Best of Manila: 50 Great Restaurants of 2018

Our list of the most noteworthy food destinations of 2018.

ILLUSTRATION Warren Espejo

(SPOT.ph) As it's been in the past few years, the Metro Manila food scene in 2018 saw plenty of sleek concepts sitting comfortably alongside more casual homegrown eateries. Whichever side of the spectrum they fall on, there's one thing they have in common: the ambition to deliver an experience that's meant to keep you coming back. We’ve rounded up the most remarkable local food destinations of 2018. Is your favorite on the list?

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Restaurants are listed alphabetically. This list has been limited to restaurants that opened between December 2017 and December 2018.

Also read:
Best of Manila: 50 Great Restaurants of 2017
Best of Manila: 50 Great Restaurants of 2016

Here are some of the best places to visit for an epic food trip in Manila:

% Arabica

G/F W City Center, 7th Avenue corner 30th Street, Bonifacio Global City
Contact: 821-6744

PHOTO BY Jericho San Miguel
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PHOTO BY Jericho San Miguel

For espresso-based drinks that’ll keep you up all day, head over to % Arabica in BGC. This brightly lit café from Japan is known for their minimalist décor and menu, which puts the spotlight on coffee done with precision—like most things Japanese. Their best-selling Spanish Latte is a delicate blend of espresso, milk, and a dash of condensed milk to add a hint of sweetness without sacrificing that rich coffee taste. They’ve got pastries and sandwiches, too, like the Choco Nut Cookie, with a crunchy crust and chewy chocolate center, best eaten warm.

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Must-tries: Spanish Latte, Choco Nut Cookie

205

C2 U/G High Street Central, Bonifacio Global City
Contact: 0917-858-1942, 759-4827

PHOTO BY Toto Labrador
PHOTO BY Toto Labrador
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When a hotel lounge and a well-designed coffee shop decide that they want to have a baby, 205 is apparently what emerges. However, the would-be price tag is mercifully left out of that gene pool. You can, against your conservative great aunt’s advice, keep things both casual and classy—this place is proof. Their mac and cheese isn’t called The Best Damn Mac & Cheese for nothing; it’s a beautiful combination of all the things you love about the Americanized pasta dish. Bonus points for custom cocktails at P350!

Must-tries: The Best Damn Mac & Cheese, Breakfast Pizza

BCN

Unit G10, Bolanos Street, Legazpi Village, Makati City
Contact: 0966-331-1352

PHOTO BY Patrick Martires
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PHOTO BY Patrick Martires

With several Spanish restaurants under their belt, it’s safe to say that Bistronomia (formerly La Lola Group) has the cuisine down pat. One of their new concepts for 2018 was BCN, the group’s homage to their home city, Barcelona. At BCN, expect Spanish fare that's hard to find anywhere else, like Arroces a La Leña or rice dishes baked in a charcoal oven—the Arroz de Bogavante a La Parrilla is a standout. It’s almost impossible to look away from an entire grilled lobster that sits atop this cast iron pan of rice. Another impressive dish is the Foie Mi Cuit Con Calabaza y Yogurt, which features an impressive symphony of savory-rich, tart, and an almost heady sweetness in a single bite.

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Must-tries: Arroz de Bogavante a La Parrilla, Foie Mi Cuit Con Calabaza y Yogurt

Borough

UG/F C2 Bonifacio High Street Central, 7th Avenue, Bonifacio Global City

PHOTO BY Hans Fausto
PHOTO BY Hans Fausto
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From a moody, pub-like atmosphere, Borough has evolved into a more polished restaurant inspired by New York City’s trendy vibe and cuisine. Along with the makeover, Chef Cuit Kaufman introduced new dishes to the menu, while maintaining old favorites. Don’t worry, the grilled cheese sandwich is still there, but a definite must-try is the Apple Cranberry Stuffed Pork Chops: the inch-thick, bone-in pork chop is served with a side of mashed potatoes and cranberry-apple brioche stuffing. It's like having a celebratory meal any time of the year. 

