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Eating Exotic Filipino Food

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© Ralph Steadman

A Taste of Manila Mild

Four not-to-miss spots to sample some exotic Filipino fare.

Bale Dutun: Lunch at Claude Tayag’s beautiful house is strictly reservation-only. He usually opens for parties of more than ten, though you can still call if there are less—I’m sure he would be happy to accommodate fewer guests. But don’t just turn up, as everything has to be organized in advance. The food is well worth the two-hour trip from Manila. Course after course of exquisite Filipino food, everything from delicate fern salads to sisig, that crunchy, chewy, spicy beauty of a piggy dish. And there’s no better guide to the national food than Tayag. At Villa Gloria Subdivision, Angeles City, Pampanga; 63-2/668-4038; claudetayag.net.

Cafe Juanita: Dr. Boy Vasquez, a famous, now retired, obstetrician, is the man behind Café Juanita. It’s a riot in every sense, with twinkling fairy lights, multicolored lanterns and billowing, gaudy drapes. The food is top-notch, home-cooked Filipino classics. The pork adobo is wonderful, as is the pasta with crab fat. At Kapitolyo, Pasig City; 63-2/632-0357.

Panciteria Lido: One of Manila’s oldest restaurants, this panciteria mixes the Chinese with the Filipino. Traditionally a place where men came to meet, drink, talk and play cards, it still has an old-world charm. Prices are cheap, and the food is excellent. The noodles are, as you’d expect from a noodle house, first-rate, but the likes of steamed prawns, dumplings and iced coffee are all top-notch, too. At 593 T. Alonso St., Binondo; 63-2/733-5260.

The Tivoli: This is a grand French restaurant, but it serves up seriously good food. Executive sous chef Remi Vercelli trained under French legend Paul Bocuse, and it shows. He has a deftness of touch and real technical skill with dishes such as foie gras and morels au torchon with dried fruit, nuts and apple marmalade with the most buttery of brioche. This is proper haute cuisine. At the Mandarin Oriental, Makati Ave., Makati; 63-2/750-8888; mandarinoriental.com.

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