Dining and Drinking

Manila Dining And Drinking   
Manila City Guide
Filipinos love eating--to the extent that many a foreign visitor has remarked: Don't Filipinos ever stop eating? Indeed, a Filipino's daily food intake comprises five meals: breakfast, morning merienda, lunch, afternoon merienda and dinner. And take note that a merienda is often more than just a snack, particularly the afternoon version. It can consist of goto (Filipino congee) and tokwa't baboy (crispy pork and bean curd dressed in vinegar and soy sauce) or Chinese mami (noodles in soup) and siopao (steamed bun with meat filling). In that context, it is no wonder Manila can call itself the D & D (dining and drinking) capital of Southeast Asia. In Manila one is not faced with a shortage of choices; the problem lies in selecting from the rather bewildering diversity.

Ermita and Malate

If you are in Ermita and Malate, start your search at the junction of Padre Faura Street and M. Adriatico Street, where Kashmir and Kamayan are located next to each other. The former serves Indian curries and the latter traditional Filipino fare eaten with the hands. From here to Nakpil Street and Remedios Circle, the entire length of M. Adriatico is lined with eateries. On the corner of Pedro Gil Street stands Robinson's Place, which is packed with dining and drinking possibilities, including the mall’s own Food Court where you can feast inexpensively in cool and comfortable surroundings.

Nakpil Street, formerly a wealthy residential neighborhood, abounds with houses and apartment buildings that have been converted into bars and restaurants. More than just purveyors of food, these act as trendsetters of style. Bravo! mixes fashion with a full menu of Italian dishes. Matina, a restaurant cum art gallery, introduces you to imaginative fusion cuisine. Sala offers contemporary European food in a very stylish setting. People's Palace features tasty Thai food and tasteful minimalist décor. Casa Armas draws in discriminating diners with its black paella and other Spanish specialties. Episode Café, Three Amigos, Jazz Rhythms, Insomnia, Kemistry, Politixx, Gotham and a dozen other places lure the young sophisticates with a thematic décor and the added attraction of live music, shows or dancing.

Another string of chic eateries can be found at the crossing of Nakpil and Maria Orosa Street: Café Caribana (Caribbean food), The Golden Triangle (northern Thai), Pepe & Pilar (Filipino with a modern twist), Garlic Rose (everything is seasoned with the medicinal bulb),Café Breton (coffee and crepes) and Batavia (novel varieties of coffee, tea and cakes).

Around Remedios Circle, which is just a couple of blocks south of Nakpil, the creations of Larry Cruz, arguably Manilas most successful restaurateur, predominate, each with a theme of its own. Café Adriatico is known for Spanish-based Filipino food, Café Adriatico 1900 for refined ambience, Café Havana for Cuban cooking and a Hemingway-inspired cigar room, In the Mood for ballroom dancing, Bistro Remedios for regional Filipino delicacies, and Larry’s Bar as a hangout of rich kids.

Guernicas (traditional Spanish food), The Red Crab (crabs and steaks), 604 Cafe Gallery (café-art gallery frequented by the bohemian set) and the delightfully naughty Kink Cakes (the concoctions will make some peoples eyes pop out) are also in the vicinity, as are The Library (karaoke and stand-up comedy), The Glasshouse (Asian-Italian fusion cuisine), Portico (continental décor, same food as The Glasshouse) and Sidebar (where upwardly mobile youth congregate to upbeat music).

Around the corner, on A. Mabini Street, you will find a different set of places altogether, most notably the Hobbit House (a throwback to the '60s, featuring live music) and the Republic of Malate. The latter encompasses the Good Earth Tea Room (contemporary Chinese cuisine), Survival Café (drinks with cigars, billiards, or poetry reading) and the Republic Dance Club (a disco and venue for concerts and plays).