Must-tries: Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup, Apple Cranberry Stuffed Pork Chops, Mom’s Milk and Cookies

Café Ysabel

175 M. Paterno Street, Barangay Pasadena, San Juan City
Contact: 725-5089

PHOTO BY Majoy Siason
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PHOTO BY Majoy Siason

Café Ysabel is no stranger to this kind of restaurant round-up, especially with 36 years under their belt, but they still deserve a spot on 2018’s list for a successful relaunch. It seemed almost impossible for this legendary restaurant to stay closed for long—when they first announced that they were closing back in December 2016, they were met with loud protests and nostalgic sadness as the memories and stories flooded in. In May, Café Ysabel finally reopened in a new ancestral home a stone’s throw away from their old location, keeping some of their old paintings, fixtures, and vintage charm. The menu is still the same, but if Café Ysabel has proven anything in the decades that they’ve been open, it’s that they’re never ones to fear change.

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Must-tries: Spaghetti With Angry Sauce, Strawberry Shortcake

Caffeined by Artesania

910 Arnaiz Avenue, Makati City
Contact: 0908-890-9593

PHOTO BY Ian Santos
PHOTO BY Ian Santos
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Who would think that you’d find a cozy café inside a furniture showroom, of all places? Here, coffee-shop campers can have a bite or two alongside the furniture pieces and art on display. While taking a break from shopping, you can savor the homey ambience of the café, along with the food. Caffeined’s spacious kitchen cooks up mouthwatering starters and mains, with one notable dish being the oil-based Mushroom Truffle Pasta, which is made with fresh tagliatelle, enoki and button mushrooms, prosciutto, and asparagus. It’s not the usual cream-based dish, making it a light but tasty meal.

Must-tries: Mushroom Truffle Pasta, Seafood Aglio Olio, Miso Glazed Salmon

Camp Curry

Ayala Triangle Gardens, Paseo de Roxas Street corner Ayala Avenue, Makati City

PHOTO BY Ian Santos
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PHOTO BY Ian Santos

Very rarely do we encounter an “order literally anything” sort of restaurant, but here we are. Chef Takashi Sato and the team behind Camp Curry are committed to their outdoorsy aesthetic, but even more so to the versatility and quality of the food they serve. Not even their utensils are half-assed—they’re at least vaguely (adorably) shovel-shaped. If you’re wondering what to get, the BBQ Chicken & Chunky Vegetables is a go-to for many, with juicy chicken meat complemented by crunchy, cooked-just-right veggies, while the Red Bisque Curry sauce is a hot dish you wouldn't soon forget.

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Must-tries: Pork Belly with Chunky Vegetables, Red Bisque Curry, BBQ Chicken & Chunky Vegetables

Chuck’s Deli

4636 J. Molina Street, Poblacion, Makati City
Contact: 0917-620-1047

PHOTO BY Majoy Siason
PHOTO BY Majoy Siason
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While Chuck’s Deli had a pretty loyal following when they closed in 2011, the seven-year break was exactly what the shop needed to give themselves a much-needed refresh. They’ve scaled down their operations to just one branch in Poblacion, opting for an edgier, industrial-inspired aesthetic that was the right fit for the cool district. The sandwiches are the same chunky creations that regulars fell in love with, but they’ve done away with the hotdogs and burgers to focus on what they did best. The Buffy is still a crowd favorite—there’s really no way to resist a sandwich stuffed with thick chunks of buffalo sauce-covered crispy chicken. The Faking Duck is back, too, and its Peking duck-esque hoisin sauce-coated roast-pork slices are the only trick we’d happily fall for every time. So, yes, Chuck’s Deli is still the same, with a few tweaks here and there. One of our favorite additions? Their milkshakes, which now come topped with toasted marshmallow fluff.

