50 Local Restaurants We Can't Live Without

We can't imagine the Metro without these places.

metro manila restaurants
PHOTO BY Marikit Singson/Spot.ph archives, Gallery by Chele, Vincent Coscolluela/Spot.ph archives, Hans Fausto/Spot.ph archives ILLUSTRATION Warren Espejo

(SPOT.ph) When you’re not feasting on your mom’s famous adobo cooked with love over her stove, you’re dining out—or, to make it more pandemic-appropriate, ordering from your favorite restaurant. Obviously it hardly needs to be said that Filipinos love food, and with that comes a diverse dining scene that’s got everything from streetside holes-in-the-wall with affordable grub to higher-end establishments that push the envelope with their experimental cuisine.

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The pandemic hasn’t made it easy for the industry, however, and we’ve had a number of great restaurants close their doors in 2020—and even in the past month. But not all is lost. We’ve still got a good number of restaurants open—some of which have played a significant role in shaping the local dining scene into what it is today. We’re tipping our hats to 50 of those restaurants, from decades-old favorites to inventive bistros to nationally loved chains and neighborhood haunts, without which our tables (and stomachs) would not be the same.

Also read:
The Past, Present, and Future of Dining in Metro Manila
10 Heartbreaking Restaurant Closures of 2020

Our very subjective list of Metro Manila restaurants we can't lose:

Antonio's

Antonio's Tournedos Rossini
PHOTO BY Facebook/Antonio's
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Many say that a trip to Tagaytay isn’t complete without a meal at Antonio’s. A regular on best-restaurants lists, Antonio’s is the brainchild of Tonyboy Escalante, an award-winning chef who got his culinary start in Australia. The restaurant takes its cues from its natural surroundings to whip up dishes that are made with only the freshest of ingredients. Their steak, of course, is a must order, being extremely tender and perfectly seasoned piece of meat.

Antonio's is at Purok 138, Barangay Neogan, Tagaytay City, Cavite.

Aristocrat

The Aristocrat's chicken barbecue menu
PHOTO BY Facebook/The Aristocrat Restaurant
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Aristocrat isn’t dubbed the Philippines’ “most popular” restaurant for nothing. Its origins can be traced to 1928, when Engracia Cruz Reyes (also known as “Aling Asiang”)—a Filipina who loved to cook—opened a small canteen called Lapu-Lapu. She then converted an old van into a rolling store in 1936, naming it The Aristocrat and serving Filipino favorites like adobo and pancit molo. It was in 1938 that Reyes opened The Aristocrat Restaurant along Dewey Boulevard (now Roxas Boulevard). Today, they’ve got multiple branches around the Metro, and the appeal of their consistently juicy and savory chicken barbecue has outlived many a food fad.

Aristocrat has branches at 146 Jupiter Street, Bel-Air, Makati City and 432 San Andres Street corner Roxas Boulevard, Malate, Manila City. See a list of Aristocrat branches.

Bar Pintxos

Pintxos Platter
PHOTO BY Nath Ybañez/SPOT.PH ARCHIVES
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At Bar Pintxos, even the simplest of tapas shine thanks to their A+ execution and use of great ingredients. Think Jamon-Allioli pintxos that are packed to the brim with rich jamon serrano and aioli; the deadly Salmon pintxo with melt-in-your-mouth salmon plus goats’ cheese, honey, and caviar for a sweet-tangy-savory mix; and Gambas al Ajillo with consistently tender and garlicky prawns. They’ve also got a great selection of libations—from Spanish and Chilean wines to beers to cocktails and sangrias.

Bar Pintxos has branches at G/F Fairways Tower, 5th Avenue corner McKinley Road, Bonifacio Global City and G/F V-Corporate Centre, L. P. Leviste Street, Salcedo Village, Makati City. See a list of Bar Pintxos branches.

Bawai's

Bawai's Pho Noodle Soup
PHOTO BY Hans Fausto/SPOT.PH ARCHIVES
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For classic and modern takes on Vietnamese cuisine, Bawai’s is the place to go. The restaurant originates from Tagaytay, and opened its first branch in Manila (specifically, in White Plains) in 2013. You can find staples like pho (which we count as one of the best in the Metro), spring rolls, and banh mi on the menu, as well as more inventive dishes like Pho Bites, a spring roll version of the traditional noodle soup dish.

