Well, since I also write about food in this blog, I am going to sum up the most notable dining experiences I had in the Philippines for this year. As you may notice, I don't call them the best restaurants, since being best is so relative. So, I'm just listing down 8 of the most intriguing, buzz worthy and best tasting. These are the restaurants that created a stir in my frantic search for the best dining experiences. So here goes:
1. Ola Espana (Cebu and Davao)
I started with an entry from the South. 2008 was filled with trips to Cebu and Davao, and I just had to savor all the restaurants I could visit in these cities. Ola Espana definitely hit me well, with its coziness and simple yet memorable dishes. Yes, it's a Spanish restaurant, but they serve Italian fare as well. Try the Paella Valenciana and the Lengua.
2. Sala Bistro (Greenbelt 3, Makati City)
This is a given. One of my favorite restaurants, Sala, decided to put up a more casual atmosphere to serve up their sophisticated menu. Sala Bistro is a great place to splurge without feeling your pockets. My favorites include their Rocket Salad and the Chilean Sea Bass.
3. Cicou at Hotel Celeste (Arnaiz Road, Makati City)
Another new French bistro in town, and one of the most hyped about. I was able to taste La Cabane just a few steps away, but I found the menu of La Cabane a little boring for me. What got me in Cicou was the way they presented their stuff. The menu looked interesting, but I think it wasn't translated to perfection, but nevertheless, it was above average. I love their service, though I am not quite happy with the interiors. The desserts were excellent as well.
4. Market Cafe at the Hyatt Hotel and Casino (Malate, Manila)
We held an event in Hyatt, and our generous account manager from the hotel treated us to a lunch buffet at the Market Cafe. I love the fact that it's a small place, unlike Spiral, where you are bombarded by choices. Here the selection is complete, but not overflowing. I also love the fact that the buffet comes with unlimited drinks which you can conveniently get from their chillers. The service is great, and the chefs are willing to cook you up special dishes upon request (which I do often in buffets). Oh, and did I say the drinks include beer and wine?
5. C Italian Dining (Angeles City, Pampanga)
Did I just start my pilgrimage to C Italian this year? I couldn't remember honestly, but I have been back to this fine fine italian restaurant 4 times this year, and each visit still made me eager. I just told everyone it's the best Italian restaurant in the country, beating even Le Opera, considering all the factors like ambience and experience. The experience sealed the deal. Le Opera is a fine dining restaurant par excellence, but it didn't had the charm that I keep searching for in C. Anyway, I love their Paniza and the now unavailable Mushroom and Seafood Risotto (I hope they bring it back). My advice, bring friends or family, as it's best to share the sumptuous feast with great company.
6. KIngdom (Angeles City, Pampanga)
Well, since we're in Clark still, let's go to another new restaurant that has been stirring up some hype. Enter the Kingdom, located at the ground floor of the Marlim Mansions along MacArthur Highway. Established by Sau Del Rosario of Chelsea and M Cafe, Kingdom is a Thai restaurant that has modern and classy interiors that seem to make it out of place in a dodgy neighborhood in Angeles. The food mimic traditional Thai recipes though during our visit there, I was disappointed. It was probably because of having super high expectations, and having been exposed to great Thai restaurants in Thailand itself. Nevertheless, Kingdom is something to watch out for, and a reason for you to stopover in Clark when heading further North.
7. Cav (Bonifacio High Street, Fort Bonifacio, Taguig)
Now, I have never eaten for lunch or dinner in Cav, even though I've been there several times. I have tasted their entire dessert menu though, and I can attest to the glorious euphoria from a bite of their Valrhona Cake. Like everyone else, I got into the wine and cheese affairs, and Cav for me is the best place for that.
8. Myron's Place (Greenbelt 5, Makati City)
Lastly, the restaurant I thought I wouldn't like. Myron's Place didn't interest me at first, as it was a steak house, and it was a new branch of the one in Rockwell. I just don't like branches. However, in that gold mine (meaning expensive) strip of restaurants at the garden area of Greenbelt 5, I found Myron's Place to be the best. Felix and Zuni made me feel I was robbed, while Kai I thought lost its grandeur when it moved. So Myron's stood out, for its succulent selection of meat presented with class. Each dish that was served to us were gorgeous and delicious as well.
It was difficult to come up with a list since I have been to several restaurants this year. These were the ones that I remember, because when I remember a place, it means it made an impact on me (I have a lousy memory). I'm sad that not one restaurant in A. Venue made my list, as I kept coming back to taste all their offerings. The only one I would mention is Artina and Fluke.
Some of the honorable mentions also include the newest Persian/Indian resto in town, Kebab Factory in the Atrium in Megamall and Fish Out of Water, which redeemed itself from being one of the worst after my first dining experience there. I would also like to mention Alexa's Deli along dela Costa in Makati, Picobello in Davao and Candy's in Cagayan de Oro.
Thus, with that, I also want to mention my WORST dining experience last year - ArAma Cafe, an organic restaurant in Serendra. The food tasted cheap and lacked any flavor and being organic is not an excuse. We literally had a 20 minute dinner, got the bill and left. No wonder we were the only customers in a bustling Saturday night. Sad.
Several restaurants line up my list for this month. Here are some of them:
1. Purple Feet (Wine Depot, N.Reyes, Makati City)
2. 145 Fahrenheit (Il Terrazo, Tomas Morato, QC)
3. Hacienda (Transcomm Center, Frontera Verde, Pasig beside Tiendesittas)
4. Persian Square (MC Home Depot, Ortigas Center)
5. Muruve (MC Home Depot, Ortigas Center)
6. 1521 (Shaw Blvd, Mandaluyong)
Hope to taste them by January ends. Till then, have a sumptuous new year!