As the sun sets in Manila, traffic will likely confine you to dining where you are. If you’re lucky enough to find yourself in Makati, the capital’s centre of business and nightlife, enjoy breaking bread at these 10 best restaurants.
The Milkyway Café along Arnaiz Avenue is one of the best places in Metro Manila to experience traditional Filipino comfort food. Established in the 1950s, it is best known for its northern Philippine cuisine from Pampanga and their delicious home-made ice cream. Milkyway is currently headed by Chef Gamboa, the man behind their award-winning kare-kare (oxtail and peanut stew). Their purple yam ice cream is legendary. Fun fact: the Milkyway is part of a group of restaurants run by the Milkyway group, housed in a single building. Other options include Spanish, Thai and Japanese venues.
Located next to top end contemporary galleries, this restaurant presents a modern, creative take on Filipino food. It opened in 2016 under Chef Jordy Navarra, who trained at Hong Kong’s Bo Innovation and Heston Blumenthal’s The Fat Duck. It won the Miele One to Watch Award for Asia. The Toyo Eatery’s specialty is the vegetable salad named bahay kubo (or nipa hut). A bahay kubo is an indigenous square house, made from bamboo and raised on stilts – serving as an icon for rural life in the Philippines. The Garden Vegetables is another delightful dish, composed of all the vegetables from a famous folk song rendered into one wholesome plate. The vegetables are grown in Toyo Eatery’s very own garden.
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This fabulous Art Deco inspired restaurant sits inside the Nielson Tower of the old Manila International Airport. On-brand to its setting, it is named after the world’s fastest reconnaissance aircraft, the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird. The black and white interiors and grand spiral staircase make it one of the most elegant dining areas in Makati. The venue serves contemporary European and Asian cuisine. Start with their phenomenal crab cakes with green apple and radish mustard slaw, or opt for their version of scotch eggs: composed of prawns, betel leaves and coconut chilli sambal.
From Colin Mackay, the same chef that owns Black Bird, Sala is an upscale fine dining venue that focuses on contemporary European cuisine. This is a top choice if you’re looking to splurge and impress a special someone on a romantic date. Their wine list is impeccable. Pair a glass of red with their beef Carpaccio or tasty lamb shank.
Nestled inside a compound along Chino Roces Avenue in Makati, Manila’s ‘Little Tokyo’ is a treasure trove of authentic Japanese cuisine. This group of Japanese restaurants offers some of the best sushi, sashimi, and ramen in the city. Top choices are Seryna for their sushi and sashimi plates, and Izakaya Kikufuji for their compact bento lunch sets, which feature miso soup, a Japanese-style salad, sautéed vegetables, rice and your choice of fish. Go for the spicy tuna sashimi!
Just a stone’s throw from Little Tokyo, on the corner of a dated 1980s shopping center is Manila’s best-kept secret. Aida’s is famous for their affordable inasal (grilled barbeque meats). The succulent Aida’s chicken inasal is marinated in vinegar, garlic, ginger, spices and lemongrass, a must-try best paired with garlic rice. Aida’s original branch hails from Bacolod in the Visayas region, with a second Manila branch inside the Makati Cinema Square. Try their kansi: a beef broth cooked with batwan, an indigenous fruit that works as a subtle souring agent. Work off your meal and walk through the shopping center to find great bargains from an array of thrift stores. There are also good contemporary galleries like The Underground, Kanto and Eskinita gallery in the same building.
Tucked along a quiet side street in Legazpi Village is Ranjit Chimni’s Mantra. After working in the BPO (business process outsourcing) industry for the past 15 years, he quit his desk job and opened his dream restaurant inside the Grand Midori building. Now, two-and-a-half years later, the restaurant (headed by two chefs from India) is buzzing – with people flocking over for their tandoori-centric dishes from North India. Try the mutton seekh kebab, paired with butter naan and mint chutney. If you like spice, make sure to instruct the cook, as the heat is turned down for the local Filipino palate. Cocktails and drinks are offered at Mantra’s tapas bar if you’re looking for smaller sized plates.
Found inside the Discovery Primea, Tapenade is the go-to place if you’re longing for an Italian or Mediterranean fix. Their mouthwatering stone baked feta cheese with tomatoes, capers, honey, and Greek Metaxa brandy is, in one word, heavenly. Tapenade has its own Salad Room, offering a huge selection of homegrown and imported greens, salad dressings, preserved meats, and oysters. There is a daily breakfast buffet, which can come in handy before a full-on day of sightseeing in Manila.
If you’re looking to have a meal after a long night out, Hummus Elijah is one of the only restaurants in Makati that remains open for all 48 hours of the weekend. It is also home to the best falafels, pita wraps and hummus in town.
Originally founded in Siargao, the surf capital of the Philippines, Kermit is home to some of the best pizzas in the country. Its second branch recently opened in Poblacion and has managed to maintain its laid-back island vibe. You can choose from a tempting array of toppings before your pizza is cooked in an imported Italian brick oven. The parma ham, mozzarella, and peppers are always a hit.