el-Air: it’s like Makati, but not. It only takes a short drive to get from from mall food to a bustling suburbia of hole in the walls and semi-secret dining experiences. Here are some of them.

Korea Garden Restaurant

128 Jupiter Street, Makati City. tel.(02) 895-5443

What it is

Korea Garden has been around for almost 40 years, but the high quality of their food has never wavered. All cooked with the heirloom recipes of its legendary proprietor, the late Fideliza Flores, this is definitely Korean food at its best, and as authentic as it gets.

Must Trys
  • Customers swear by the Kalbijim (Beef Stew).
  • The bulgogi (barbecue) selections are definitely crowd-pleasers, with choices ranging from beef, pork, chicken, shrimp, and squid
  • Champong, Korea’s famous spicy seafood noodle soup, decidedly a million times better than the ‘instant’ kind
  • Chapchae, Korea’s tasty answer to pancit
  • Kimchi Jeongol, a mixed stew with noodles and favourful broth once reserved only for upper-class and royal palates
  • Gujeolpan, served in a nine-sectioned plate of vegetables and meats that you can mix and match and place in thin pancakes and create spring rolls from. This dish requires a 2-hour advanced order, but it’s worth it!

If you love Korean food, Korea Garden should definitely be at the top of your list of restuarants to enjoy and visit over and over.


28 Jupiter Street, Makati City. tel. (02) 896-1989

What it is

Long an after-hours favourite in Makati , Whistlestop, has offered 24/7 service since 1977. This Jupiter st. branch closed down sometime in the 2000’s, but was revived in 2009 a few blocks down from its original location.

Must Trys
  • The beloved Whistle-izzas (mini taco-pizza hybrids)
  • Boneless Buffalo Wings with Bleu Cheese are the perfect bar chow when you’re here for drinks.
  • Hainanese Chicken
  • Indonesian Sate (there’s beef, pork, chicken, and shrimp to choose from) with home-made peanut sauce
  • Their tried-and-tested hangover cure, the 1977 Vintage Tapa
  • Their version of the Boracay-favourite Choriburger

Their ever-reliable comfort food and open-at-all-hours policy make it a perfect place to cool your heels at any time of day.

Mitsuyado Sei-men

22 Jupiter St, Makati City. tel. (02) 511-1390 and 511-1759

What it is

One of the most-talked about spots in Ramen-crazed Manila, Mitsuyado Sei-men really lives up to all the hype. Usually fully-booked, it’ll definitely help if you make reservations in advance. The dining area itself is worth the visit, as it meticulously resembles an old Tokyo market street, complete with weathered ‘shopfronts’ and old foodcart.

Must Trys
  • Tan Tan Men, with its delicately spiced, nutty goodness
  • Hakata Tonkotsu, ramen in a rich, thick pork bone broth
  • Char Siu Ramen, roasted pork-belly with a hearty broth)
  • Spicy Karashi Ramen
  • The classic Miso Ramen
  • The Double-Cheese Tsukemen, sprinkled with parmesan cheese, with cheese sauce mixed into a hot bowl of tonkotsu soup
  • Ichigo kakigori, shaved ice with strawberry syrup and vanilla ice cream
  • The pastry delights next door at the Yamato bakeshop, which recently started whipping up their own version of cronuts

A perfect starter for a trip down Ramen lane, great for those who want to enjoy home-made noodles.

HAO Hong Kong Diner

27 Canopus St. corner Jupiter St., Makati City. tel (02) 478-3927

What it is

This place is a popular spot for lunch, but it gets pretty full at night when the drinking crowd comes in (they’re open until 2AM). They have similar bar chow on offer as recently-closed Good Earth Roasts.

Must Trys
  • Hainanese Chicken
  • Rice topping meals with beef, pork, fish, and squid which can be mixed and matched with your choice among sweet and sour, curry, tausi, or Spicy Mandarin sauces.
  • Maling Chips, crispy wonton wrappers filled with luncheon meat
  • The tasty Crispy Pork Pao

A favorite after-work/school drinking joints with its small, casual atmosphere and affordable drinks and Chinese food menu.

La Tienda

43 Polaris St., Makati City. tel. (02) 890-4123

What it is

La Tienda started out as a small cafe and Spanish deli along P.Burgos Street in Makati in 1986, and opened as a full Spanish restaurant in 1994. It then moved to its current location in nearby Polaris Street. It has since become a favourite place for family lucnhes and dinners and evening cocktails.

