We're given a tip for Aysee Sisig (thanks Gaylord & Cupcake!) so we taxi it out there, just near the yuppyville under construction, Capitol Commons.
Aysee Sisig is wonderfully low rent in an old style shophouse. Perfect.
Gaylord's & Cupcake's tip is to get the sizzling sisig with egg...
Mix in the raw egg on top before it cooks, then squeeze a lime over and add soy sauce and chili. We read purists like their sisig unadorned but the extra fixins take it to another level of yum we reckon. The sisig is finely chopped and smooshy in texture with crunchy bits throughout. It has a rich fatty porky flavour. If you love pork you will love sisig. If the fact that it's made from pig head makes you freak out just shut up and eat it, it's awesome. You can get very a similar rendition of this classic dish in Sydney at La Mesa in Chinatown.
We get a side of chicken adobo, chook on the bone simmered in vinegar and garlic. This dish is very different in every place we try it. This version is plain and homely.
In the excitement we add manga ensalada with bagoong and salted egg. This is a salad of diced green mango, slightly funky and salty boiled googies, chopped spanish onion and tomato all made extra magic with a dollop of bagoong, a sweet easy eating shrimp paste. Mix it together and it's fresh, tangy and lively. We've become huge fans of bagoong since this trip, it's one of those wonder-condiments that can turn a good dish into an amazing dish.
Feeling the need to go walkies we go to SM Megamall. Malls are the easiest place to stretch the legs in Manila. It's New Years Eve and queues are out the door in most of the bakeries, cake is de rigueur for new years eve.
It's New Year's Eve but we're lazy and stay in our hotel drinking cheap champagne and the local Tanduay Rhum, which is pretty good for a three dollar bottle of hard liquor. The taste reminds us of Thai Mekong whiskey.
After some drinkies we head next door to the Power Station mall itching for some Kenny Rogers Roasters to see in the new year, Kenny ends in 'ny' after all. But Kenny is closed. We're sad bit we still believe in you Kenny. All the Pinoy restaurants are closed as well. So we hit 8 Cuts Burger Blends
Their schtick in 8 Cuts is that you can choose from five different blends of beef for your hamburger patty. Ordering was confusing after cocktail hour (hate menus with numbered steps in the ordering process), but we managed with some smiley help from the staff.
It's good as far as chain gourmet burgers go. Alison loves it. Shawn would rather have a Jollybee Burger, which is what his Super Wimpy J. Burger kind of tasted like anyway, so what the hell is he complaining about? Idiot. If you're going to have junk food have proper junk food. We were tempted by the red velvet cake milk shake, but you know, calories man...
We can see the fireworks from our room and great new years cheese on the tv. We get pretty cocky about our new years eve fireworks in Sydney, but it's nothing compared to Manila. In Sydney we have fireworks in the harbour. In Manila the whole freaking city lights up. Fireworks are freely available and the locals started firing them while the sun is still up. The bangs and flashes are continuous once the sun goes down. It's mostly minor stuff but there's a heck of a lot of it. Then there's the occasional bang that sounds like a car bomb. It sounds like a continuous warzone from sundown to midnight, which is when things get serious. At midnight we could have sworn George Bush was invading with operation shock and awe. There's fireworks in every direction, a three hundred and sixty degree symphony of crazed pyromania. The air is thick and acrid with gunpowder. “f*** you Sydney” says Alison, raising a toast to the apocalypse. Manila shames any new years pyro we've scene. It still sounds like a war zone until around 1am, with the odd volley of fire now and then. We still hear an occasional bang at 8am, (and up until we leave late on new years night).
We taxi to Bonifacio Global City, a fancy pants shopping and residential area popular with expats. It's barely open on New Years Day, but the snail slow change of pace is welcome.
We want to try mid/upmarket Filipino food and read good things about this place, Sentro 1771 - "First in Modern Filipino Cuisine".
Complimentary roasted sunflower seeds arrive first. The waitress tells us no to eat the shell, crack the shell in your teeth and spit out the shell and chew the seed, much like a budgie. We suck at it. Shame because these were beautiful, soy-salty and aniseed-ish in flavour.
Corned beef sinigang a house specialty. The super lovely waitress brings out a sample of the soup to see if we would like it more sour. The base level is fine for us, lightly tangy and sour. We're given options for the dishes to be staggered or brought out together. Pretty fancy, huh? We choose the latter.