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Must-tries: The Buffy, The Faking Duck

Cicchetti

8/F MDI Corporate Center, 10th Avenue corner 39th Street, Bonifacio Global City
Contact: 987-4756, 0917-321-4756

PHOTO BY Jericho San Miguel
PHOTO BY Jericho San Miguel
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Tucked away on the eighth floor of a high-rise office and commercial space in BGC is Cicchetti. Chef Alec Santos, who spent time in the kitchen of Michelin-starred Carbone in New York, is known for straightforward cooking that delivers comforting flavors, so it’s no surprise he’s helming the kitchen of this new Italian restaurant. But apart from the usual pasta-and-pizza roster, Cicchetti focuses on small bites similar to Spanish tapas, otherwise called cicchetti, as the restaurant’s name suggests. Start by ordering the Carne Cruda, or savory Italian steak tartare laid on crunchy buttered crostini—we’re sure you’d end up finishing the whole plate to yourself.

Must-tries: Carne Cruda, Crab and Ricci

Da Gianni

Westgate Hub Alabang, Alabang, Muntinlupa City

PHOTO BY Hans Fausto
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PHOTO BY Hans Fausto

A perfect middle ground for Italian tradition and Filipino culinary intuition (you know most of us have it), Da Gianni is, on its own, a heartwarming tale of a dear old fellow who never forgot his roots. The menu—not the restaurantis pretty cheesy, and in the best way. Take, for example, their Quattro Formaggi, a delectable thin-crust pizza topped with gorgonzola, pecorino, mozzarella, and provolone. And did we mention the generous dollops of grated truffle? We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: It may be in Alabang, but it’s worth the drive (for North folks, that is).

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Must-tries: Formaggio Tomino, Quattro Formaggi

Ebi10

Tambai Alley, 5779 Felipe Street, Poblacion, Makati City
Contact: 956-7816

PHOTO BY Ian Santos
PHOTO BY Ian Santos
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Stroll around Poblacion and you might chance upon a narrow pathway that will lead you to one of the newest additions at Tambai Alley—Ebi 10. Inspired by the tempura bars in Osaka, this hole-in-the-wall has an open kitchen behind the bar-like counter and a colorful, comic-style mural that livens up the small space. See how they do tempura the right way and sample its light and crisp coating, or customize your own tempura basket by ordering any flavor by the piece. Complete your meal with other Japanese favorites like sashimi, fried rice, and stir-fried noodles.

Must-tries: Jumbo Shrimp, Ebi 10 Chahan, Bacon Yakisoba

Elbert’s Sandwich Shop

Level R2, Power Plant Mall, Rockwell, Makati City
Contact: 621-6751

PHOTO BY Erika Dizon
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PHOTO BY Erika Dizon

Alabang regulars know them as “Elbert’s Sandwiches,” but even with a new name, Elbert’s Sandwich Shop still serves up the same amazing cheesesteak sandwiches that we could argue are some of the best in Manila. The move to Power Plant Mall is actually a return to their roots—their first shop, Elbert’s Cheesesteak Sandwiches, used to be located here, too—and their menu has been pared down to just the classics with a few twists. Though, once you have their Cheddar Cheesesteak with its generously buttered rolls, tender steak strips, grilled onions, and loads of melted cheese, it’s impossible to think of anything else. If you do feel the need to shop around though, have the House Burger, which is as classic as it can get with a messily juicy beef patty sandwiched between two toasted buns with fresh tomatoes, lettuce, and grilled onions.

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Must-tries: Cheddar Cheesesteak, House Burger

Essential Goodness, For The Pilgrims

13/F of Lub d Hostel, Makati Avenue, Poblacion, Makati City

PHOTO BY Erika Dizon
PHOTO BY Erika Dizon
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From the same brains behind now-defunct Hey Handsome comes what might be one of the chilliest new spots in Poblacion. Sure, their name is a mouthful and a tad too hard to remember, but this breakfast nook’s no-frills brunch dishes will leave you thinking about it for days to come. Essential Goodness, For The Pilgrims opens as early as 6 a.m. to feed the hungry breakfast crowd, and closes late for people who wish to do a little pre-game drinking at its al-fresco bar while taking in the glistening view of the Makati skyline. They’ve got all the, well, essentials—from a classic peanut butter and jelly sandwich, to homey -silogs and even Western-style steak and fries. The place gets full fast so it’s better to reserve a table in advance!