Bawai's is at 79 Katipunan Avenue, Bellitudo Lifestyle Strip, White Plains, Quezon City.

Blackbird

Blackbird's Tuna poké, crispy rice and lime custard
PHOTO BY Facebook/Blackbird at the Nielson Tower
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If you’ve got an anniversary to celebrate, a date, or are hoping to propose to your special someone, you’ve probably considered heading to Blackbird. Built on the site of the country’s first commercial airport, this restaurant has become a popular destination for all things romantic, thanks to its Art Deco-inspired interiors and outdoor dining area. The menu takes cues from Chef Colin McKay’s other restaurants, leaning more towards Asian-inspired dishes that are sure to be favorites.

Blackbird is at Nielson Tower, 1221 Makati Avenue, Salcedo Village, Makati City.

Café Adriatico

Cafe Adriatico's hot chocolate drink
PHOTO BY Facebook/Cafe Adriatico
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Malate just wouldn’t be the same without Café Adriatico. Their original branch at Adriatico street has been up since the '80s, originally as an antique shop but turned into a café by LJC Restaurants founder Larry J. Cruz. It’s said to have set the scene for bistro culture in the Philippines. Even now, they’re one of the go-to spots for truly thick, bittersweet Chocolate Eh! (which happens to be one of our favorite hot-chocolate drinks in Manila).

Café Adriatico has branches at 1790 Adriatico Street, Remedios Circle, Malate, Manila and Courtyard, Gateway Mall, Araneta City, Cubao, Quezon City. See a list of Café Adriatico branches.

Café Breton

Cafe Breton's French Kiss Crepe
PHOTO BY Facebook/Cafe Breton Ph
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Café Breton is pretty much the default choice for when the crepe craving strikes—and it’s a reputation that’s well-deserved. The café whips consistently well-made crepes that are available in savory and sweet variants, like the Galette Super Complete with ham, egg, cheese, tomatoes, mushrooms and onions and the French Kiss Crepe with oranges, chocolate-hazelnut spread, vanilla ice cream, and Grand Marnier.

Café Breton has branches at 4/F Trinoma Mall, Bagong Pag-Asa, Quezon City and Westgate Center, Filinvest City, Muntinlupa City. See a list of Café Breton branches.

Cibo

Cibo's Penne al Telefono
PHOTO BY Cibo
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For reliably al dente pasta and thin, flavorful pizza with a balanced amount of toppings, you can always count on Cibo. This Margarita Fores-helmed restaurant has been around since 1997, and still shows no signs of slowing down. It’s even branched out to frozen fare, so you can enjoy Cibo goodness right at home. Everyone has their personal favorites, whether it’s the signature Spinach Dip, the creamy and perfectly al dente Penne al Telefono, or the classic Proscuitto Crudo.

Cibo has branches at L/2 Shangri-La Plaza, Ortigas Center, Mandaluyong City and L/2 Greenbelt 5, Ayala Center, Greenbelt, Makati City. See a list of Cibo branches.

Crosta

Crosta Pizzeria's Basic Bitch Pizza
PHOTO BY Vincent Coscolluela/SPOT.PH ARCHIVES
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While Crosta make take its name from the Italian word for crust, they veer from tradition—with delicious results. First, they make their pizza with sourdough, resulting in a crust that’s airy, chewy, and comes with the right amount of tang. Secondly, this pizzeria’s menu is full of cheeky names like the Basic Bitch, a simple pie topped with mozzarella and basil, and the Shroomed Out, which is topped with all kinds of mushrooms. Their pizza is also popular among the herbivore crowd, thanks to their extensive vegan menu.

Crosta is at The Social On Ebro, 5770 Ebro Street, Poblacion, Makati City.