The beef tapa salad is overdressed for us, the lettuce drowning in what tastes like supermarket French salad dressing, overpowering even the beef tapa. Maybe the locals like it this way.
We get snazzy with the rice: sentro bagoong rice. 480 pesos. Rice lightly flavoured with bagoong (shrimp paste) and loaded with extra goodies: omelette strips, beef tapa, chorizo, green mango strips and super crunchy chicharon, pork rind crisps (we'd been munching chicharon back at the hotel all week). This dish was awesome and very filling. After this feed our stomachs were full until the next morning.
Our dining companion, a devout fan of corned beef.
We're still full from lunch so we have a light dinner. We feel like something vaguely healthy so we visit uncle Kenny at Kenny Rogers Roasters.
We like a bit of Kenny because it's kind of like an Aussie summer lunch: some simple honest roast chicken and salad and fruit. Alison's dinner is much the same in burger form. Man, those little corn bread muffins are aweseome, sweet with a wholeseome corn note to them. Even Kenny Rogers misses these after the chain went broke in the USA. Kenny Rogers Roasters is going gangbusters in Manila, Kenny is everywhere here.
It's been a Kenny Christmas for us.
We got our dates mixed up and the last day of holiday snuck up on us, with immense sadness we're going home a day earlier than we thought. For our final brunch we head back over to the regular neighbourhood adjacent to our hotel.
We're kicking ourselves that we didn't spend more time here. There's a wonderful neighbourhood vibe, kiddies playing, aunties gossiping, cats, dogs, chickens and blokes just sitting around. It's like a rural village transplanted to the middle of a megalopolis. This place is sandwiched between a train line and the super upmarket Rockwell area, we wonder if this place will be high rises next time we visit.
We pick the first spot we see, a tiny place with no name, a kitchen and a small dining area in a covered over front porch.
We order a humble chicken stew with a few token veggies with a light spice note we can't pick.
This one is like a mince stew, pork mince with some more of those token veggies. Plain honest nanna food. Great for breakfast with rice.
We found soups hard to come by in Manila, which is tough for serious soup fiends like us. So we are super happy to have this clean plain, life affirming soup for breakfast. It has a few chunks of pork for good measure. The three dishes and rice cost 125 pesos, around four Australian dollars.
Our dining companion for today. A very silly kitten, more interested in biting her own limbs as eating our leftovers, of which there weren't any.
We were so sad that this was our last day because we felt like we were just starting to get into the swing of it. We get our first Jeepney over to Ayala, a business area where we can walk around a bit. The area is closed for a public holiday. Shops are shut and suits are nowhere to be seen, but we see many twenty-something folks around, we guessed they were call centre workers, phones know no holidays. They were getting lunch from little food trucks, traditional looking Filipino dishes, grills and deep fried stuff. We wish we had the stomach room for it, it looked great.
We stumbled upon this fancy pants restaurant we'd read about, Blackbird Makati, housed in Neilson Tower, groovy old airport terminal. Had we been around longer we'd probably have given it a whirl.
Instead of Blackbird we squeeze in an almost-last feed at Mang Inasal, a BBQ fast food chain.
The place is jumpin'.
We get a final leche flan, like creme caramel. Back in Sydney we found an awesome leche flan at Pasalubong Oriental Foodmart in Mascot.
Mang Inasal's halo halo looks like an ais kacang.
We only had room for a small desert, we wish we squeezed in a bbq chicken and rice. Too much to try in just one week.
Green mangos for sale down near Rizal Park.
For our final meal before going home we return to our beloved Milky Way in Power Station Mall. Not only did the staff remember us from earlier in the week, they remembered exactly what we ate. Gotta love that.
Monggo guisado - this blew our little minds - it was like a dhal with a meaty flavour through it and some surprise chunks of pork in the middle. Google tells us it was mungbeans.
Kare kare - another classic we got to try at the last minute. Beans, tripe and jackfruit in a thick peanut sauce. It's not super peanuty as we expected, it's fatty and bland and doesn't quite work for us, we're kinda mystified by it. Later back in Sydney, a Filipino colleague tells us we should have eaten it with lashings of bagoong (shrimp paste), and a lightbulb appears above our head, it would have been sensational with bagoong. Next time.
Our last morsel of the trip is a final halo halo - this one with taro ice cream.
We love Manila and we don't want to go home...