Food critique: Pampangga’s Restaurants

Five restaurants to try in the food capital of the Philippines

It was approximately a two hour ride from Manila. As we passed through the wide, clean roads of Angeles City on our way to the Air BnB house we rented out, our tummies were growling in the prospect of an excellent meal in the country’s supposed food capital.

Although my family and I weren’t exactly on a trip to critique food, we were able to try a lot of good dishes from a number of good restaurants. Without further ado, here’s a list of five restaurants to try in Pampangga.

1. Hyun Jeong Korean Restaurant — 5/5

Angeles City is known for the strip of Korean food chains and groceries near McArthur Highway.

I have tried so many Korean restaurants but none surpass the standard of flavor and customer service that Hyun Jeong has. The prices range from 200–350 pesos but it’s totally worth dishes that have twice the amount of servings Korean restaurants in Manila tend to have.

You won’t regret trying out their Bibimbap with crispy seaweed and unlimited Gochuchang(P300), Kimchi Jjigae (P250-P300), Seafood-tofu Sundubu Jjigae (P250-P300), Bulgogi (P250-P300) and Samgyeopsal platters (P300). Not to mention, they serve you three servings of seven to nine side dishes throughout eating your meal. Serving size is huge making it such an affordable restaurant. After the meal, they also give you free Melona ice creams regardless of how many dishes you bought.

Seriously, try out Hyun Jeong. It’s the best Korean restaurant out there.

2. Im Mart, Angeles City — 5/5

Okay, this isn’t a restaurant, but it’s right across Hyun Jeong. It’s worth going to especially if you’re a Korean food enthusiast who loves checking out cheap Korean food which are insanely expensive in Manila. They have a HUGE array of ice cream flavors which range from P20 to P55. You would literally be overwhelmed with two aisles worth of a variety of popsicles, ice cream cups and sandwiches. Melona ice creams are priced at P20, as opposed to the Manila prices of P35-P70.

Im Mart is also perfect for people who want to try out Korean cuisine. It has all the food staples that are necessary in creating any Korean dish at reasonably priced rates. They also have a lot of Korean drinks, noodles, Kimchi brands, and canned goods.

3. Didi’s Pizza — 4/5

In a dimly-lit diner tucked in between several other restaurants in Balibago, Angeles City, Didi’s Pizza is a haven for those who starve for comfort food.

Their ‘Chili with Onions and Cheese Curds’ is a smokey, Mexican, bean dish topped with melted cheese curds and diced onions. It’s served a la carte, with rice, or with crackers. The presentation may seem underwhelming, but it’s worth the eighty bucks spent.

Didi’s Sizzling Sisig is also a must-try from the menu. The Kapampangan entree is crispy pig face chopped into tiny pieces combined with crunchy onions served in a sizzling platter of perfection. It was also fairly priced at around 180 pesos.

Other dishes include spareribs which were flavored and well-marinated in a barbecue sauce as well as a cheeseburger served with fries. The spareribs are passable, but can be improved if it were more tender. The cheeseburger was simple, nothing all that special.

Although the chili and the sisig were near perfect, perhaps the biggest disappointment would be the pizza. I urge you to save your money instead of buying the Combination pizza which could easily pass for uninteresting, lackluster food court pizza.

4. Gill’s Sherbet — 5/5

Burrowed in Nepo Market’s building complex stands a small stall of the very best sherbets gifted by the gods themselves. Gill’s Sherbet is an insanely delicious (and nutritious) haven of fruity sorbets such as melon, buko, and lychee. A regular cup costs P20 and an even larger one costs P40. They also sell ice cream for the same prices.

If you happen to pass by the Holy Rosary Parish, tread on to Nepo Market which is a short distance away. These sherbets give you enough fuel to last a hot summer day.

5. Aling Lucing’s Sisig — 4/5

Sisig — created by Aling Lucing of Pampangga. The small calenderia was highly acclaimed by Anthony Bourdain himself. Unfortunately, when we arrived at the restaurant, they had already run out of their vegetable options like their grilled talong with onions. It also happened to be holy week so I’m assuming that the calenderia was understaffed as evidenced by the hectic ambiance and late service.

The sisig was a less crunchy version of Didi’s Sisig. However, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The flavors were on point and perfect with a steaming cup of rice and an ice-cold beer or coke. We were also able to try out the caldereta which was homey and tender.

Perhaps, I would have enjoyed eating at Aling Lucing’s if the service was better and if they weren’t understaffed. Given its ravishing reviews and the delicious sisig, I’ve decided to give Aling Lucing’s the benefit of the doubt.

Besides, you simply cannot go to Pampangga and boycott what’s presumed to be the original, if not the best, sisig in the Philippines!