Duck and Buvette

Duck and Buvette's Angus Brisket
PHOTO BY Toto Labrador/SPOT.PH ARCHIVES
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French cuisine can be intimidating, but Duck and Buvette manages to make it accessible without losing its heart. Casual as the restaurant may be, don’t underestimate their food—they go by the philosophy of slow cooking and making as many components as they can from scratch, and the result is some truly delicious dishes like their crisp-on-the-outside, juicy-on-the-inside Duck Confit and tender-as-can-be 8 Hour Angus Brisket (which is one of our favorites in the Metro).

Duck and Buvette is at G/F Shangri-La Plaza, Mandaluyong City.

Gallery by Chele

Gallery by Chele's Kare-Kare Bon Bons
PHOTO BY Gallery by Chele
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Tradition meets innovation at Gallery by Chele, where Chef Chele Gonzalez plays with Filipino ingredients and reimagines them in a whole new light. With Gonzalez’s experience working the kitchens of restaurants like Arzak and El Bulli, he and his team craft up dishes like the Kare-Kare Bon Bons with peanut praline, beef cheeks, and bagoong mayo; and the Tunamansi with tuna belly, heirloom beetroot, and an onion-tomato emulsion.

Gallery by Chele is at 5/F Clipp Center, 11th Avenue corner 39th Street, Bonifacio Global City.

Gino’s Brick Oven Pizza

Gino’s Brick Oven Pizza's Margherita Pizza
PHOTO BY Facebook/Gino's Brick Oven Pizza
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If you like your pizza with a crisp, puffy crust with slightly blistered edges, and simple but stellar toppings with combinations that are well-thought out, you can definitely count on Gino’s. The local restaurant cooks up Neapolitan-style pizza in a brick oven, and makes a number of components from scratch—including their pizza dough, sausages, and pasta. From their humble first branch in Katipunan, they’ve since expanded to open more stores around the Metro—without sacrificing quality. Their sweet-and-spicy Chili Honey is worth mentioning, too—we’d drizzle everything with it if we could!

Gino’s Brick Oven Pizza has branches at Bautista Street corner Tordesillas Street, Salcedo Village, Makati City and 319 Katipunan Avenue, Loyola Heights, Quezon City. See a list of Gino’s Brick Oven Pizza's branches.

Gloria Maris Shark’s Fin Restaurant

Gloria Maris Shark’s Fin Restaurant's Steamed Crab with Glutinous Rice
PHOTO BY Facebook/Gloria Maris Restaurant Greenhills
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Gloria Maris Shark’s Fin Restaurant has been around since the '90s, and is the go-to place for celebrations and other gatherings with Chinese food at the center. With food cooked up by chefs from Hong Kong plus their local crew, you can expect great eats—whether you go for their dim sum, hot pot, or grand mains like the Steamed Crab with Glutinous Rice.

Gloria Maris Shark’s Fin Restaurant is at Missouri Street, Greenhills, San Juan City.

Hapag Private Dining

Hapag Private Dining's Pork belly with coconut bagoong sauce
PHOTO BY Hans Fausto/SPOT.PH ARCHIVES
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Owned by chefs and friends Thirdy Dolatre, John Kevin Navoa, and Kevin Paolo Villarica, this small restaurant along Katipunan Avenue is known for its bold and innovative iterations of Filipino classics. In Hapag, childhood classics like laing and kare-kare are transformed into completely different dishes, thanks to a few changes in technique and plating. But despite the changes in presentation, you can still tell that these are the same dishes you loved growing up.

Hapag Private Dining is at 201 Katipunan Avenue, Project 4, Quezon City.

Holy Smokes

Holy Smokes' USDA Beef Ribs with Mustard Herb Butter
PHOTO BY Majoy Siason/SPOT.PH ARCHIVES
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Since it opened in 2016, Holy Smokes has become a popular spot among barbecue fans for its no-frills approach to grilled meats. They relocated from original location in Poblacion to a smaller spot in Katipunan in August 2020, but they're moving back to Makati soon. Wherever they may be stationed, their signature barbecue has stayed the same; the ultra-tender USDA Beef Ribs with Mustard Herb Butter remains a must, with meat that falls easily off the bone.

Holy Smokes is at The Pop Up, Katipunan Avenue, Loyola Heights, Quezon City. Check out their Facebook page for updates on their location.

