Manila Weekend: Hole in the Wall, Third Wave Cafes and One Badass Dimsum House

It’s been years since I’ve roamed around the streets of Metro Manila so when the work opportunity came for me to travel to the nation’s capital for a week, Kaye and I decided to dedicate the weekend for some food and coffee spotting around the metro. Since we are fond of reading food and lifestyle blogs, we already had a few places in mind to visit. 

But before that weekend, I had the chance to visit the Eugenio Lopez Center in Antipolo for a company training and boy, did that place have the best view of Metro Manila, especially at night with city lights illuminating the city’s horizon.

Mr. Rod will see you now…

Bright lights, big city

However, it’s not all festive because the truth of the matter is, Metro Manila’s air condition is in a sad state. The thick smog covering the tall skyscrapers is very much visible and provides a negative image on the metro’s growth compromising the environment. Although the Manila skies do give a pretty badass sunset, I have to admit.

Bittersweet sunset

Also during the week, I decided to try some fancy restos around Gateway in QC. I opted to chance upon Banapple at Araneta but the place was packed to the brim, even during an innocent weeknight so I had to find an alternative. Nearby was an IHOP outlet which had surprisingly few customers so I decided to check it out.

So-so pancakes

I ordered the combo meal with 2 pancakes, egg, bacon and hash browns (priced around P300++). To be honest, the food was just ok. The breakfast plate was your typical fried and greasy comfort food and though the pancakes tasted good (with lots of maple syrup flavors to choose from), I thought the high price tag wasn’t fully justified. Sorry, IHOP.

With so much grease, John Travolta appeared and started dancing

Should’ve HOPped over to somewhere else

Friday finally came and Kaye arrived to join me here in Manila for the weekend. We stayed around the Makati area, near the good food places we planned to visit. First stop, Hole in the Wall, Century City Mall.

We’ve read a lot about Hole in the Wall from lifestyle and food blogs and most of them had high praises for the various stalls inside the food court-styled gastronomic haven. The place can get pretty crowded especially after office hours but overall, the ambience was still nice. There are a number of stalls inside Hole in the Wall, but no other stall had more hype and praise than this one: Bad Bird.

We ordered Bad Bird’s signature 2 pc. Umami Fried Chicken with Korean rice and kimchi (P320.00) with corn on the side (P95.00/2pcs.). We mixed the mild and spicy flavors of the umami chicken to taste and compare both varieties.

Good bird gone bad (pun intended)

The chicken was deliciously good, as advertised. The skin was very flavorful and crunchy while the white meat was tasty and juicy as well. We were more fond of the spicy chicken than the mild one.

The corn on a stick was also very good. Infused with mayo and floss, eating the corn was a treat and can be ordered as a stand-alone, be it for merienda or dessert. They have huge servings so a little heads up to those who are on a strict diet.

Our primary goal for the next two days!

After dinner we headed to the Toby’s Estate branch at Century City, one of the “third wave” or artisanal coffee shops in the metro that we’ve read so many good things about. Unfortunately, we didn’t expect the stall to be that “cute” so we decided to visit one of their bigger outlets located at Salcedo Village (which was also quite near Century City Mall).

After finding ourselves some good seats, I ordered their signature Mocha drink while Kaye, being a 2nd timer who already tasted their Mocha drink, went the different route and ordered their Chai Chocolate. For dessert, we had their calamansi pie (Kaye is such a sucker for tangy pastries).

Coffee, as it should be

Their Mocha was probably the best cafe mocha variation I’ve tasted. It wasn’t the typical chocolatey Mocha drink commercialized coffee shops usually serve (Ehem, Torani syrup). You can really appreciate the coffee flavor with every sip, added with just the right hint of chocolate to compliment the drink. I also loved the implementation of the thinner than usual foam at the brim. And for P160.00, I wonder why people still go to Starbucks for their caffeine fix when this kind of coffee shop exists.

The Chai Chocolate was also good and again, defies from your usual expectation from a hot cup of chocolate milk tea. Then again, I’m not the biggest fan of tea, so it’s literally not my cup of tea. *wink*

The calamansi pie was the perfect companion for our drinks thanks to its tangy taste and crusty texture. Wish we had enough tummy space for their buckies (looks like a  brownie but not really a brownie) though so that story would be for a later time and place.

“Best calamansi pie ever!” – Kaye

The next day rolled in and we have quite a long day planned ahead so what better way to start the morning by drinking (you guessed it) COFFEE! This time, we visited the 2nd artisanal coffee shop on our list: Refinery, located at  Joya Drive, Rockwell.

Cafe na Bar o Bar na Cafe?

Doubling as a café and a bar, Refinery offers a variety of coffee-based drinks and alcoholic beverages for your caffeine and alcohol doses. The place itself has good ambience and nice interiors.