Not to be outdone by Ermita and Malate, Makati's Ayala Center is replete with its own array of dining and drinking places. Glorietta alone contains countless bars and restaurants, including globally known establishments like T.G.I. Friday's, Hard Rock Café and Fashion Café. At Streetlife you sit at tables surrounded by booths peddling different varieties of food; at Cabalen you help yourself to an eat-all-you-can Filipino buffet. Cibo delights patrons with pasta a la nouvelle cuisine, Pho Bac Vietnamese Specialties with noodles a la Vietnamienne. Expatriates and yuppies flock to Giraffe. Both Zen and Furusato are dependable recommendations if you fancy sushi, sashimi or sukiyaki.

Around Greenbelt Park and inside Greenbelt Mall, you will find, among others, The Source Café (wholesome, organically grown food), Italianni's (American-Italian pasta, pizza, salads, etc.), Schwarzwalder German Restaurant (schnitzel, pork knuckles and the like), The Cafe Mediterranean (humus, couscous and other Mediterranean imports), Sugi (one of Manila’s best Japanese restaurants) and Jade Garden (Peking duck and other authentic dishes from the Middle Kingdom).

Along Pasay Road, also known as Antonio S. Arnaiz Avenue, the likes of Café Chanterelle (more Mediterranean fare and flair) and Tachibana Japanese Restaurant (more Japanese food and mood) can be found, while around Jupiter Street and Makati Avenue lies a whole enclave where Japanese compete with Koreans, such as Nanbantei of Tokyo versus Kaya Korean Restaurant, the Chinese hold their own in Mann Hann and Lychee, Britannia is represented by The London Underground, and the French Republic by La Grange. Casa Armas has a branch here and so do various Filipino restaurants like Whistlestop. There is also a conspicuous Thai presence, as well as a plethora of girlie bars where many foreigners come to roost, such as Café Mogambo. Do not forget Grassi’s at the nearby Rockwell Center--in some people’s estimate, it serves the best food in Manila. And if you do not fancy any of the above, well, there is always fish and chips!

Dinner with a view? Try Top of the Citi on Paseo de Roxas. Something light and stylish? Wasabi Bistro and Bar on Makati Avenue. Something hearty and meaty? Mongolian Grill Restaurant on Amorsolo Street. And even if you are dining on a budget, you can still do it with some style at the Glorietta 4 Food Court or the Food Park at The Enterprise Center.

Ortigas Center
Ortigas Certer
Here the activity revolves around the giant malls. Three types of pubs await you at Shangri-La Plaza Mall: Henry J. Beans (contemporary British), Vincents Pub (local version of traditional British) and The Watering Hole (totally new innovation serving beer brewed in-house). In contrast, the Prince of Wales at Robinsons Galleria is terribly British, complete with dartboard and framed portraits of the royals. Here is a sampling of eateries at SM Megamall: Sukhothai (totally Thai in ambience), Tong Yang Hot Pot (pick any or all of the meat and seafood items on display, then cook it at your table), Dads (extensive buffet from California maki to roast turkey), Saisaki (good sushi bar), Almon Marina (roast chicken and sandwiches, excellent for a quick lunch) and the cheap and cheerful SM Megamall Food Court.
At El Pueblo & St. Francis Square, just behind SM Megamall, you will find the likes of Marios (a mix of Filipino and continental cuisine in romantic surroundings), La Primavera (fine-dining Italian ristorante, with white tablecloths, stemware and the like), Flavours and Spices (also fine dining, featuring a good-value Thai buffet) and Benihana (teppanyaki steak cooked at your table with entertaining showmanship). And if you are looking for somewhere just to have a round of drinks, there is Tequila Joes, Strumms, or San Mig Pub. On the other hand, you might want to indulge in some French haute cuisine, in which case you could sample the inventive culinary preparations at Le Souffle. Teas bearing fanciful names like Electrici-Tea and Tranquili-Tea can be savored at Struan & Tang Tea Salon, along with food designed to complement your choice of tea.
Nearby Greenhills Shopping Center is dotted with all kinds of Chinese eateries, among which East Garden and South Villa typify the palatial end of the spectrum. Bistro Lorenzo (another Larry Cruz restaurant) and Ciudad Fernandina Restaurant, both leaning toward Spanish food, are two alternatives to the predominantly Chinese selection. Caf้ Ysabel, in an exquisite old house, is in a class of its own.