Must Trys
  • Marques de Caceres wines and home-made sangria
  • Delectable chorizos and jamones
  • Gambas a la Plancha, served with homemade aoili
  • Patatas Bravas and Boquerones, marinated white anchovies
  • Angulas, marinated baby eels
  • Cochinillo Asado, roasted suckling pig which requires an advance order)
  • Besugo Asado a la Vasca, a recipe for grilled bream fish straight from San Sebastian in the food famous Basque region
  • Paella Mixta, mixed with seafood, vegetables, and meat
  • Paella Negra, squid ink with seafood and a hearty dollop of aioli
  • Paella de Mariscos, seafood paella
  • Paella Verdura, vegetarian paella

One of the country’s best and most authentic Spanish fine-dining establishments, with a full-blown authentic experience. You should go there for the Tapas and Paellas!

Le Cafe Curieux

Bel-Air Soho Building, Polaris St. corner Badajos St,. Makati City. (0905) 482-6371

What it is

Tucked away in a small street off Polaris is one of Makati’s coziest French restaurants, Le Cafe Curieux. There’s the bar area up front where you can sample a glass of Pastis or enjoy some draught beer or cocktails, but the airy veranda out back is a better place to be if you’re there to eat or hang out as a group. Meals are capped with a serving of their fruit-infused rhum, but these are so deliciously tempting, you may end up trying out all the different flavors!

Must Trys
  • All-you-can-eat specials on Moules-Frites (fresh-caught Mussels served with french fries) and Fondue Bourginonne (Steak fondue), for the very afforable pricetag of Php500
  • For charcuterie and cheese lovers, they also host Cold Cuts, Cheese and Wine tasting evenings.
  • l’Emince, tender beef strips served with either pepper or bleu cheese sauce
  • Beef Steak Tartarre
  • Grilled Herbed Lambchops
  • Poisson du jour plates, Fresh Fish of the Day
  • The Salade Nicoise, Salade Cesare, Salade de Pecheur (seafood salad) and Salade de Argentuil (a refreshing salad with lettuce, cucumbers, ham, egg, and pine nuts)
  • The home-made Tarte Tatin (apple tart)

One of Makati’s hippest hang-outs, with its high-quality yet reasonably priced French fare, excellent French wine selection, homemade fruit-infused rhums, and its generally casual and arty atmosphere (it’s also partly an art gallery for Filipino and French artists).

Argos Minibar

Citadel Inn, 5007 Burgos St., Makati City. tel (02) 869-3416

What it is

When you turn the corner into Burgos Street from Le Cafe Curieux, you’ll soon be greeted by the tempting scent of grilled meat wafting through the air. Walk a few more paces and you’ll soon see the brightly-lit Mediterannean style frontage of Argos Minibar.

Must Trys
  • The chunky, spiced Hummus makes a great match for beer (or some Greek fennel Ouzo if you want a bit of an aperitif)
  • Another favourite is the Sarma Cabbage Dolma—little cabbage rolls stuffed with tender ground beef and smothered with tomato sauce and yoghurt.
  • Their chicken/beef/lamb pita wraps are as delicious as their inviting scent promises
  • Shawarma with Rice, a full-blown feast on a plate, with a heaping serving of grilled meat, vegetable salad,couscous, some hummus and very tasty Turkish rice.

Authentic Turkish-Greek fare, and some of the best beef and chicken shawarmas in the city.


5782 Felipe St., Makati City. tel. (02)  895 1919

What it is

El Chupacabra is a small Mexican-style cantina. Word-of-mouth turned it from a hole-in-the-wall joint into one of South Makati’s most popular hang-outs. Eating here, you’ll know why this place is jampacked every night, even if it opens at 2PM and closes at 2AM.

Must Trys
  • The amazing open-face street tacos
  • Cheap servings of rhum and beer (P35 pesos for a shot of rhum is definitely an amazing find in Makati!)
  • Street tacos that are served just as they would be in Mexican streets, open-faced on a soft hand-rolled corn tortilla with a helping of your choice of filling (choose from carne asada, carnitas, lengua, pollo, pescado, camaron, chorizo, barbacoa and tripa) with some onions, zingy salsa, and fresh-chopped cilantro to be sprinkled on with a zest of lime, rolled up and savored completely.
  • 20 peso pork barbecue
  • San Francisco-Style Lean pork sisig

With brightly coloured walls and an open street-dining seating plan spilling out into the street, this is definitely as close as Makati gets to Baja.

Anna Vecin

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