Must-tries: Essential Breakfast, House Peanut & Jelly Toasted Sandwich, Wagyu Grilled Steak and Fries

Extra Virgin

G/F Milano Residences, Century City, Makati City
Contact: 0956-948-2635, 0921-529-2245

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PHOTO BY Vincent Coscolluela
PHOTO BY Vincent Coscolluela
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It’s really just easier (and, dare we say, more productive) to head on over to Extra Virgin than to try and say “I love olive oil” 10 times fast. Who even does that? In any case, it’s a hub of culture; Chef Mark Buhain puts his French techniques to the test on Italian food, resulting in comforting food that’s plated like you aren’t meant to eat it. Case in point: Their Countryside Porchetta—crunchy roasted pork belly atop golden-brown baked potatoes. Don’t forget to order the Cannoli, a pleasant revival from the chef’s previous and now-defunct restaurant on Shaw Boulevard, Cantina Sicilianita.

Must-tries: Countryside Porchetta, Cannoli

Flossom Kitchen + Café

G/F Flossom Place, N. Averilla Street, San Juan City
Contact: 356-6900

PHOTO BY Majoy Siason
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PHOTO BY Majoy Siason

It’s hard to imagine an airy, relaxed space in Metro Manila, but that’s what Flossom Kitchen + Café provides. This is not a place where you can just stop by and be out the door in less than an hour; this is where you spend x hours thinking about how #blessed you are. Classic dishes are given a personal twist by those who run the show, none of which we can reasonably contest—just like the Buffalo Mac & Cheese, with spicy-tangy Buffalo chicken tenders laying on a bed of gooey, cheesy, and saucy macaroni. 

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Must-tries: Ube Champorado, Buffalo Mac & Cheese

Gaja

8445 Kalayaan Avenue, Makati City

PHOTO BY Hans Fausto
PHOTO BY Hans Fausto
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All things Korean may sound like cultural overkill at this point, but Gaja takes the little we know of our neighbor and turns that on its own head. The classic Korean flavors are ever-present, but the techniques and methods are modern; this is also reflected in the restaurant’s art. This might not be the place for traditionalists or purists, but this is definitely where you’d go if you’re looking for a familiar yet heightened experience. For first timers, the Kimbap Aburi is a no-brainer—with all that gooey cheese covering their hand-rolled kimbap, who can resist?

Must-tries: Kimbap Aburi, Osam

Gallery by Chele

5/F CLIPP Center, 11th Street corner 39th Street, Bonifacio Global City
Contact: 218-3895

PHOTO BY Marikit Singson
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PHOTO BY Marikit Singson

It was a shock when Gallery VASK announced that it was closing its doors early in 2018. The restaurant by Chef Chele Gonzalez was a favorite among many of Manila’s most discerning diners, and it was on the list of Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants in 2017. In May, it reincarnated as Gallery by Chele—younger, hipper, with a cocktail bar to boot—and bid goodbye to its modern Spanish menu. The restaurant offers a variety of tasting courses and à-la-carte dishes that champions locally sourced ingredients. The Pulpo Inasal is one dish you shouldn’t miss for its fork-tender grilled octopus slathered in a familiar inasal marinade.

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Must-tries: Pulpo Inasal, Tomato Mochi, Tiger’s Milk

Half Saints

62 Sergeant Esguerra Avenue, Diliman, Quezon City
Contact: 0935-933-0512

PHOTO BY Majoy Siason
PHOTO BY Majoy Siason
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One of the best-looking cafés to open this year, Half Saints is the brainchild of an all-female group—hence, the femininity-inspired art installation of intricately woven ropes that serves as the focal point of the minimalist coffee shop’s design. The rest of Half Saints is just as well thought-out, with a menu inspired by owner Christine Roque’s rich personal history, which includes studying for a Masters degree in Costa Rica aside from her frequent travels as a journalist. For a taste of these multi-cultural influences, have the Chicharron Teriyaki, which combines her love for Japan and her Tarlac roots in one explosive dish. No visit is complete without having their Puff Pizza—puff pastry as pizza crust is a buttery revelation that may just turn you into a crust lover.