Quezon City

As the biggest of Metro Manilas 12 cities and five municipalities, Quezon City merits a D & D guide of its own. But here let us just confine ourselves to a handful of places.
The D & D row on E. Rodriguez Jr. Avenue, also known as C-5, ranges widely in theme and food: Grilla (Polynesian-style setting and flavorful reworkings of Filipino dishes), Cactus (Mexican cantina with tacos, nachos and billiards), Krocodile Grillery (jungle safari d้cor and grilled favorites), Don Henricos (Christopher Columbus-inspired theme with pasta and pizza), Aqua Zoo (European nouvelle cuisine served in an interior simulating a giant aquarium) and Outback Steakhouse (Down Under ambience and steaks).
On Katipunan Avenue, which is just around the corner from C-5, Dencios and Katips stand out as two contrasting varieties of beer gardens. Likewise Cravings, with its intimate continental mood and modernized western food, contrasts markedly with Kublai, which serves an eat-all-you-can Mongolian buffet in a large industrial-like hall.
From this guide you should get an idea of the tremendous variety of D & D options that Manila offers. But wait till you get here--you will find this guide barely scratches the surface.

Manila Entertainment

In the free and open atmosphere of Manila, entertainment takes myriad forms. First some food for the soul.

The Cultural Scene
The Culturals Scene
Manila is distinguished by a strong theatrical tradition, possibly the most active and varied in East Asia after Tokyo. Because of the city’s early westernization, Manilans have been exposed to English plays, Italian opera, American musicals and other forms of theater to a far greater degree than their regional neighbors.

Manila's cultural scene is mainly represented by venues like the Cultural Center of the Philippines, Meralco Theater, Philamlife Auditorium and William J. Shaw Theater. In addition, there are auditoriums in practically all of the city’s schools and universities, and these are regularly used for a broad range of theatrical productions. Even shopping malls--for example, SM Megamall and Shangri-La Plaza Mall--lend themselves to concerts and cultural shows.

Each of the city's diverse drama companies mounts a season every year, with Tanghalang Pilipino, the Cultural Center’s resident company, setting the pace with productions that blend the best of traditional and avant-garde theater. Repertory Philippines specializes in English-language productions, while its sister company, Repertory Children's Theater, is devoted to fostering a love of the theater among the younger generation. Other active theater groups include The Necessary Theater, Gantimpala Theater and Silver University Theater.

Ballet Philippines, also attached to the Cultural Center, leads the world of dance, though there are several dance companies and studios scattered throughout the city, while classical music finds an eminent interpreter in the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra, again complemented by different symphonic orchestras and chamber music ensembles. Both companies have regular seasons every year.

Three long-running series which bring the classical arts to mass audiences are worthy of mention here: Intramuros Evenings, Paco Park Presents and Concert at the Park. The first takes place at historic venues in Intramuros, the second in equally evocative Paco Park and the third at Rizal Park.

In addition to the aforementioned homegrown dramatic and musical groups, Manilans are also regularly treated to shows by visiting companies. Sometimes these imports showcase local talent, as in the case of Miss Saigon, the Asian Debut. Several foreign cultural organizations, such as the British Council, Goethe Institut, Alliance Francaise, Instituto Cervantes and the Japan Foundation are regular sources of art shows and other cultural activities.

Live Music and Dance

Filipinos are known throughout the world for their musical flair. Expectedly, the whole of Manila is alive with the sound of music, though it sometimes borders on noise due to its loudness. Live music and entertainment is offered at most hotels, as well as in bars and cocktail lounges all over the city. Jazz Rhythms, Hard Rock Café, The Watering Hole and Henry J. Bean's are just some of the many places that mix live music with drinking and dining. Restaurants like Café Adriatico 1900 and Mario's employ the services of a pianist, sometimes with a singer, to enhance the mood of elegance and romance. Other places such as Strumm’s, Suburbia, Gotham, Virgin Café, Phenomena, The Music Museum and Kampo 2088 operate almost like theaters and feature a constantly changing marquee of performers.

