A lovely lady holds court in New World Manila Bay’s signature Chinese restaurant
There’s a romantic tale behind one of the most ravishing restaurants in Manila. Legend has it that during a more genteel age, a gracious socialite from Hong Kong so inspired and influenced the city’s cuisine and culture, that she was honored with a restaurant that now bears her name. “Li Li” is a tribute, not only to the lady’s innate class, but to her refined taste as well.
I loved hearing that story, especially when it was told in tandem by Laurie and Loni, the two charming ladies who introduced me to the delights of Li Li. Seven years ago, I first stepped into her namesake restaurant, and was immediately smitten. Seven years later, I’ve grown to love Li Li even more. She has certainly aged well; as elegant as ever, she can now truly be considered as a timeless beauty.
Li Li, however, still retains an air of mystery, as it remains undiscovered by many. Certainly, its location in the center of the city of Manila may make it challenging to the majority used to the proximity and convenience of Makati and the BGC. The traffic and the travel may seem daunting to many, but those who take the time to make the trip will be rewarded richly. Li Li has always been recognized as one of the best Chinese restaurants in the country ever since it opened, and it is poised to become even better with the innovations of its new Executive Chinese Chef, Raymond Yeung.
The Hong Kong native has mastered the craft of Cantonese cuisine with over a quarter of a century’s experience. His excellence was recognized with the International Culinary Classic Gold Award, which he was awarded in 2009. The chef has cooked for luminaries all over Asia, including the President of Vietnam, during his sojourn in Saigon. His passion has not diminished; his excitement and enthusiasm were tangible when I met him for lunch to sample his new creations for Li Li. His “Taro Tower” is a stunner, strings of the root crop, glazed with caramel sweetness, flash fried to a perfect crispness, arranged into a delicate pyramid. Plump, fresh, and juicy prawns tossed in a mango infused mayonnaise. The highest grade Wagyu from the Saga Prefecture, the intensely marbled steak, embraced by an exotic black pepper sauce. Chef Raymond obviously adores using unconventional ingredients in his Cantonese cooking, and his creativity extends
to the stunning and stimulating touches in the plating of his specials. The man has the mind of a chef, and the soul of an artist. Li Li certainly is in good hands.
But there’s a secret I must share: about one particular item on the menu that I’ve been raving about ever since my first time to dine in Li Li back in 2010. You see, I’ve tried every pork bun in every Chinese restaurant in Metro Manila. I even used to order the most popular one from Hong Kong before it became available here in the Philippines. But here’s what I know for sure: the finest pork buns that I’ve ever had in my life? They’re right here in Li Li. Laminated dough, filled with a divine blend of sweet and spicy barbecued pork, baked to heavenly perfection. I consider them the best pork buns ever, bar none. I would love for you to agree with me, and there’s only one way to find out. It’s time to finally meet Li Li.
LI LI STILL RETAINS AN AIR OF MYSTERY, AS IT REMAINS UNDISCOVERED BY MANY.
05 LET'S EAT
1 Barbecued Pork Buns
2 Traditional Chinese Tea Service
3 Crispy Japanese Tofu
4 Golden Hakaw
5 Taro Tower
6 Chef Raymond Yeung