MANILA BY THE MOUTH­FUL

DestinAsian - - THE GUIDE -

Metro Manila’s lat­est restau­rants are blaz­ing their own culi­nary trails and set­ting the tone for a vi­brant din­ing scene. Here are six places worth seek­ing out.

The Pig­pen

Spe­cial­iz­ing in fu­sion cui­sine, this laid-back Makati venue is the brain­child of restau­ra­teur Berna Gar­riz and chefs Tri­cia Mac­don­ald and Car­los Gar­cia. The win­ning for­mula is the chefs’ use of Euro­pean culi­nary tech­niques on Asian in­gre­di­ents, cov­er­ing a wide range of dishes such as sisig pop­padum, pork-belly kim­chi, and Thai-in­spired beef brisket. The clean, con­tem­po­rary in­te­rior with in­dus­trial ac­cents makes for a lovely spot to while away a few hours, with cock­tails like the house san­gria and cala­mansi mo­jito from the res­tau­rant’s bar highly rec­om­mended ( fb.com/pig­penph).

Toyo Eatery

With chef Jordy Navarra at the helm, this pared-down space on Makati’s Chino Ro­ces Av­enue gives old Philip­pine fa­vorites the shock of the new. While Fil­ipino food purists may balk at there in­vented, semide con­structed far eat first, there’ s a good chance that they’ll be won over by oys­ters fla­vored with sugar cane wine and served on a bed of corals, a play­ful gar­den veg­etable salad that takes its cues from the folk song “Ba­hay Kubo,” and grilled loin and belly of milk­fish served with Navarra’s ren­di­tion of the break­fast sta­ple silog— us­ing sticky fried rice, dried fish skin, and raw egg yolk ( 63/917-720-8630).

Ping Pong Di­plo­macy

The cheeky name refers to one of the mile­stones of the Cold War era—the games be­tween ta­ble ten­nis play­ers from the United States and China in the early 1970s that paved the way for Pres­i­dent Richard Nixon’s visit to Beijing. As such, the lat­est es­tab­lish­ment from Charles Paw’s Taste­less Res­tau­rant Group serves up Chi­nese-Amer­i­can fare cour­tesy of chefs Him Uy de Baron and Noel Mauri­cio. Some food crit­ics have re­ferred to the food as “bas­tardized Chi­nese dishes,” but Paw takes that crit­i­cism in its stride—with quirky, fla­vor­ful items such as won­ton cheese­burger, surf and turf noo­dles, cran­ber­ries and tofu, and shu­mai yield­ing edamame and three kinds of mush­room. The res­tau­rant’s in­te­ri­ors re­flect the same sen­si­bil­ity, with a fea­ture wall that has man­nequin hands hold­ing ping pong pad­dles ( fb.com/ ping pong di­plo­macy ph ).

The Test Kitchen

Chef Josh Bout­wood brings so­phis­ti­ca­tion to each and every plate served at this reser­va­tion­sonly venue se­questered in Bistro Academy on Makati’s Ka­m­agong Street. It’s a ca­sual ser­vice af­fair with just two com­mu­nal ta­bles for 22 pa­trons—yet the im­pec­ca­bly plated six- to eight-course meals have a fine din­ing vibe. The ev­er­chang­ing sea­sonal menu rarely puts more than three in­gre­di­ents in any given dish. In­stead, Bout­wood uses mul­ti­ple tech­in­ques to play up the essence of each el­e­ment, with one ex­am­ple be­ing pan-fried duck served with car­rot puree and onion ash to rep­re­sent the fla­vors of the hunt ( thetestk­itchen@bistro.com.ph).

Lo­ca­vore

If you’re in Kapitolyo, head to chilled-out Lo­ca­vore for some hearty Fil­ipino com­fort food and a smat­ter­ing of mod­ern takes on pop­u­lar age-old clas­sics. As evinced by its moniker, the res­tau­rant takes pride in us­ing lo­cally grown, lo­cally pro­duced, and lo­cally made in­gre­di­ents for its dishes. Best­sellers here in­clude the five-hour braised bone­less le­chon (roast pork) belly, the chorizo burger, and var­i­ous in­car­na­tions of kini­law, or Fil­ipino ce­viche ( lo­ca­vore.ph).

Hook by Todd English

True to its name, Hook re­lies pri­mar­ily on fresh catch, with brassy nau­ti­cal-themed decor as a back­drop. Its cen­ter­piece is a raw bar, which dis­plays tuna, oys­ters, and other treats from the ocean. If you’re com­ing with a group, con­sider or­der­ing its three plat­ters stacked atop one an­other like an in­dul­gent, seafood-themed high tea: think Ak­lan-sourced oys­ters, scal­lop mo­toy­aki, salmon sashimi topped with ginger-scal­lion jam, and tuna poke served in a young co­conut. Mean­while, à la carte fa­vorites in­clude salted egg prawns, black­ened tuna loin, miso-glazed salmon, as well as the in­spired and ir­re­sistible pair­ing of white fish and crab-fat po­lenta ( 63-2/960-2248).

egg left:Salted Clock­wise­from byTod­dEnglish; prawn­satHook Di­plo­macy;Toyo in­sid­ePingPong of­silog. Eatery’sver­sion

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