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Chinese food is easy to find in Manila with restaurants serving Chinese cuisine in most dining hotspots, malls and hotels in the city. According to chef Aileen Anastacio, who is part of this year's Nescafe Gold Spot Awards panel of judges, the best Chinese restaurant must have consistency in quality and use fresh ingredients. "I also consider the price points, ambience and authenticity of each dish," she says.
Fellow panelist Chef Him Uy de Baron agrees. "Consistency is the bane of Chinese restaurants. It's the most difficult to standardize and food is mostly based on the chef cooking for the night. The best Chinese restaurant will have great ingredients cooked just perfectly with excellent technique and precision."
Food writer and fellow judge JJ Yulo shares, "A great Chinese place should also display variety, technique and great ingredients. It helps to have a good maitre 'd who knows the menu and can suggest what's best for the day. I like places that can do staples excellently, but have no problem challenging themselves with progressive dishes."
For this year's Nescafe Gold Spot awards, five Chinese restaurants made it to the shortlist:
Choi Garden. With subdued lighting, the first floor is mainly used for shabu-shabu dining while the second floor is reserved as the fine dining area where rooms are also available for private functions. Choi Garden is famous for their pigeon dishes which should be ordered in advance, and lobster creations such as Lobster with Cheese Sauce on Noodles.
Re-opened in 2008 at the New World Hotel Makati, Jasmine serves authentic Cantonese fare with master chef Choi Wing Ki at the helm. Traditional furniture marries modern accents at Jasmine, with dark wood accents and plush seats.
Specialties include braised sea cucumber with flower mushrooms and abalone sauce in clay pot, braised eggplant filled with shrimp mousse topped with bamboo pith in chili sauce, Peking duck and abalone and bird's nest preparations.
Says Assistant Director of Food and Beverage, Javier Berenguer-Testa, "Jasmine serves fine Cantonese cuisine using prime quality and the freshest ingredients as prepared by Hongkong Master Chef Choi Wing Ki and his team. We also offer a variety of authentic dim sum, 19 selections of teas, set menus, as well as monthly specials among others. Service is formal and impeccable with Chinese Operations Manager Sharon Lim at the helm. All in all, Jasmine offers only the finest in Cantonese fare."
Located at the Hyatt Hotel and Casino in Manila, Li Li is a prime destination for business lunches and intimate family get-togethers. Li Li's foyer leads to a cozy dining area, replete with elegant Asian furniture, artwork and tasteful antique, in shades of muted browns with splashes of Oriental red and orange.
With smaller function rooms for private parties, one of which is built with a temperature-controlled glass cellar lined with the best wines around the world, Li Li offers dining without the frenetic clatter of pots and pans.
Makati Shangri-la's Chinese restaurant, Shang Palace serves authentic Cantonese cuisine with Chinese executive sous chef Raymund Yung. With regal interiors bathed in red, glittering chandeliers and wooden latticework on the walls, it is one of the most posh Chinese restaurants in town.
Su Zhou, tucked in the quiet streets of San Juan, is a small home turned into a restaurant, with mismatched chairs and Japanese lanterns adding color to the simple interiors. Known for their Xiao Long Bao or soup dumplings and tofu dishes like Tofu with Century Egg and Shredded Pork and Salt and Pepper Fried Tofu, Su Zhou serves good Chinese food without the fancy fanfare.
Which spot deserves to be named Best Chinese Restaurant? Vote now.