemate coco jam. It’s among the best in the city yet again, just like Wildflour’s Buko Pie.
Little Flour, G/L, World Plaza Bldg., 4th Ave. cor. 31st St., BGC, Taguig
Basque Burnt Cheesecake at The Workshop
Inspired by a similar dessert made famous by La Viña in San Sebastian, Spain, The Workshop baked its own version of the Basque pastry, which is light, custardy and doesn’t have a Graham cracker base. In other words, it’s not your typical cheesecake, but something much better.
The Workshop by Le Petit Souffle, 2/F, Mega Fashion Hall, SM Megamall
Buko Pie by Gourmandise by Sunshine
Introduced at the Madrid Fusion Manila regional lunch, Sunshine’s nose-to-tail version of the buko pie—coconut meat wrapped in coconut crepes, topped with burnt coconut cream sauce, latik, cashew and orange crumble—became the talk of the town. People started ordering from her even if it wasn’t on sale yet. You’re in for a wonderful treat if you get your hands on this.
Gourmandise by Sunshine,
Millionaire’s Cake by Homemade by Roshan
There are chocolate cakes, and then there’s the Millionaire Cake—three layers of moist chocolate cake filled with caramel, macadamia nuts and coffee custard. The whole thing is then covered with a rich fudge frosting and crowned with more caramel and nuts. —CONTRIBUTED