(SPOT.ph) Say “date” and what comes to mind by default likely involves (at least) two people in a romantic light. Which is fine and dandy, but at the end of the day, it’s how you regard yourself that matters the most. Enter the idea of a solo date, which has benefits whatever your status is in the relationships department. Solitude is beautiful, for starters, and taking yourself out for funsies is a great way to get to know yourself better. You get to cultivate that sense of self-love (a very human need!)—or at the very least, get the chance to recharge before facing the rest of the world again. In the context of dining out, going alone also lets you focus on the food and eat slowly and mindfully—sans the distractions of having to socialize or make small talk in the middle of downing a burger.
Now, given Filipino society's primarily communal nature, not all restos are equally conducive to this task; too many places are too loud, too huge, too overwhelming, or simply serve too-large portions. (Which are great when you're sharing—not so much when you're a lone diner looking to get the most variety for your buck without having to eat the same leftovers over and over again the whole week.) We hear ya. We’ve rounded up places you can troop to for great food and a great setting with your best date yet: you.
Also read: Savoring Solitude: The Case for Solo Dining
Go on a solo date at these must-visit restaurants in and around Manila:
Tasting menus are perfect for solo diners; they’re priced and plated individually, for starters, but also, not having companions to distract you means you can really focus on the chef’s story and the food. Alegria Manila is one establishment to try. Young chef Charles Montañez combines his Filipino background, love for Latin-American cuisine, and penchant for parilla cooking to come up with a sublime degustation (P2,600/five courses, P3,595/seven courses, P5,400/full course) that satisfies physically, mentally, maybe even spiritually. Standout entries include the Pao de Quiejo with quesillo cheese and huitlacoche; the Elote with Cordilleran baby corn, smoked Baguio strawberries, and popped quinoa for crunch; and the Bistek Tagalog that’s lent plenty of depth by fermented shallots and black garlic.
Alegria Manila is at G/F Uptown Parade, Uptown Bonifacio, 9th Avenue Corner 38th Street, Taguig City.
Sometimes you just wanna do away with the frills and stuff yourself with tacos. No shame in that. Lagrima makes some of the best in town, no cap—and you can get them by the piece at this joint (and pace yourself as per your fullness levels). For your taco base you can choose between the Street (P120) with soft tortillas with onions and cilantro; Gringa (P140) a.k.a. the Street plus cheese; or Crunchy (P140) with a hard shell, refried beans, cabbage, salsa crema, and cheese. From there you can choose from their winning fillings (in their words, “feelings”)—which include the Carnitas or pork shoulder confit, Kimchi Asada or grilled Kitayama beef with kimchi, and Papas or sweet potato with butter.
Lagrima is at 8488 Trabajo Street, Barangay Olympia, Makati City and 192 Wilson corner Aras Streets, San Juan City.
This modern izakaya originally located on Guijo street recently reopened in Rockwell. It’s well worth sitting at the bar (which is kept open for walk-ins on a first-come, first-serve basis) and chatting with their ever-friendly and knowledgeable team with your tipple of choice, like the Suntory Sui gin-based Acid Betty (P430) with or Cazadores Tequila Reposado-spiked Yakuza (P720), to keep you company. Don’t forget their signature small plates that feature Japanese flavors in a contemporary light. The Salmon Kushiyaki (P260) is a bomb of crisp cornflakes and succulent, subtly smoky fish, while the Uni Toast (P190) balances out the seafood’s richness with chicken liver, pineapple, and zingy shiso. There's also the Wagyu (P1,450) grilled to tender perfection and paired with leek, uni, and cauliflower.
12/10 is at 8 Rockwell, G/F Lopez Drive, Rockwell Center, Makati City.
Yakiniku might traditionally—some would argue inherently—be communal in nature, but sometimes you’ve just gotta sate the craving for grilled meat minus Tita Tess breathing down your neck about when you're having kids. Yakiniku Like is the lone-diner friendly antithesis to other Japanese barbecue restos; they’ve got a solo-grilling option with just-right portions (and prices) of meat and even a smaller solo grill. Prices start at P89 for 100 grams if you go ala carte, and P199 for sets with rice, kimchi or salad, and soup.
Yakiniku Like! is at L/2 South Entertainment Mall, SM Mall of Asia, Pasay City.