Hummus Elijah

Hummus Elijah
PHOTO BY Facebook/Hummus Elijah
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Who would’ve thought that hummus—the naturally vegan traditional dip of the Middle East—would make waves in meat-loving Manila? Nobody does it quite like Hummus Elijah, whose version is as smooth and velvety on the tongue as can be. There’s more to them than hummus, though: their shakshuka has bright and runny egg yolks and a full-flavored tomato base, and their tabbouleh is fresh and properly heavy on the parsley. Plus, they also sell Israeli ingredients (including spices, dried fruits, and tahini) that you’d be hard-pressed to find elsewhere.

Hummus Elijah is at 2/F Commercial Building, 7850 Makati Avenue, Poblacion, Makati City and 5/F SM Aura Premier, C5 Road corner 26th Street, Bonifacio Global City.

Izakaya Kikufuji

Izakaya Kikufuji's Nana Ten Mori
PHOTO BY Patricia Baes/SPOT.PH ARCHIVES
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Ask any Japanese food fan in the city where you can get cheap but delicious sushi, tempura, and sashimi and they’ll likely point you in the direction of Izakaya Kikufuji. Standing strong since 1995, this humble restaurant remains staple in Makati’s Little Tokyo scene, thanks to its consistent quality and affordable prices.

Izakaya Kikufuji is at Little Tokyo, 2277 Chino Roces Avenue, Legaspi Village, Makati City.

JT’s Manukan Grille

JT's Manukan Grille's Chicken Inasal
PHOTO BY Kevyn Tapnio/SPOT.PH ARCHIVES
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Ever since it opened in 2003, JT’s Manukan has been the go-to place to get cheap but quality chicken inasal. Their version of the Bacolod classic strikes the perfect balance between sweet and sour, with each bite of their juicy chicken packing a rich, smoky taste. No wonder it’s a constant on our Best Inasal in Manila lists.

JT's Manukan Grille has branches at Scout Borromeo Street corner Scout Ybardolosa Street, South Triangle, Quezon City and Ortigas Home Depot, Doña Julia Vargas Avenue, Ugong, Pasig City. See a list of JT's Manukan Grille branches.

Kashmir

Kashmir Indian Restaurant Dishes
PHOTO BY Facebook/Kashmir Indian Restaurant
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One of the oldest Indian restaurants in Manila, Kashmir was founded in 1975 and is owned by three sisters. The restaurant focuses on Northern Indian cuisine, which is heavily charactered by its use of spices, dairy, and vegetables. Its menu remains relatively unchanged up to this day, which is the restaurant’s way of thanking the families who have dined here for generations.

Kashmir is at G/F San Antonio Plaza, McKinley Road, Dasmarinas Village, Makati City and L/3 One Bonifacio High Street, 5th Avenue corner 28th Street, Bonifacio Global City.

Khao Khai Thai Chicken House

Khao Khai Thai Chicken House's Gai Tod fried chicken
PHOTO BY Ian Santos/SPOT.PH ARCHIVES
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When you think of Thai food, what likely comes to mind is likely pad thai—which is tasty in its own right, for sure. But at Khao Khai, Gai Tod (a.k.a. Thai-style fried chicken) is the star. Their crisp and flavor-packed version will transport you straight to the streets of Thailand, and is best consumed with sticky rice and their piquant Som Tam (papaya salad).

Khao Khai Thai Chicken House is at 5772 Ebro Street, Poblacion, Makati City.

Korea Garden

Korea Garden Dishes
PHOTO BY Facebook/Korea Garden Restaurant
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Korea Garden has been around since 1974, and one taste of their Kalbi Chim (beef stew) and you’ll see why they remain a top Korean spot to this day. Their version of the dish is unmatched with its tender and full-flavored beef that’s even better when consumed with kimchi and steaming-hot rice.

Korea Garden is at 128 Jupiter Street, Bel-Air, Makati City.

