Fri

01

Apr

2016

Kapitolyo's "Foodie Mecca" - Why I'm Starting to Love Manila

I Dreamed Of This - Kapitolyo, Philippines © Nathan Allen via @idreamedofthis

 

 

Kapitolyo seems to be a bit of a foodie secret. I have traveled to the Philippines twice, spending over a year there each time. I have sampled and explored many restaurants and eateries in that time...how did I not know about this delicious neighborhood? 

 

Situated just northeast of Makati, Kapitolyo boasts more reasonably-priced hip restaurants than anywhere else I have been in Manila...and it shows no signs of slowing down. A community of food stalls called "Gastro Park" recently opened up, and another new and exciting restaurant seems to open up each and every day.

 

 

 

The Seventh Element Liquid Nitrogen Ice Cream @ Kapitolyo's Gastro Park
Making Liquid Nitrogen Ice Cream @ Kapitolyo's Gastro Park

In this charming little neighborhood you can find anything your taste buds are craving - from a (cheap, but gourmet) 24-hour breakfast joint, to a top-notch sushi restaurant, to an authentic Irish pub. Of course, you can find plenty of great Filipino food as well.

 

Manila is quite a hectic city, but somehow Kapitolyo still feels more like a relaxed community. To be honest, it kind of reminds me of Brooklyn before it became too expensive. Right now there is still a funky, independent vibe. The food quality is quite high, but the prices are still reasonable. Let's hope the arrival of the upscale new Rockwell condominiums won't change the feel of this place too much.

Karen's Kitchen

Karen Young of Karen's Kitchen - Kapitolyo
Karen Young, being the charming host that she is.

How about some afternoon tea...in wonderland? Well, at Karen's Kitchen, you can do just that. Tucked away off one of Kapitolyo's side streets, Karen and interior decorator Joi Santos Cutter have created a quirky, charming space that truly transports you into another world.

 

Karen is well known for her mouth-watering desserts, but she also puts a lot of love into her healthier dinner options. I personally loved the Dalandan (citrus) Chicken. Follow this up with her incredible Sticky Toffee Pudding or frozen Ube-cado Brazo, and you'll surely be hooked!

(Click photos for more info)

 

Hopefully Karen will be there during your visit...because she is just as sweet as her desserts! She really knows how to make her guests feel welcome and special. This is an excellent place for baby/bridal showers, tea parties with old friends, or for anybody who has a sweet tooth...and is looking for a truly unique place to indulge! My full experience here.

 

Haru Sushi

To be honest, I've always been skeptical about ordering sushi in the Philippines. It's just not something I hear people talk about so much. Haha....however, after walking past Haru Sushi enough times, I finally decided to give it a try. I'm so happy I did!

 

Haru Sushi Staff - Kapitolyo, Pasig - Philippines ©Nathan Allen via @idreamedofthis
Staff @ Haru Sushi

I have gotten used to the excellent Sushi available to us in San Francisco, but Haru definitely did not disappoint me. The decor, staff and service was just wonderful, and all the ingredients were fresh and prepared just right. I'm a big fan of Agedashi (lightly fried) Tofu, and along with my spicy Dynamite Roll (tuna, salmon, and Japanese cucumber), I highly recommend both.

 

Lazada Philippines

 

(Click photos for more info)

Nathan Allen Bio via @idreamedofthis

Cafe Juanita

Kare Kare @ Cafe Juanita - Kapitolyo, Pasig - Philippines ©Nathan Allen via @idreamedofthis
Beef Kare Kare @ Cafe Juanita

From what I recall, Cafe Juanita was the first restaurant in the area, and it's been going strong ever since. The decor is an eclectic mix of fabric and designs from all over the Philippines. The menu consists of very authentic Filipino comfort food, and while it's a little on the pricey side, the quality ingredients and rich flavors are every bit worth it.

 

This would be a great place to bring a visitor who is new to the Philippines, or just take your friends and family for an excellent home-cooked Filipino meal. I tried the fried calamares, beef kare kare (meat in a sauce made from peanut butter, garlic, and onions...it's much better than it might sound!), sinigang baboy (tangy tamarind pork soup), and the national dish, chicken adobo.

(Click photos for more info)

 

Everything was extremely flavorful (that's how Filipinos tend to like it:), and I enjoyed it, with the exception of the "adobong bisaya", which is a dry, crispy version of adobo. My Filipino friends love dishes like this (crispy pata is another), but I have yet to develop a taste for crispy meat. Haha.