Kaye went for their Valrhona Mocha (P185.00) while I had their Salted Caramel Latte (P155.00). Their  mocha was good, wasn’t too sweet and you can still taste the body of the coffee (though it had a thicker foam than Toby’s). Although Kaye didn’t really care for the berry-like aftertaste the Lamill beans had, it wasn’t a deal-breaker for me. The Salted Caramel Latte was heavier on the tummy than what I was expecting. It had a very flavorful taste (a little too salty for my liking); too flavorful that I had a little difficulty finishing up the drink. Should’ve stayed with the classics, I suppose.

We then proceeded to BGC to meet up with some old friends. While waiting, we strolled around Bonifacio High Street for some innocent window-shopping that quickly escalated into impulse-buying. Damn you, Under Armour and Sole Academy!

We found DOGE!!!

We found DOGE!!!

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In memory of the UA shirts I left at Landmark's baggage counter.

In memory of the UA shirts we left at Landmark’s baggage counter (not gonna elaborate on that sad, sad story)

Lunch was at Conti’s together with our friends. Kaye and I ordered Chicken ala Kiev and Grilled Porkchops (both not pictured) which were very good, especially the chicken dish. I was curious with their famous Mango Bravo (P165.00) so we decided to give it a shot. The dessert was quite big so this should be shared by two.

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To be honest, I don’t really get the hype behind Conti’s Mango Bravo. It was ok at best and for sure I’ve tasted way better-tasting desserts in Davao.

After Conti’s, we decided to try out laser tag (inspired by HIMYM) at Lazer Xtreme in Market! Market! For P220/head, we got to have 15 minutes of laser tag action, complete with vibrating vests ang light up guns.

Laser tag was so much fun! We were scurrying around and shooting strangers around like true space commandos all throughout the course of the game. Although the 15 minutes can be a bit longer than you expect it to be, the P220 fee is well worth it. Prepare to sweat it out!

pew pew pew

To cool ourselves off from that rather physical adventure, we headed to nearby SM Aura to find some refreshments and also to stroll around the ginormous mall. By night, we were joined by our friend, Koy, who went with us back to Hole in the Wall to try the other good stuff there.

We recommended Koy to check out Bad Bird since this was his first time at Hole in the Wall while Kaye and I went Vietnamese with Phobobo.

Lemongrass Chicken BBQ w/ shrimp spring roll

Since we hadn’t researched much about Phobobo, we didn’t know what to expect with their food. Fortunately, their Sweet Chili Pork BBQ (P280.00) and Lemongrass Chicken BBQ (P270.00) were both good, tender to the bite and seasoned just right. Special shoutout to the yummy spring rolls and sawsawan.

We also bought cookies (Box of 6) from Scout’s Honor (P265.00, not pictured) to go for dessert on our way out of Hole in the Wall. Their famous Matcha Green Tea cookie was too heavy to the tummy, in my opinion. Their saving grace was the Red Velvet cookie.

Still feeling the night’s youth, we headed back to Salcedo Village for a nice cup of hot coffee yet again. This time, at Commune PH.

Commune was listed as one of the third wave coffee shops here in the Metro so we kinda had our hopes high but after tasting their Hot Mocha (P110.00), we quickly realized they were still few notches below Refinery and Toby’s Estate. Although the place does have a homey vibe perfect for late night meets with co-workers and friends, so they have that going for them, which is nice.

The Three Mochateers

 

Finally, our last day in Manila came and we planned on ending our weekend with a bang. For our Sunday lunch, the famous Tim Ho Wan.

Hong Kong’s famous Michelin star restaurant

Tim Ho Wan has been basking under heaps of praises from food blogs and other online food sites for quite some time. And deservedly so since this humble dimsum house has garnered Michelin star status in its hometown of Hong Kong. And yes, if you’re going to eat during peak hours (lunch and dinner), expect to queue up. We were lucky to only wait for 15 minutes before being seated.

Our orders were as follows: the immensely popular Baked Buns w/ Pork (P145.00), Pork and Shrimp dumplings (P150.00) and Fried Pork dumplings with Wasabi salad (P140.00). We were quite surprised with how reasonably-priced their menu was, given the quality of food they serve.

The holy trinity of baked buns

HEAVEN. I can eat this all day.

The baked buns were INSANELY good. The flaky crust combined with the savory pork stuffing was a match made in heaven. Shocking to realize this is just priced at roughly P50.00 apiece. The hype is real, guys.

Crispy, tangy and juicy. Better eaten without the Wasabi.

The fried dumplings and pork and shrimp siomai were also very good. I particularly liked the crispy texture of the fried dumplings since I’m a sucker for fried food. One thing that really made us satisfied was that there were no extenders used in the dumplings. If they put in pork and shrimp in the menu, you get your pork and shrimp, dammit!

Leaving Tim Ho Wan with full tummies, we continued our day strolling around Glorietta and Greenbelt before heading to the airport and ultimately arriving back in Davao’s loving arms. ‘Til we meet again, Manila. Now where’s my phone so I can browse Looloo and Zomato for more ideas the next time around. -rod-

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