How is Filipino cuisine right now? It’s an interesting question one could think about — what with various food favorites like fast-food chain Jollibee, lechon and adobo being put on the spotlight thanks to hosts and celebrity chefs such as Andrew Zimmern and Anthony Bourdain.
For instance, Zimmern once predicted that Filipino cuisine would become the next big thing. Vogue.com, on the other hand, called Filipino food “the next great American cuisine” — all thanks to the slew of modern restaurants popping up all over the country. (Think of Bon Appetit-featured eatery Bad Saint in Washington D.C, or Purple Yam in New York City.)
2018 is also said to be a pivotal year for Filipino cuisine. Will it finally springboard into the culinary zeitgeist — after long being snubbed over the more popular cuisines of its neighbors? That might be finally be the case — according to New York-based restaurant consultancy group Baum + Whiteman. With growing Filipino communities across the world, mainstream diners might finally be adding everything from pancit palabok to kare-kare to their vocabulary.
Back in the Philippines, the landscape has also been getting a bit of a shake-up. In place of standard eateries serving tried-and-tested fare, restaurants such as Sentro 1771 and Locavore have begun to whip up delicious twists and fusions that seem to propel the most classic dishes forward.
Now, here’s a look at some of the most exciting things happening in the country’s culinary scene.
Reinventing Filipino Bread: Panaderya Toyo
There’s a certain comfort and nostalgia about pandesal, which to many brings back memories of buying a freshly baked batch at the corner bakery. While that may still be true today, pandesal is also seeing some sort of innovation — in the form of Panaderya Toyo. An offshoot of the established Toyo Eatery, Panaderya Toyo is a specialty bakeshop known for their signature take on the classic breakfast and merienda staple.
Famed for the knotted pandesal, its breadmaking process involves the combination of aromatic and organic ingredients down to the fundamental butter, flour and sugar. The result? A slightly darker, charred batch that crackles once torn apart — similar to sourdough.
Emphasizing The Wonders of Filipino Flavors: Sentro 1771
Offering a modern and sophisticated take on native Filipino cuisine, Sentro 1771 serves some of the most generous portions all at more reasonable prices. Kind of like giving the good old fiesta a contemporary upgrade. Here, one can feast on everything from their signature corned beef sinigang, catfish adobo flakes, and their popular appetizer, the fried kesong puti (local white cheese) with chili-guava sauce.
Taking Heritage Into Today: Restaurante Pia Y Damaso
More than 300 years of Spanish colonization has shaped the ways Filipinos eat — and while the conquistadors have long gone, one can still delight in the wide variety of Filipino-Spanish style fare.
Putting modern-day twists into the country’s culinary heritage is Restaurante Pia Y Damaso, with its very concept paying homage to Philippine and European history. Named after two notable characters in Jose Rizal-penned novel Noli Me Tangere, the restaurant refines the usually rustic character of Filipino food — putting all sorts of creative twists while retaining their local flavors.
Reimagining Tradition: Locavore
Named after the actual term — of a diner conscious about how their food is grown or produced — Locavore puts native and sustainable food traditions into the spotlight. Located in the capital, it is a truly farm-to-table bar and restaurant, with brews and comfort food creations sourced from nearby local farms in Metro Manila.
This proves how traditionally Filipino food too, can also take on new challenges and trends in the culinary scene.
More than their selection of locally brewed beers (such as Joe’s Brew, San Miguel, and Privo Praha), they are mostly known for their creations that reintroduce homecooked dishes into a more serious yet approachable light.
Why not check out their iconic sizzling sinigang, crispy pata, baked scallops with crab fat, or their lechon oyster sisig for a change?