My 8 Favorite Restaurants for 2016

This year, we saw a lot of new restaurants popping out in almost every vacant corner of the city. As people grew more knowledgeable and more picky about their food, a lot of establishments have really upped their game and decided that they are dishing out food that’s nothing short of spectacular. With something new opening doors every week, it becomes even more impossible to keep up and try everything. Good thing diners nowadays have become more discerning, and with this, restaurateurs have become more competitive as well—improving, in my opinion, our restaurant scene.

I looked back at all the yummy things I ate this 2016 and came up with a list of my top 8 restaurants. These are the places that made me taste some of the most mind-blowing dishes this year; new concepts I discovered and loved; restaurants I visit often whenever I feel an intense craving (doesn't necessarily have to be new and have opened this year); and food destinations beyond Manila that I sought after. I had wanted to limit the list to Manila restaurants only but I couldn’t take not including the 2 amazing places I tried in Boracay. Enjoy reading—and have a yummier 2017!

8 | Serbesa MNL – Latin American

Serbesa MNL is not exactly a restaurant—but rather, a pop-up concept specializing in bar chow and cocktails. Always a hit in bazaars and food fairs, Serbesa is the brainchild of Jazelle Carandang, who used to work at a restaurant before putting up her own business. Her Squash and Jalapeno Poppers are absolutely addicting, whereas her wraps like Beef Kofte, Pollo and Gambas, and Sizzling Heart Attack are perfect with any drink. She makes awesome cocktails too!  Follow Serbesa on Instagram; who knows when it’s popping up in your neighborhood?

7 | Mrs. Graham's Café/Mr. Graham's Sandwich Shop – Dessert/American

If you love macarons, consider Mrs. Graham’s Café as your heaven on earth. Jazz-singer-slash-pastry-chef Anna Graham makes some of the most unique and delicious macarons in Manila. The 4-Cheese flavor blew me away, while quirky variants like Eggnog, Bibingka with Salted Egg, and Cheetos are true delights for any dessert lover. Even classic flavors like salted caramel, strawberry, and dark chocolate are so irresistible! Mr. Graham’s, which is just next door, closed down last week, but it was here where I got my favorite sandwich ever—the Cebuano made with lechon, cheese, ham, mangoes, and lechon drippings!

6 | Los Indios Bravos – International/Gastropub

Revolutionary gastropub cuisine. This is Los Indios Bravos' battle cry and its menu can attest to that. Offering a different kind of gastropub experience in Boracay, Los Indios serves international bar grub along with a selection of local craft beers. Pair the Bitterballen (Dutch croquettes) with some pale ale, or let the flavors of Oysters Rockefeller shine with a bottle of wheat beer. If you’re craving for something exotic, try their Chicken Tikka Masala. Los Indios is one of the best reasons to visit Bulabog—the other side of your usual Boracay.

Read also: 

5 | Minami Saki by Astoria – Japanese

Lovers of Japanese food need to try Minami Saki located at the lobby of Astoria Plaza in Ortigas. I have two words for Chef Katagiri’s food: vibrant and delicious. The oversized Aburi Sushi selections are perfection; sides like Kaki Papaya Yaki (oysters on papaya) and US Scallops in Tamago Sauce are dishes unlike any other. Even typical dishes like tempura and karaage are flawlessly executed, and don’t forget to try the Wasabi Crème Brulee for dessert when you visit.

4 | Dos Mestizos – Spanish

We know that people visit Boracay either for the beach or for the party, but if you’re visiting for the food, make Dos Mestizos the reason why. With 13 years in the island, this Spanish-Filipino restaurant is one of the best I’ve tried this year—a lot better than most Manila establishments, actually. Chef Andre Malarky serves awesome Paella Negra, Salpicao de Vaca, and Salmon con Crema de Azafran. The tapas are top-notch, the cocktails legit. On some evenings they even have flamenco and salsa dancers. Three thumbs up!

Read also: 

3 | Atelier Vivanda Manila – French

When a Michelin-starred chef puts up shop in Manila, you try his food—end of story. Chef Akrame Benallal proudly brought his French cooking to BGC with the casual-chic steak house/fromagerie/wine bar, Atelier Vivanda. The Black Angus Rib Eye is phenomenal—but make sure you get some potatoes (pomme dauphines, pomme darphines), which are glorified at Vivanda. For something truly indulgent, get the 50-day dry-aged Holstein beef or the Duck Confit. Desserts are not to be missed—their crème brulee is one of the best in the metro.

Read also: 

2 | Black Sheep – Asian (Chinese)

Black Sheep is like the buzzer beater in this list, as I have just tried it last week. Great choice for a pre-Christmas dinner venue—Chef Patrick Go’s food is exquisite. The signature Foie Long Bao speaks for his talent: you taste the foie gras first, then a shower of roasted peanuts, followed by some ginger and finally, vinegar. Our favorite was the Pig on a Pillow made with pork face, kale, spiced honey, and uni. His food can be put in a high-end hotel restaurant. If I can summarize everything in 3 words: playful, intricate, sophisticated.

1 | Hey Handsome – Asian (Penarakan)

I’m pretty sure I’m not the first to declare Hey Handsome as the best restaurant of 2016—but hey! Come by and you will know why. Chef Nicco Santos seems to have poured his heart and soul into this restaurant. Penarakan cuisine takes center stage in this industrial-style eatery: the Bebek Penyet (duck) explodes with flavors while Nasi Lemak demands cusswords. Starters like the Fried Egg Salad and Soft Soft Tofu try to steal the show, and desserts such as Durian Cream Puff try to end your meal with a bang.

What were your favorite eats for 2016?

If you like my posts and would love regular updates on travel photos, food finds, restaurant reviews, dance articles, and drunken tales, follow Pepe Samson on Facebook!

pepe samson

About Pepe Samson

This is a short description in the author block about the author. You edit it by entering text in the "Biographical Info" field in the user admin panel.
    Disqus Comment
    Facebook Comment


Post a Comment

Let me know what you think!