Lagrima

Lagrima's Al Pastor
PHOTO BY Facebook/Lágrima
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Lagrima proves that food doesn’t need to be “authentic” to be good—at least, if you know how to do it right. The Makati eatery explores just how diverse the world of tacos can be with their wide range of fillings (or as they call it, feelings). There are classics like Carnitas (their version’s got pork confit in lard flavored with oranges and cinnamon) and Al Pastor (grilled shepherd’s pork marinated in achiote paste, citrus peels, and spices, then served with pickled pineapple and jalapeno); but also more experimental takes like the Kimchi Asada (Kitayama beef with kimchi, gochujang crema, pickled cucumber, and toasted nori). You can get your filling of choice as a street or crunchy taco, gringa (soft tortilla), tostada, or burrito—all are worth trying, but be sure to leave space for their horchata.

Lagrima is at 8488 Abeja Street corner Trabajo Street, Barangay Olympia, Makati City.

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Lampara

Lampara's Chinese-inspired Tofu topped with lots of pork floss and bacon crisp
PHOTO BY Marikit Singson/SPOT.PH ARCHIVES

If you love Filipino food and are open to experiencing it in a new light, definitely check out Lampara. The restaurant employs modern techniques like cooking sous-vide or presenting Filipino classics in different ways, to create dishes that are at once novel and familiar—including the dinakdakan-like Dinuckdukan with chopped-up duck breast, egg, and calamansi, and the humba-esque Pork with star anise and pork floss.

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Lampara is at 5883 Enriquez Street, Poblacion, Makati City.

Little Quiapo

Little Quiapo's Pancit Bihon
PHOTO BY Facebook/Little QUIAPO

When you think of halo-halo or palabok, chances are, you think of Little Quiapo. The restaurant was established in 1949 by then-sorbetero Irineo Bartolome, with its first branch in UP Diliman. It has since moved to Malakas street in Diliman and opened another branch in BF Homes, Parañaque. With affordable and reliably tasty Filipino eats, it’s no wonder they’re still frequented by many a Manileño even now.

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Little Quiapo is at 90 Malakas Street, Diliman, Quezon City and 42 Aguirre Avenue corner Lirag Street, BF Homes, Parañaque City.

Mamou

Mamou's Dry-Aged Porterhouse Steak
PHOTO BY Majoy Siason/SPOT.PH ARCHIVES

Since 2007, Mamou has become a solid favorite among steak lovers. It should come as no surprise though, as they do serve up what we consider to be some of the best steaks in the Metro. From the Angus Rib Eye to the hefty Dry-Aged Porterhouse Steak, their steaks are definitely a can’t-miss, with its juicy, melt-in-your-mouth texture and its incredible beefy flavor. If you have more room, don't miss out on ordering their Lorenzo Truffle Cream Pasta.

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Mamou has branches at G/F Serendra, Bonifacio Global City and G/F Joya Lofts and Towers, Joya Drive, Rockwell, Makati City. See a list of Mamou branches.

Manam

Manam's Sisig
PHOTO BY Manam

If you’re not cooking Pinoy dishes at home, you’re most likely heading over to Manam. Since its opening in 2013 (back then it was known as NamNam!), this restaurant chain has been popular among locals, balikbayans, and those looking for their first taste of Filipino fare, thanks to its traditional takes and modern twists on classics. Its menu is pretty expansive but faves include the House Crispy Sisig, which has consistently been at the top of our best sisig in Manila lists, and the signature Sinigang na Beef Rib and Watermelon.

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Manam has branches at L/1 Greenbelt 2, Ayala Center, Greenbelt, Makati City and G/F Seven/NEO, 4th Avenue corner 30th Street, Bonifacio Global City. See a list of Manam branches.

Masil Charcoal Grill

Masil Charcoal Grill Korean Dishes
PHOTO BY Facebook/Masil charcoal grill restaurant

When it comes to Korean cuisine, Masil Charcoal Grill is a must-visit. This Pasig institution is known for its high-quality cuts of pork and beef, which you can get individually or in set menus, its impressive selection of side dishes like Korean pancakes, jjigaejapchae, and its bibimbap, which we consider to be one of the best in Manila.

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Masil Charcoal Grill has branches at G/F Unimart Supermarket, Oranbo, Pasig City and Tiendesitas, Frontera Verde, Ortigas Avenue corner C5, Ugong, Pasig City. See a list of Masil branches.