 

The dessert offered to me was their cassava cake, and I really fell in love with it! Highly recommended. In general, the atmosphere and service here was excellent...it's no surprise that they are the same owners as Haru Sushi next door! They have a piano player that entertains guests on the weekends, and being a piano player myself, I thought that was a nice touch.

 

 

Gastro Park

Just off the main street (down the small street across from Ace Hotel), you can find the recently opened Gastro Park food stalls. If this large park is not an indicator that Kapitolyo is fast becoming Manila's "foodie mecca", I don't know what is. 

 

(Click photos for more info)

 

Unfortunately, I haven't had the time to explore it as much as I would like....but the Seventh Element Liquid Nitrogen Ice Cream certainly got my attention! There are so many dining options to choose from in the park, maybe someday I will update this blog after sampling some. 

 

A Unique Foodie Experience - At All Price Ranges

My personal favorite in Kapitolyo is Kanto's Freestyle Breakfast, which wins a special place in my heart for being open all night and serving the best tocilog (sweet pork, egg, and rice) I have ever tasted. They also serve a huge assortment of savory and dessert pancakes, along with local barako coffee. Just about everything on the menu is under 100 pesos! Look for it diagonally across from the new food park.

 

Another very popular place is Silantro Fil-Mex Restaurant, which serves nachos, burritos, and cheese quesadillas. Be warned, though...these are not authentic, because they have a Filipino twist to them. That basically means everything ends up tasting like caldareta (tomato-based stew dish). Everybody seems to absolutely love this place, so you may find yourself waiting for up to an hour to be seated at peak times.

(Click photos for more info)

 

Stop by Locavore and try their unique and famous "Sizzling Sinigang" (again, I think this might just be a Filipino favorite). Locavore has excellent fried chicken - I never tasted anything quite like it. The atmosphere is sleek and modern, but not pretentious or unwelcoming at all. I really love it.

 

Locavore also serves a delicious California-style craft beer called "Fish Rider Pale Ale", and it's the best price I've seen for it anywhere! It's nice for me to taste that little piece of home, even though the beer is brewed right there in Manila! You can also find it (along with plenty of European brews) at St Patrick's Irish Pub on the main road.

 

Other Unique Kapitolyo Dining Options:

 

Fried soft shell crab burger @ Crunchy Crab (the entire crab between the sandwich buns!)

Shawarma @ Uncle Moe's

Thai Food @ Smile Elephant

Street tacos (I recommend shrimp) @ Taco Venga

 

If you're looking for more of "Makati-like" dining experience in Kapitolyo, you can always go to nearby Capital Commons.

Kapitolyo Hotels

Ace Water Spa & Hotel - Kapitolyo - Philippines ©Nathan Allen via @idreamedofthis
Sky High Bar @ Ace Water Spa & Hotel

Ace Water Spa

To be honest, from the outside, Ace reminds me of other hotels in Manila that are quite pricey, but rarely worth it. However, after staying here I changed my mind. Prices are reasonable, the place is kept up very well, the service is excellent, and the views of the city from Sky High Bar can't be beat. Also worth mentioning is the breakfast buffet, blazing wifi speeds, and super comfy bed!

 

(Click photos for more info)

 

Going in, I had very low expectations of the water spa. I mean, what is a water spa, anyway? I had no idea. I couldn't imagine water being able to give me any kind of worthwhile massage...and boy, was I wrong. I think I stayed in the water for a few hours! If you have the time, there's enough pressure to relax all your different muscle groups. I also liked that I was the one in charge of the massage, for a change. A very cool experience!

 

You can book Ace Water Spa or get more info HERE

 

Privato

Privato Hotel -  Pasig - Philippines ©Nathan Allen via @idreamedofthis

I would describe Ace Hotel as warm, modern, and homey. However, if you're looking for something a bit more sleek and modern, try Privato Hotel. The reviews are quite good...the prices aren't bad, and they also have incredible views from their rooftop bar.

Book Privato or get more info HERE

 

Kapitolyo Restaurant Map

Kapitolyo Restaurant Map

If you try to use my map, good luck! Haha.

Happy eating, see you in Kapitolyo:)

- Nathan Allen

www.idreamedofthis.com

 

 Thanks for reading, and feel free to share the foodie love!


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Agoda - a partner of "I Dreamed Of This" - Photo by BM Snapshots

 

Most recent blog: Z Hostel, and the Suprising Tech-Driven Side of the Philippines

 

Related blog: In Defense Of Filipino Food

 

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Nathan Allen has spent 3 years taking photos and documenting the Philippines.  A long-term traveler, he lives by the motto "spend less, see more".  Follow him HERE.

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