This year spoiled us with many restaurant openings—from foreign franchises to homegrown concepts. Of the wide array of food choices are some dishes that left quite an impression on our taste buds and made 2018 that much more memorable and exciting.
Brussels sprouts by Chino MNL
The chances of success in introducing an uncommon vegetable to a meat-loving market is slim to none. But as Chino MNL has proven with its tender Brussels sprouts cooked in arbol miso and topped with cotija cheese and pumpkin seeds, it’s not impossible. The dish definitely ticks the boxes when it comes to flavor and texture, something not easy for a vegetarian plate to do.
Chino MNL, G/F, One Bonifacio High, 28th Street cor. 5th Ave., Bonifacio Global City, Taguig
Tuna jaw by Savage
There are many standout dishes in the menu of Josh Boutwood’s grill restaurant, Savage, such as the deviled eggs with smoked oil and ash, and the fresh carabao cheese with confit heirloom tomatoes. But the topic of many food conversations is the grilled tuna jaw with yeast and miso topped with toasted breadcrumbs.
Savage, G/F, The Plaza, Arya Residences, McKinley Parkway, Taguig
Birthday spaghetti by Friends & Family
Both satisfying and nostalgic, this spaghetti is drenched in sweet tomato sauce, ground meat and chunky hot dog, then topped with grated cheddar cheese. It comes with warm bread and hot dog and marshmallow on a stick. It transports people back to their growing-up years.
Friends & Family, Bonifacio High Street Central, 7th Ave. cor. 30th Street, Fort Bonifacio, Taguig
Mapo tofu on wontons by Sup? Chow
It’s risky playing with familiar food as it can result in superficiality. But Francis Lim treads the thin line with finesse as he toys with Asian food and succeeds in delivering with much promise. His sweet and spicy laksa as well as char siu variants make for easy attractions, but the dish you shouldn’t miss is the mapo tofu on crispy wontons. It’s a starter that sets your meal right.
Sup? Chow, 2/F, Antel Corporate Center, Valero St., Salcedo Village, Makati
‘Pinipig’ prawns by Locavore S’Maison
A dish inspired by Singapore’s cereal prawns, Mikel Zaguirre’s playful version coats jumbo black tiger prawns with crushed pinipig and egg floss seasoned with salted egg. They are then fried in butter and served with radish pancit tossed in sesame oil and smashed fried saba banana slices to balance the rich flavors.
Known for its webbed gyoza, spicy salmon rice bowl and ramen, Ohayo recently came up with an enhanced version of its tsukemen that has people raving and coming back for more. The noodles, which are made in-house, have a slight chew while the dipping broth is rich and potent in fishy flavor, making the dish an easy lure for customers.
Ohayo Maki and Ramen Bar, 30 Granada Ave., Villa Ortigas II, Brgy. Valencia, Quezon City
Pinisik Nga Manok by Grace Park
Knocking out many beloved poultry dishes the city has to offer is this savory standout by Margarita Forés. It’s a whole chicken (which you can also order half) smothered with truffle mushroom paste then cooked in a clay pot with leeks, over a bed of salt with lemongrass. The result is a juicy, flavor bomb that will have you ignoring your favorite fried chicken—this is a healthier, cleaner-tasting dish.
Grace Park, G/F, One Rockwell, Rockwell Drive, Rockwell, Makati
Braised ‘lengua otoro’ by Seya’s Kitchen
Barely two months old and this humble restaurant is already bringing people in, wanting to try its unique takes on Filipino classics. What’s becoming Seya’s signature dish is the lengua, which uses the back end of the ox tongue, which has the most marbling. It cuts like butter, and the creamy basil-specked sauce is the type you’d want to drench your rice in—or slurp on its own.
Seya’s Kitchen, 42 Katipunan Ave., QC
‘Huevos y foie’ by Bar Pintxos
Bar Pintxos is the kind of resto that lets you indulge without passing judgment. It’s totally fine to greedily finish an order of the huevos y foie—a runny fried egg accompanied with velvety potato mash, generous servings of bacon and mushroom, and chunks of seared foie gras. We totally understand why.
Bar Pintxos, G/F, Paseo Parkview, San Agustin St., Salcedo Village, Makati
Red snapper by 12/10
You know chef Gab Bustos was inspired when he came up with their fourth anniversary menu because every dish topped the ones in the previous menu. The red snapper slices swimming in orange and tosazu are hard to forget.
12/10, 7635 Guijo St., San Antonio Village, Makati
Honey cake by Wildflour Bakery + Cafe
It’s almost a sin not to look out and sample whatever new pastry Wildflour comes up with. Its honey cake is the latest to join its ever-growing roster of notable desserts. This multilayered cake is cemented with dulce de leche frosting, top included, and speckled with cake crumble and crunchy walnuts.
Wildflour Bakery + Cafe, Rada St., Salcedo Village and Rockwell in Makati; Podium in Ortigas; and Greenhills in San Juan
‘Yukhoe’ tacos by Flame
Makati’s city view isn’t the only thing to admire at Flame. There’s also chef Luis Chikiamco’s undeniable talent, as evidenced by his dishes. Top of the list is the addicting two-bite-sized tacos filled with cubes of raw tuna lacquered in a light gochujang sauce, seaweed and pickled vegetables.
While the cocktails at Yoi are notable, it’s the food that makes the place more exciting and attractive—thanks to the intriguing marriage of Japanese and Scandinavian cuisine. There’s many to like in the menu, but one shouldn’t leave without having the tako, which is fork-tender octopus chunks sauteed in sake and finished off with havarti cheese and fermented chili oil.
Yoi, 5579 Alfonso cor. Fermina Streets, Poblacion, Makati
Lamb baklava by Noor
When you fuse Israeli flavors and European classics, you get Noor. The dish that has piqued and pleased many palates is the lamb baklava. Typically a dessert, this version, which is an entrée, has minced lamb and leeks in layers of crisp phyllo pastry. It sits on a pool of raspberry sauce and is drizzled with a tahini dressing. It’s a most welcome departure from the sweet kind.
Noor, Forbeswood Heights, Forbestown Rd., Burgos Circle, Taguig
Steak rice by Nokal
Chef Raul Fores of Made Nice Supper Club comes into his own with Nokal where he gets to serve mouthwatering versions of our favorite bar food. His cheeseburger makes for a strong contention as among the metro’s best, but the steak rice, with its reasonable price (P295), is a must-try. USDA-grade steak slices are laid beside a fried egg and on top of corn-speckled soy rice. —CONTRIBUTED