Must-tries: Chicharron Teriyaki, Shiitake, Goat Cheese, and Balsamic Vinegar Puff Pizza

Hawker Chan

G/F Entertainment Mall, SM Mall of Asia Complex, Pasay City

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PHOTO BY Majoy Siason
PHOTO BY Majoy Siason
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Curiosity will make you want to line up for the much-raved about chicken rice at Hawker Chan, the most affordable Michelin-starred restaurant in the world. From a simple hawker stall in Singapore, it has now branched out across Asia and Australia, making their famous Soya Sauce Chicken a quick go-to for fans. The branch at SM MOA is simple and casual, and although their cuisine may seem such, it’s tastier than it looks. Whether you get the chicken with rice or noodles, you’ll fall in love with the sweet-savory glaze coating the glistening chicken skin atop its tender meat. Looking to spice it up? Add some sambal sauce to give it another layer of flavor.

Must-tries: Soya Sauce Chicken with Rice, Soya Sauce Chicken with Noodles, Char Siu

Katherine’s Café

G/F Ayala Malls Vertis North, Bagong Pag-Asa, Quezon City
Contact: 0917-776-0928

PHOTO BY Toto Labrador
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PHOTO BY Toto Labrador

Find the comforts of home at Katherine’s Café, a cheery concept that doesn’t hold back on the interiors or food. Take in their bright and contemporary décor with indoor plants as you browse through the comprehensive 40-page menu that is basically a collection of family recipes. The café has something for every indecisive diner, but a sure hit would be the Waffle and Chicken, where the cereal- and oats-crusted chicken has a hint of sweet barbecue and is served with golden-brown waffles that come with whipped butter and maple syrup.

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Must-tries: Waffle and Chicken, Seafood Pot Pie, Banana Chocolate Pudding

Kermit Manila

4636 Molina Street, Poblacion, Makati City
Contact: 0917-625-6773

PHOTO BY Hans Fausto
PHOTO BY Hans Fausto
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It was on every foodie’s bucket list to try Siargao’s cult-favorite pizza (or as Condé Nast Traveler declared, “what might be the pizza in the country”), especially with limited flights to the island. But it seems that fate was on everybody’s side when Kermit Manila finally decided to open in the Metro—in hip Poblacion no less. Now you don’t need to travel far to try their famous brick-oven pizza, which you can also opt to customize. You’ll love the Cloud 9 Pizza, with a chewy crust and the saltiness of Parma ham balanced by earthy mushroom and creamy gorgonzola.

Must-tries: Cloud 9 Pizza, Sabang Calzone

Loco Manuk

5072 SGC Building, P. Burgos corner B. Valdez Street, Poblacion, Makati City
Contact: 0977-795-5661

PHOTO BY Majoy Siason
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PHOTO BY Majoy Siason

Loco Manuk is one of those restaurants that seem like Instagram bait—every corner of their second-floor dining area is decorated in murals, posters, and knickknacks that are sure to get any IG junkie snapping away. But they do it better than everyone else by following through with genuinely good food. Lots of work goes into their signature Wood Roasted Chicken, which gets its mildly fruity and smokey notes from a 50-50 blend of kaimito and mahogany wood. The rest of the dishes on the menu are fun and tasty takes on Peruvian and Asian cuisine: The BBQ Spareribs is fall-off-the-bone tender, which contrasts wonderfully with the toasted sweet-spicy caramel crust.

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Must-tries: Wood Roasted Chicken; BBQ Spareribs, Szechuan Caramel & Fried Garlic

Kam’s Roast

3/F SM Mega Fashion Hall, Ortigas, Mandaluyong City

PHOTO BY Majoy Siason
PHOTO BY Majoy Siason
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