My brother-in-law recently visited after staying in the States for 13 years. We weren’t able to do a lot because he bought the typhoons with him 😀 So we ate out. A LOT. Hehe.
My waistline vanished, but I am also thankful because the family wanted to keep the mess at home to a minimum so I wouldn’t have to clean up so much (to date, still no helper). I do appreciate it.
Here are some of the restaurants we took my brother-in-law to. This list has a slight bias to Chinese restaurants by the way, so it should please the elder members of the family, too.
Let’s go on a food trip!
- Mann Hann
Mann Hann is peak comfort food. Prices don’t hurt, and they have several branches scattered across the Metro, many of them right inside malls.
Mann Hann, as with most Chinese restaurants, is best enjoyed with family or a big group.
My top picks include the Hototay soup (broth based, and full of healthy goodness like tofu and Chinese pechay), the salted fish fried rice, lechon Macau, fried squid head (crunchy-good), and polonchay (Chinese spinach – a nice break from the usual beef broccoli).
Lugang Café may look like this posh, unapproachable restaurant (chandeliers! Velvet upholstered seats!), but relax, it’s just Taiwanese comfort food. I haven’t been to Taiwan yet, so I can’t comment on authenticity, but with Lugang specifically, the food seems like a more playful take on traditional Chinese food.
Their Xiao Long Bao is one of the best there is – my daughter will only eat theirs, but I have to demolish the dumpling, unfortunately. We also refer to it as a ‘dumpling’ because of this funny Masha and the Bear episode:
My top picks include the ridiculously good chicken with scallion and ginger oil, Taiwanese salt and pepper squid, and any in-season vegetable cooked with garlic.
It was also our first time to have dessert here; we tried the fresh mango cubes on shaved ice. It’s scary-big when it arrives, be warned, but it’s all ice, really. It was pretty disappointing, and I would much rather have bing-su any day.
So polarizing, Nihonbashitei. My mother refuses to eat here again. I have a friend who had a stomach ache after a meal here. My brother’s friends joke (emphasis on joke, please) that the place is just a cover for money laundering.
Nevertheless, J, Aki and I have a soft spot for Nihon and consider it as one of our go-to family restaurants.
I love love love the asari clams with butter (or the squid version – equally good). We also tend to go for the yaki onigiri (grilled rice) with some yakiniku, usually the liempo (butabara) or bacon-asparagus.
The usual combo of salmon and tuna sashimi is also so good here, I love that the slices are thicker than the usual.
The reviews – whether from Facebook or TripAdvisor – are pretty fair game. The place can get really jam packed for lunch and weekend dinner service, for instance, so there might be some waiting involved whether that’s for a table, your order or your change.
In terms of cleanliness, they still have cartons laid out on the floor leading to the kitchen, and I’m bothered by it (just the idea of a slippery, oily floor…I mean if they can’t even clean that up…), but I also think there’s big improvement overall since they had a renovation recently.
Japanese food that’s delicious and affordable, I’m simply hard pressed to hate on Nihon.
In terms of Chinese food in Manila, Peking Garden is a classic. It’s at par with some of the more hoity-toity Chinese restaurants in 5-star hotels. My mother-in-law even says their Peking duck is better than what they had in Beijing.
I wouldn’t know about that, but what I do know is that if my daughter will eat it, then it’s really good.
That’s really my problem here – food is excellent, it’s almost always a food coma afterwards.
Fried rice – Yangchow or salted fish – is so good it’s a meal in itself. Hot and sour soup is great for those who like things a little spicy (not overwhelming at all, mind you), but for those who don’t, like J’s side of the family, there’s the spinach with fresh crab meat.
Since we already ordered Peking duck cooked two ways, we loaded up on vegetables, and they were tasty as well: stewed Taiwan pechay with black mushroom, and the poached seasonal vegetables with dried scallops and golden mushroom.
