Top spots for first-rate Filipino food in the metro (GMA News Online)

Romulo Cafe's grilled squid

(This feature was published in GMA News Online last February 23, 2014)

A couple of years ago, Andrew Zimmern, host of the popular US television show “Bizarre Foods,” declared, “I predict, two years from now, Filipino food will be what we will have been talking about for six months… I think that’s going to be the next big thing.”

Since then, Filipino cuisine has been getting its share of the limelight with features on various international television shows and other media. Finally, it is getting the attention it deserves.

For first-time visitors to the Philippines or for those with balikbayan relatives or foreign friends, here are a few must-visit restaurants where you can get a good taste of the local cuisine.

Adarna Food and Culture

Adarna Food and Culture is not your ordinary Filipino restaurant; it is an experience that reflects the values and advocacies of owners Elizabeth Angsioco and Chef Giney Villar. The establishment displays all things Filipino, including the warm wooden furnishings and cultural memorabilia, which diners could take a look at while enjoying their meal. For the restaurant owners, it is important to “preserve and promote an appreciation for our history and culture by serving historical, regional, and heirloom Filipino cuisine.”

It has been almost eight years since the restaurant started dishing up specialties such as Sulu Piassok, Adobong Batangas with Tablea, Chicken Relleno circa 1940 served with Salsa Monja, Morcon ala Regina 1913, Bunuelos, Feliz Chocolate Cake, and Langka Kesong Puti Fry with Mango Sauce.

According to Chef Giney, “Aside from the authentic cuisine that is done in the traditional way, the place is a mini-museum of sorts. Guests will enjoy our guided ‘tour’ of the restaurant with its modest but varied collections of Filipiniana ranging from showbiz memorabilia, household implements, photos, books, monies and art pieces. We even have a mock sari-sari store and garden where guests can relax al fresco. It’s a slice of Philippine life.”

119 Kalayaan Ave., Diliman, Quezon City. Call (63 2) 926-8712 or email [email protected]

Romulo Café

Those who are familiar with the local political scene might recognize the surname of the family that owns Romulo Café. The grandchildren of the late Carlos P. Romulo, an important figure in international diplomacy, decided to pay tribute to their grandfather by displaying photographs of him throughout the restaurant. These pictures blend well with the predominant black and white theme of the establishment seen in its walls, furnishings, and even table settings. It serves as a good backdrop for the traditional and colorful Filipino food in the menu.

In fact, some of the dishes are the family’s heirloom recipes. A couple of must-tries are Tito Greg’s Kare-Kare and Lola Virginia’s Chicken Relleno. These are also plenty of options for non-meat eaters like Lola Felisa’s Crispy All-Vegetable Canton, plus other salads and vegetable dishes.

Indeed, the restaurant continues to honor the Romulo family by offering delicious comfort food in a comfortable yet very tasteful setting.

32 Scout Tuason Street corner Scout Lazcano, Quezon City. Call (63 2) 332-7273
148 Jupiter St corner Comet St., Bel-Air, Makati City. Call (63 2) 478-6406

XO 46 Bistro Filipino

They say “first impressions last” and XO 46 Bistro Filipino will definitely make a mark on any diner, as it gives its customers a taste of Filipino hospitality by welcoming them with cornick and a plate of complimentary puto served with mantequilla and a side of Filipino literature on a scroll—in the form of bugtong or riddle. If that is not impressive enough, the interiors of the restaurant would wow guests because of the interesting native furnishings and intricate woodcarvings.

But the most impressive thing about the place is the food, which highlights specialty dishes from various regions in the country. Some of the must-tries are Dumaguete Express (mixed seafood with spicy coconut cream sauce), Cebu Lechon Belly (herb roasted pork belly), and XO 46 Bistro Filipino Kare Kareng Crispy Tadyang.

The servings though are good for a couple of persons only (if the diners have big appetites) so make sure to order enough for large groups. At the end of the meal, the servers give diners free pieces of ChocNut—perfect for those with sweet tooth.

Aside from main courses, the establishment also offers Filipino and Spanish tapas and a nice selection of wines. It is a good place to have dinner and unwind a little.

G/F Le Grand Condominium, 130 Valero St., Salcedo Village, Makati City. Call (63 2) 553-6632.

The Specialties of Sentro 1771 (

(This piece was published in last November 16, 2011)

Whenever we have visitors from abroad, whether balikbayans or foreigners, we usually entertain them by giving them a taste of Filipino cuisine in Sentro 1771—the first modern Filipino restaurant in the country. Not only is the place nice, but the food is exceptional as well. Normally, Filipino food appears to be a hodgepodge of sorts, but Sentro manages to make it look presentable and taste good, too.

For nine years now, Sentro has been serving Sinigang na Corned Beef (P310 solo; P595 sharing), which is actually the specialty of the house. This is the dish that made Sentro famous. When you order this dish, the server will let you taste the tamarind broth first and give you an option to alter it according to your preference. You want it to be more sour or spicy? Just say so and your sinigang will be catered to your taste. What stands out also is the presentation of the dish. The chunks of corned beef are neatly arranged on one side, while the native vegetables are on the other. You will definitely eat with your eyes first as you see all the individual ingredients that are pleasantly put together.

But before heading to the main course, there are several appetizers worth trying first. I could, in fact, have a fulfilling meal with these starters alone. My favorite is the Sizzling Tofu (P250), which is like a vegetarian version of sisig. The diced tofu is mixed with special soy sauce and mayo dressing and served on a sizzling plate. Just like the sisig, you may sprinkle some calamansi on the dish and even add some hot sauce, if you wish.

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