Music lovers that they are, Filipinos rarely suffer from stage fright and need not be coaxed or prevailed on to burst into song. Not surprisingly, that Japanese-originated global phenomenon called karaoke (later upgraded to videoke) has been wholeheartedly embraced by Manilans. The Library features stand-up comedy acts, but it is mainly for the chance to warble a melody that patrons pack its dark, smoky interiors. At times, the passionate, hot-headed nature of Filipinos comes into play: one reads and hears of brawls erupting over a song at the hundreds of karaoke bars (which are usually also beer gardens) found throughout the city.

Filipinos are equally adept at dancing and take to the dance floor at the drop of a hat. At one end of the spectrum are nightclubs set up for formal ballroom dancing, such as In The Mood, and at the other end are bar-cafés, such as Kemistry, which often turn into scenes of wild, spontaneous rave parties. In between, you find a whole array of discos like Joy and Republic Dance Club. Even in public places like Rizal Park and the Quezon Memorial Circle, men and women of all ages can be seen doing the latest ballroom contortions, often attended by suave DIs (Dance Instructors).

Billiards and Bingo

Billiard bars and halls are sweeping Manila like a hot new craze, fired no doubt by the Filipinos' undisputed dominance in international billiard championships. Many bars and cafes--Cactus, Survival Café and Tropical Forest, to name but three--lure patrons with the added attraction of a billiard table or a billiard room. Jurassic typifies the growing number of billiard halls, each equipped with a fully licensed bar, which stay open 24 hours and employ a tactical cut-price Happy Hour to entice their clientele.

If you are a bingo fan, you will, without doubt, find Manila your kind of town. In most of the shopping malls, there is a bingo hall where you can immerse yourself in the game from morning to night. You may even play bingo in the comfort of your hotel room by simply tuning in to the online bingo channel on TV.

If you prefer a more upmarket form of gambling, Casino Filipino, which has outlets at Holiday Inn and The Heritage Hotel, is the place to be.

Daytime Leisure Activities

Resorts, spas, amusement centers and theme parks abound in and around Manila, offering a broad diversity of options. Splash Island, the country's biggest marine park, and The Enchanted Kingdom, the local answer to Disneyland, are situated close to each other and can be reached in an hour’s drive toward the southern outskirts of the city. While in the area, you might want to drive further south for a relaxing soak in the hot springs of Pansol and Los Banos, a thrilling ride down the rapids in Pagsanjan, a leisurely picnic at Villa Escudero Plantation and Resort, a day of relaxation in the cool climate of Tagaytay or some energetic outdoor adventures around Taal Volcano and Lake. Another option is to combine your outing with a visit to the historic town of Calamba or to check in at Caylabne Bay Resort, a Mediterranean-style beach complex on the South China Sea.

On the northern fringes of the metropolis, the town of Malolos, Bulacan, offers a rich selection of historical and natural sites such as Barasoain Church, Barasoain Museum and Biak-na-Bato. The cathedral was where the Philippines'--and Asia's--first democratic constitution was drafted; the museum delights visitors with a light-and-sound presentation depicting key events in the Philippine Revolution. Trekkers and holiday-makers will discover numerous points of interest in Biak-na-Bato, a national park known for its caves and mountain streams. Conversely, a man-made network of pools and sports/leisure facilities awaits the visitor at Jed's Island Resort.

Within the city itself, the visitor faces the delectable dilemma of choosing from a plethora of cinemas, amusement centers and other interesting places such as Ripley's Believe It Or Not Museum. Both Exploratorium 2000 and Missing Links Alive utilize sophisticated robotics in their informative and entertaining displays. Visitors from temperate zones will feel at home on the SM Ice Skating Rink. Culture buffs can sate their appetite for enlightened entertainment in diverse museums and galleries such as the Metropolitan Museum of Manila, Quest Center for Earth & Science Discovery, Lopez Museum, GSIS Museo ng Sining, Coconut Palace and Museo ng Banco Sentral ng Pilipinas.

Needless to say, all these places provide fun and entertainment for adults and children alike.

source: philippines hotel tour


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