Max's

Max's Whole Fried Chicken
PHOTO BY Facebook/Max's Restaurant

You can’t talk fried chicken without mentioning Max’s. After all, this restaurant chain was proudly built on it. Their fried chicken, which is a recipe from the restaurant founder’s niece, is a staple during birthdays, baptisms, and graduations. Their chicken is best had with the banana-ketchup-and-Worcestershire sauce combo, alongside other dishes like Sizzling Tofu Sisig and Ruby's Favorite Pancit Canton. Max’s has also expanded beyond Philippine shores, opening in the U.S., Canada, and other places where there’s a sizeable Filipino diaspora.

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Max's has branches at Forbes Town Center, 26th Street corner Rizal Drive, Burgos Circle, Fort Bonifacio and 998 Roxas Boulevard corner Remedios Street, Malate, Manila. See a list of Max's branches.

M Dining + Bar

M Dining + Bar Dishes
PHOTO BY Facebook/M Dining + Bar M

Formerly known as Masseto, M Dining + Bar is a known dining spot among the well-heeled for their contemporary takes on classic continental fare. With Chefs Tom Bascon and Tippi Tambunting at the helm of the kitchen, the restaurant cooks up excellent versions of dishes like Osso Bucco with Breaded Polenta and Sea Bass with Corn, Corn Puree, and Garlic Foam. Elsewhere on the menu, you’ll also find dishes with Japanese influences, such as the Soft-Shell Crab with Honey Yuzu and Foie Gras with Unagi and Watercress. (They feature seasonal imported ingredients like white asparagus and fresh truffles once in a while, too.) M Dining also has an extensive wine selection, as well as a bar area where even simple bites like Chorizo Puffs get the five-star treatment.

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M Dining + Bar is at 3/F Alegria Alta Building, 2294 Chino Roces Avenue, Makati City.

Mary Grace Café

Mary Grace Cafe Ensaymada
PHOTO BY Mary Grace Cafe

Ask any Tita of Manila where they’d meet their friends for coffee and snacks and they’ll say Mary Grace. Named after its founder Mary Grace Dimacali, this café-slash-restaurant is best known for its selection of baked goods and homestyle fare. No trip is complete without picking up boxes of their crowd-favorite ensaymada and pillowy-soft cheeserolls—both of which we consider to be some of the best in the Metro!

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Mary Grace Café has branches at Greenbelt 2, Ayala Center, Greenbelt, Makati City and 2/F The Block, SM City North EDSA, Bago Bantay, Quezon City. See a list of Mary Grace Café branches.

Mendokoro Ramenba

Mendokoro Ramenba Super Chasu Ramen
PHOTO BY Toto Labrador/SPOT.PH ARCHIVES

While Manila has no shortage of ramen places, Mendokoro remains the top-of-mind spot for many—and for good reason. The ramen bar consistently dishes out great ramen that impresses thanks to its rich and full-flavored broth, al-dente noodles, and perfectly cooked protein. You’re assured of a good bowl whether you go for the basic Shio or the more killer and off-menu Super Chasu Ramen; don’t miss their chicken karaage, either, which is one of our favorites in Manila.

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Mendokoro Ramenba has branches at V. Corporate Center, Soliman Street, Salcedo Village, Makati City and Icon Plaza, 26th Street, Bonifacio Global City. See a list of Mendokoro Ramenba branches.

Metronome

Metronome Seared Duck Magret
PHOTO BY Metronome

Chef Miko Calo’s resume is an impressive one, having graduated from the École Grégoire-Ferrandi in Paris and worked for no less than the late Joël Robuchon. At Metronome, she demonstrates her French leanings as applied to local ingredients, with modern touches here and there. A dish simply dubbed the Egg, for example, takes the humble ingredient to new heights with a cepes-truffle cream, mushrooms, potato puree, and strips of spring-roll wrappers. Another excellent course is the Duck, which features seared duck magret that’s as succulent as can be, paired with an orange-rosemary reduction, a carrot-ginger puree, wilted mustard greens, and potato puree. (That potato puree we just mentioned deserves its own sentence: it’s as velvety-smooth and buttery as can be, and we’d happily lap it up on its own.)

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Metronome

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