Manila’s most romantic restaurants
Shakespeare was onto something when he declared music the food of love. But, sometimes, food is the food of love – as seen in your #planBe of Manila’s best romantic restaurants. Looking for a classy joint for Valentine’s Day? A sensuous spot to impress a first date? Or just a year-round location to keep the fires of love from going completely cold? From chic Neo-Filipino spots to elevated Japanese joints, we’ve got something for every amorous encounter (including some of Manila’’s best restaurants, full stop).
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For a romantic night out, you can’t beat Blackbird. It’s in the art-deco Nielson Tower, a historic 1937 airport control tower, with dining in the old terminal. Helmed by one of the Manila’s most celebrated chefs, Colin Mackay.
The menu is international fusion that juxtaposes Asian and European flavours – expect prawn Scotch egg served on betel leaf with sambal, Kerala fish curry or a pickle-laced ‘Bang Bang’ chicken with green tea noodles, to roast pumpkin and mascarpone Agnolotti with a sage soubise.
An abbreviation of a Japanese saying that means ‘absurdly delicious’, Mecha Uma is the work of chef Bruce Ricketts, who is also behind Sensei Sushi, Ooma and La Chinesca. An à la carte focuses on creative Japanese-inspired dishes such as a tamago custard tart and savoury duck doughnut and black cod, while an eight-course menu journeys through striped mackerel sashimi, wagyu with charred eggplant puree and miso butter-soaked potato bread toast. A wooden counter, curved to shape around the open kitchen, makes for a relaxed, interactive experience.
Led by friends trio RJ Ramos, Alphonse Sotero and Prince Tan, Lampara demonstrates an impressive understanding and pride for the Filipino sensibility when it comes to local cuisine. Combining modern cooking techniques with their take on typical Filipino dishes, the restaurant’s menu is their personal kitchen “kundiman” (Filipino love song) to the Filipino cuisine.
Take the Dinakdakan, for example, it is a popular Filipino food that is somehow similar to Sisig, but Lampara’s take will surprise you as they use duck breast instead of pork.
Metiz’s name comes from the French “métis” and the Spanish “mestizo,” referring to a person of mixed heritage. It works as an apt description for what the Filipino food is, a fusion that is influenced by many cultures. But it also goes back to the restaurant’s young chef and owner, Stephan Roxas Duhesme, who is half-French and half-Filipino.
On that basis, Stephan takes a creative stance on Filipino flavours that he prepares with local ingredients and honed techniques he learnt as an apprentice in the high-profile kitchens of Purple Yam in Brooklyn, Matsunozushi in Tokyo and Manila’s Gallery by Chele. Stephan moved back to Manila from his own restaurant stint in Bogotá (formerly Tria Neo Bistro) to embrace his Filipino roots.
Toyo Eatery is the creation of chef Jordy Navarra, which he founded on the philosophy of re-discovery of national identity through the Philippine’s products, cuisine and culture.
One of Toyo’s favorites dishes is the “Bahay Kubo”: it is a play on a local kid’s song that enumerates 18 different vegetables — all of which are prepared and cooked in various ways, then assembled into one dish. Toyo also created a dish called Banana Catsup, named after this surprisingly popular local condiment. Made from fermented bananas and banana vinegar, the catsup is served alongside an eggplant omelet with alternating layers of shrimp and crab meat.
It’s a little hidden neighbourhood restaurant by chef Celine de los Angeles. It is a true culinary gem with a well-curated menu that can be described as “approachable and thoughtful”, with corresponding wine pairings and sweet endings. The focus is clearly given to fresh produce and cooking techniques, which have been perfected over time.
Gallery by Chele
Prepare for a mind-altering culinary adventure with a medley of Filipino-inspired dishes by chef Jose Luis “Chele” Gonzales. Chele has worked at the “world’s best restaurant” El Bulli in Spain and at Denmark’s Noma. But it is here in Manila he decided to spread his wings.
The tasting menus are a journey of flavours from across the Philippine archipelago and Chele works with local farmers and fishermen to source fresh, indigenous produce.