Ramen is pretty much the ultimate solo-eater food; it’s almost frowned upon to share a bowl or take home leftovers, and most ramen-ya in Japan would have a bar area where lone diners can slurp away. Such is the case for Marudori’s Salcedo Village branch (formerly occupied by sibling ramen resto Mendokoro), which has a distinct horseshoe-shaped dining area that acts similar to a bar table, with all diners facing front and the kitchen in the center. Of course, the real highlight here is the hearty paitan ramen that delivers the full-on richness of chicken, whether you go for the simpler Shio (P430), the smokier Shoyu (460), or the one-of-a-kind Special Tomato Tantanmen. Marudori also has a branch in Rockwell with a different setup (a bar area is present nevertheless).
Marudori is at G/F V Corporate Center, Soliman Street, Salcedo Village, Makati City and G/F 8 Rockwell, Hidalgo Drive, Rockwell Center, Makati City.
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Al-fresco settings are especially conducive to moments of solitude; you can’t beat sitting with your thoughts and ruminat—er, reflecting—in the company of nature and fresh air. Add flavorful eats and sips to the mix (many of the balanced sort that won’t leave you too too stuffed after!) and you’ve got the perfect recipe for some much-needed me time. Café Guilt gives you just that. Bring a book and catch up on some reading with one of their coffee drinks by your side, like the Oat Latte (P180) or Amadeo Hot Choco (P160). Or, you could honor your hunger with their savory plates of the likes of Javanese Beef Ribs with Harang Spice (P495) and Smoked Salmon Salad (P520).
Café Guilt is at Scout Castor corner Scout Reyes Streets, Quezon City.
This fine-dining spot in Alabang is intimate in size, seating just 10 to 15 diners at a time. Come for the tasting menu, of course, which showcases the cooking of Chefs Carlos Garcia and Jorn Fonseca of The Black Pig and Fiddle Leaf, along with executive sous chef Lea Malagamba. The team is all about letting fresh ingredients shine and playing with flavor combos while they’re at it. Some of the courses on their current tasting menu are the Salmon Canapé with applewood and cured ikura; Threadfin Bream with seaweed gremolata and a tomato consommé; and the SRF Wagyu Gold Striploin with black garlic.
Tiago’s is at Somerset Hotel Alabang, Filinvest City, 3409 Spectrum Midway Extension, Alabang, Muntinlupa City.
Bar by EAST
We know, we know, drinking alone gets a not-so-great rep thanks to all those sappy movie scenes tying it to loneliness and heartbreak. Well, forget those clichés and head down to Bar by EAST in Marikina. Its low-key location makes it an introvert’s paradise, and the music’s at just the right level that your senses are awakened without it interrupting your internal dialogue. The bartenders and staff are more than happy to answer any questions, even build you your own customized tipple as you please—though you can’t go wrong with their signatures, like the gin- and vodka-based Litchi (P380) with jasmine and lychee, and the cleverly named Bear By East (P350) made with gummy bear-infused vodka.
Bar By EAST is at Lamp Quarters, Mayor Gil Fernando Avenue, Marikina City.
There’s no reason you can’t dance solo—if not on the literal dance floor, then at least by taking your taste buds out for a spin at Rumba. Headed by Spanish chef Alfredo Rodriguez Sangrador, this Mediterranean dining spot features primarily Spanish flavors with some Italian, Green, and French elements joining in too; think Pulpo a la Brasa (P1,195) dresses grilled octopus with a garlicky bagna gauda sauce, a Tataki de Atun (P895) or tuna tataki enriched with avocado and aji camarillo mayo, and a deeply savory Negra Con Gambas (P1,595) paella. Their serving sizes are generally just right for one or two, so you can sample more without feeling compelled to take home too many leftovers.
Rumba is at G/F The Shops at Ayala Triangle Gardens, Paseo de Roxas corner Makati Avenue, Makati City.
Takao Studios Coffee
For the ultimate solo date, why not throw in some solo travel action into the mix? It doesn’t have to be some grand flight to the Maldives, either; consider taking a weekend off and driving to Takao Studios Coffee in Tagaytay. For starters, there’s the view—a picturesque sight of the lake, not to mention the greenery and fresh air that come with its being located on the rooftop of Cabins by Eco Hotel. But it’s the food that’ll make you stay. Their donburi (rice bowls), of course, are especially solo diner-friendly; the Spicy Horumon Don (P300) is bound to satisfy with its topping of pork and beef offal and an egg to boot. Pair that with an order or two of their cocktails (like the Sushi Gari Highball, P300), or go for a cup of joe to annihilate those worries before the long drive home.
Takao Studios Coffee is at Cabins by Eco Hotel, Tagaytay-Nasugbu Highway, Silang Junction South, Tagaytay City, Cavite.
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