I capped off my meal with a glass of fresh four seasons, it usually does the trick especially when there’s no space left for buchi.
If you ask my mom, her top 3 best pizzas in Manila are from:
Gino’s Brick Oven Pizza
In that order. But if you ask me (and Aki), the best pizza in Manila is from Gino’s.
We usually go for the Margherita, Bianca Verde and the Bacon Gouda pizza. The honey-chili oil sauce they concocted is genius – rarely do I put any condiment on my pizza, but this I generously drizzle on my slice.
For pasta, the Aglio Olio is so good. All the pasta dishes are made with fresh pasta, by the way. The brother-in-law ordered the stuffed chicken pasta, and it was also great, just heavy on the tummy.
The burrata is a crowd-pleaser, but I also discovered that their house salad is yummy as well. Something about those candied figs, I think, they make a big difference.
My kid goes nuts over the Bacon Gouda, but will gladly eat some Bianca Verde, even if it has fresh basil on top. She’s 4 years old, and she can finish 2 slices of Gino’s pizza.
We hardly order drinks when eating out, but we almost always order a pitcher of their fresh dalandan or calamansi juice. Sometimes I’ll have a Stanford Shaw ginger ale to cap off the meal – for when you feel like having a beer but don’t really want a beer 😉
A deeply rooted sweet tooth runs in the Tan family. I discovered that my brother-in-law has a weakness for sweet snacks and is always game for dessert, even if it’s just a simple mango sago.
Add my chocoholic daughter to the group, and Café Mary Grace becomes a no-brainer choice.
Café Mary Grace is definitely in our top 5 favorite family restaurants. We loved going to the Greenbelt branch since Akira was younger because of their play area.
We’ve never had a bad meal here, and the staff is attentive and efficient and friendly regardless of the branch. That says a lot.
In terms of starters, I’m more partial to their soups and salads. All of their soups are good, and my favorite salads are the fried kesong puti with calamansi vinaigrette, and the local greens with chili daing dressing – just the right amount of hot for when a bowl of leaves begin to get boring!
For pasta, my all time favorite is the spicy lemon scampi. Don’t let the ‘spicy’ claim scare you, it hardly is, and besides you can always request for them to make the dish milder. The vongole is also good, and my daughter loves the chorizo and olives pasta.
It goes without saying that the dessert here is the bomb – cheese rolls, ensaymada, brownies, lemon squares – all good. Pair them with Americano with almond cream or the hot chocolate. Aah. You’d be ready to roll over and nap after that combo.
When my in-laws are here in Manila, we have a lot of considerations in choosing a restaurant. They are very particular about healthy eating. They avoid pork and anything deep-fried. They think of pasta dishes as a kind of merienda and not really a meal. They don’t appreciate dishes with strong tastes, so no sinigang, no kare kare, no curries. They’re not quite fond of seafood either.
Then there’s the toddler to think about. With Akira, it was my objective to make sure that she’d be able to eat something from any restaurant because we eat out often. I’m happy to share that we are able to do exactly that. She has great appetite, and I couldn’t be happier.
She adores her chicken karaage, katsu or fried cutlets, and any pork dish like lechon, lechon kawali or adobo. She also loves shrimp tempura, egg dishes, plain rice and the occasional pasta. Chinese cuisine is good for her because she will eat vegetables, provided that we slice and chop them up small enough.
As for my husband, the closest he has to a favorite restaurant is Hai Chix because of their steak. Obviously we can’t have it all the time, but if it weren’t for it, he has no favorite cuisine or restaurant to speak of, which makes him a cyborg.
Other notable establishments include Tim Ho Wan and Akira’s beloved Cibo.
If you’re wondering why there isn’t any Filipino restaurant in the list, it’s because it will be in a separate article. My brother-in-law got his Pinoy food fix all the way from San Pablo, Laguna!
What are your family’s favorite restaurants? Do the little ones in the family have their own favorite restaurants already too? 🙂