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A Gastronomic Journey Through Manila: The Ultimate Guide to Eating in Poblacion and Rockwell

“Your body is not a temple, it's an amusement park. Enjoy the ride.” Anthony Bourdain.

A Gastronomic Journey Through Manila: The Ultimate Guide to Eating in Poblacion and Rockwell

In my travels back to Manila throughout 2023, I found myself reflecting on the city's remarkable journey from the familiar streets I roamed two decades ago to its current vibrant state. I harbored concerns about how the city's culinary scene would weather the storms brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Would the shutdowns and restrictions erase the flavors and places I had come to love? Thankfully, to my relief, while several favorite haunts did close permanently close, the overall impact was less devastating than I feared. Instead, what greeted me was a testament to resilience and innovation: a wave of young, dynamic entrepreneurs who have not only revived but reinvigorated Manila's dining landscape. Their ventures have transformed my trips into culinary explorations, uncovering new delights with every visit.

Over the past twenty years, I've watched as Manila's culinary scene blossomed from its traditional roots into a mosaic of global cuisines, each establishment adding its uniqueness to an already unique city. As I share this journey, we'll delve into a handpicked selection of restaurants in Poblacion and Rockwell—neighborhoods near my usual stays and central to Manila's dining renaissance. Let’s dive into the culinary delights of this quickly gentrifying neighborhood, where each meal tells a story of passion, heritage, and innovation:

  • A Mano (Streetside Lopez Dr, Power Plant Mall, Brgy. Poblacion, Makati): Specializing in Italian cuisine, A Mano has become my sanctuary amidst the hustle of shopping, offering a much-needed respite from the crowds and extensive walking. Their pizza is awesome, boasting a perfect crust and fresh toppings, while their pasta dishes are consistently satisfying.

  • Bun Appetit (Stall 18, The Grid Food Market, Level R2, Power Plant Mall, Rockwell Center, Brgy. Poblacion, Makati): The lobster, crab, and shrimp rolls are the undisputed stars at Bun Appetit, each perfectly complemented by clam chowder for a quick yet luxuriously indulgent meal. It's become my essential stop for a taste of the sea, especially when time is of the essence.

  • Caruso Ristorante Italiano (Ground floor, LRI Design Plaza, 210 Nicanor Garcia, Makati): Introduced to me by a close friend, Caruso quickly captured my heart and my stomach. Their commitment to authentic Italian cuisine is evident in every dish, making it a favorite for both intimate dinners and celebratory gatherings.

  • Chef Jessie Rockwell Club (Amorsolo Drive, G/F The Rockwell Club, Rockwell Center, Brgy. Poblacion, Makati): My culinary journey with Chef Jessie's establishments spans over two decades, from the days of Le Souffle to Top of the Citi, and now to her latest restaurant. The Rockwell Club, with its exquisite French and contemporary offerings, remains a standout culinary highlight of my visits to Manila. It masterfully blends impeccable flavors with an elegant ambiance, making it a must-visit destination for me on every trip to the city.

A Gastronomic Journey Through Manila: The Ultimate Guide to Eating in Poblacion and Rockwell

  • Crying Tiger Street Kitchen (4986 P. Guanzon Street, Brgy. Poblacion, Makati): This place is all about Asian street food with a focus on Thai flavors. It’s the ideal spot for late-night cravings, especially after a night out. The vibrant, energetic atmosphere adds to the appeal, making every visit memorable.

  • Dr. Wine (5921 Algier St. Ground floor, Brgy. Poblacion, Makati): As a wine enthusiast, Dr. Wine’s French bistro setting and exquisite brunch offerings make it a real standout. It’s a place where the love for wine is matched by the quality of the food, creating a perfect brunch experience.

  • Ebi 10 (5666 Don Pedro, Brgy. Poblacion, Makati): My go-to for Japanese cuisine, Ebi 10 serves everything from sushi to karaage with authentic flair. Note: It was closed for renovations on my last visit, so I recommend checking their current status or visiting one of their other branches for an excellent dining experience.

  • El Chupacabra (5782 Felipe St., Brgy. Poblacion, Makati): Known for its street tacos with a Filipino twist, El Chupacabra is perfect for those afternoons when only a cold beer and a flavorful taco will do. While the service can be hit or miss, the food consistently hits the spot. And I’d be remiss not to mention it is open late so it's popular with the late-night bar-hopping crowd.

  • Japonesa (5658 Don Pedro St at the Corner of Jacobo, Brgy. Poblacion, Makati): Offering a unique Japanese-Peruvian fusion, Japonesa impressed me with its ambiance and culinary creativity. I can tell you from first-hand experience that it’s the kind of place where time slips away as you delve into an array of beautifully crafted dishes.

  • Mijo Comfort Food (4987 P. Guanzon St., Brgy. Poblacion, Makati): Blending Filipino cuisine with a Spanish twist, Mijo is as much about the excellent bar as it is about the food. It’s a spot where the lively atmosphere complements the flavorful, comforting dishes.

  • Nikkei Rockwell (One Rockwell East Tower, Ground Floor, Brgy. Poblacion, Makati): With Ebi 10’s Poblacion branch temporarily closed, Nikkei has become my new neighborhood favorite for Japanese cuisine. Their menu expertly balances tradition with innovation, making every visit worthwhile.

  • Nolita Joe’s (5666 Don Pedro, Bgy. Poblacion, Makati):  For a slice of New York in Manila, Nolita Joe’s is my choice. Their New York-style pizza is the perfect solution for late-night cravings, offering a taste of the Big Apple in the heart of Manila.

  • Refinery (Joya Tower, 28 Plaza Drive Rockwell Center, Bgy. Polacion, Makati): As a breakfast fanatic, Refinery is my kind of place. Their coffee is top-notch, and the breakfast offerings are diverse and delicious. While they also serve non-breakfast foods…wait, what was I talking about?

If you know me, you know I’ve lived Anthony Bourdain's (previously quoted) wisdom a bit more seriously than I should. I aim to remedy that, but I digress. Eating in Manila is a culinary adventure, sometimes veering a bit more into the realm of indulgence than initially intended. Each visit is a journey of discovery, where every nook and cranny of Poblacion and the sleek areas of Rockwell reveal hidden culinary treasures. The narrow streets of Poblacion and the modern settings of Rockwell are more than just points on a map; they are beacons of Manila's gastronomic renaissance, inviting travelers and locals alike to savor each bite as part of the city's unfolding narrative. Kain tayo, my friends.

A Gastronomic Journey Through Manila: The Ultimate Guide to Eating in Poblacion and Rockwell

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