Your balikbayan relatives and friends are starting to get excited… They have been hitting the outlet malls and groceries and have started to throw things into open balikbayan boxes in their living rooms weeks before their scheduled departure for home. They are making lists of groceries they are going to cart home. In this modern technology age, internet orders are arriving at their doors as pabilins make their way to their maletas. Many are dreaming of landing on Philippine soil soon and hugging loved ones who they haven’t seen in months or perhaps even years. The airports will be a crush, the traffic a nightmare, the pollution thick and oppressive, the malls packed to the gills, the service personnel rant worthy, but who cares, it is the Christmas holidays and you are BACK HOME in the Philippines! So besides all the great meals at home, where are you most likely to take your Balikbayan guests to breakfast, lunch or dinner?? Please post your favorite restaurants or food destinations so that readers abroad can take note and hopefully have a better idea of where to go during their always too brief visit home… My list is incredibly deficient, since we eat out so rarely, so I am hoping readers will oblige and fill it out a bit. Particularly missing are good solidly pinoy restaurants, good for crowds, and located across the Metro Manila area and majore cities across the country…
Personally, we don’t eat out THAT much since we tend to cook a lot at home, but here are some of Marketman’s recommendations for visiting balikbayans, in random order:
1. Milky Way Cafe – Pasay Road, Makati. Pinoy classics done well. They have some slight twists to the dishes that are refreshing and delicious. Their fried catfish? served with bracing mustasa salad is to die for. They are in the same building as El Cirkulo (good Spanish food), and two Japanese restaurants Tsukiji (wicked expensive) and Azumaya (ramen) that we also like.
2. Balikbayan Handicrafts – Pasay Road, Makati. Cheesy name. Not an eating place, but nice selection of handicrafts and excellent staff. This is a properly run store. Reasonably priced. Take home more of those blasted abaca placemats and some nice acacia (farmed, daw) wooden bowls, at 1/3rd or 1/5th the price at Pottery Barn.
3. All of Margarita Fores’ outlets – Pepato, Cibo or Cafe Bola, across Manila. I love all of them.
4. At Serendra, Fort Bonifacio, Taguig, definitely Mamou for a brilliant steak. Also try Abe’s, Gaudi’s and Chelsea Cafe (the latter erratic). For sweets in the same mall, hit Marta’s Cakes, Cupcakes by Sonja and Miss Desserts cheesecake wonders next door. Avoid Xocolat’s deconstructed tira misu…it is the dopey-est thing I have eaten this year. Their hot chocolate is good, however.
5. People’s Palace for Thai Food at Greenbelt 3?
6. The small new SALA restaurant at the Locsin Building at the corner of Ayala and Makati Avenues.
7. Antonio’s in Tagaytay for a superb all-around meal, but western fare.
8. Lolo Dad’s near Taft Avenue.
9. For totally over the top, Old Manila at the Peninsula. It’ll burn a hole in your pocket but it is fine dining in a much more tranquil atmosphere.
10. Galileo Enoteca in Mandaluyong and Pasong Tamo locations for hearty well priced Italian food.
11. Salcedo, Legaspi, Lung Center, FTI AANI Taguig and other weekend markets for kakanins and other pinoy specialties. Order from home bakers/cooks in The Little Brown Book for hundreds of great food delicacies you may have a taste for during the holidays.
12. Hit Ongpin Street in Chinatown for tablea, fruit, groceries, and great Chinese food, several restaurants will fit the bill; look up Ivan Man Dy for a tour of the area. Also look up Carlos Celdran for brilliant tours of Intramurous and other Manila locations.
13. Blue Kitchen, Rockwell and Shangrila Mall, Mandaluyong, the ultimate repository of Pinoy favorites like bottled tuyo, baked goods, etc.
14. Via Mare for merienda…
15. Mickey’s Deli on Jupiter Street Makati, Terry’s Deli on Pasong Tamo, Makati and at the basement of Podium Mall in Mandaluyong
16. Tiendesitas food hall on C5, near the corner of Ortigas Avenue, Pasig.
For Balikbayans who are smart enough not to cart a whole lot of stuff back that you could have purchased here instead, travel light and make a quick raid on the following stores for “PX” goods, just as good as buying it in the U.S. — S&R Stores in four locations for tons of chocolates and other foodstuff and gift items, Metro Grocery at Market!Market! for unusual de latas and other imported food items, Landmark grocery and even large SM supermarkets!
I will keep adding to this list as I think about our other personal favorites…but please, Manila-based readers, add your comments so that foreign-based Marketmanila readers have a lengthy list of places to eat at or purchase food from this holiday season… Let the comments begin! Thank you very much!