A culinary renaissance is afoot in Manila
Locals once dismissed traditional Filipino cuisine as not being restaurant-worthy, depriving visitors of a chance to sample the Philippines’ multi-faceted dishes, while international restaurants stuck to the safe and stodgy. Happily, those days are over, and exciting chefs are putting Manila on the culinary map, where it belongs.
From a relaxing pre-dinner drink in the restaurant's ever-changing private art gallery to the personal attention from the chefs and staff of the modern yet cosy 20-seat dining room, an evening at Gallery Vask is unlike any other. It comes as no surprise that a chef with the pedigree of Chele Gonzalez's is cooking at the country's only restaurant to make the prestigious Asia's 50 Best Restaurants list. Using techniques honed at El Celler de Can Roca and El Bulli, Gonzalez transforms humble Filipino dishes into culinary masterpieces infusing local flavours with modern cooking techniques and ingredients.
Purple Yam Melate
Eating at Purple Yam Melate is a bit like having dinner at a friend's house. There's a good reason for that: the restaurant is located in the house where co-owner Amy Besa grew up. The menu here changes depending on the market and the whims of the chef. A pumpkin soup is garnished with palapa, a piquant relish typical of Maguindanao in the Muslim south. Maya maya, a type of snapper, comes simply roasted or lightly fried to highlight the freshness of the fish, but is served with a dizzying array of condiments. Dessert if you're lucky will be chesa tikoy, a sticky rice snack topped with mashed ube, the purple yam that gives the restaurant its name and a childhood favourite of Besa's.
Toyo is the Tagalog word for soy sauce, an omnipresent ingredient in Filipino cooking that is easily taken for granted but that lends dishes their characteristic richness and depth. Chef Jordy Navarra of Toyo Eatery reflects that balance throughout his menu, hitting all the right notes with reworked Filipino classics like silog, Filipino fried rice, given a kick with dried tuna roe; grilled mackerel cooked in homemade butter and subtly soured with guava, kamias fruit and tamarind leaf; and the moist, almost gooey cassava cake that comes out of an old-fashioned charcoal oven before being given a final char on the grill.
This gorgeous restaurant located at the former terminal building of Phillippines’ first airport offers all-day dining. Chef Colin Mackay's menu draws inspiration from around the globe. Burrata, mozzarella's creamy cousin, is locally sourced and paired with peperonata, marinated sweet peppers; scotch quail eggs rolled in minced prawn sit on a betel leaf with mildly spiced sambal; and a selection of grilled seafood gets Vietnamese nuoc cham dipping sauce and pink peppercorns mixed with salt. Some of the desserts served at Blackbird were already popular when the then-airport opened, like sticky toffee pudding and baked Alaska.