Food adventures in the Philippines

(Vegetarian-friendly!)

Can anyone ID this sci-fi looking fruit? Photo: R&J Meyer

Can anyone ID this sci-fi looking fruit? Photo: R&J Meyer

Here are our vegetarian-friendly top picks for Manila, Cebu, Dumaguete, and beyond. One of my favorite things about Filipinos is that they take their meal times and snack times seriously, so there are a plethora of quality restaurants and eateries in the archipelago. I eat fish occasionally, and have dined at these places with my vegan spouse, and veg-loving, meat-loving, Filipino and non-Fil. friends.  These are nice places to take families, dates, and your favorite aunt. Regarding cost information,  when I say a place is expensive that means moderate if you are spending in dollars.

Manila

Though I spent most of my time in the rural areas, the last few times I had business in Manila I stayed at the moderate AIM business hotel. (Tip: If you look remotely Filipino, ask for the discounted Balikbayan rate. You’ll just need to show a form of ID that shows that you are either employed or have some kind of residence in the PI. Places like the Manila Peninsula also have deals for local residents, including meals and room during times like Christmas.)  It is clean and professional and within walking distance of some of the finest dining in Makati City, right across from the Greenbelt mall and a small branch of Rustan’s supermarket.

Greenbelt, Makati area
1) **Max Brenner, Ground Level, Greenbelt 3, Ayala Center, Makati Avenue. Excellent chocoholics breakfast and a wonderful breakfast/lunch. Convenient walk to the Ayala museum, which would be pleasant to visit after lunch/brunch. We love this place!  By the way, the nearby Ayala museum cafe also has a nice healthy-looking, upscale cafe menu, and modern design. (I’ve never eaten here — only visited museum.)

Max Brenner resto. Photo: R&J Meyer

Max Brenner resto. Photo: R&J Meyer

Euro style breakfast at Max Brenner. Photo: R&J Meyer

Euro style breakfast at Max Brenner. Photo: R&J Meyer

Hot choco was da bomb at Max Brenner. Photo: R&J Meyer

Hot choco was da bomb at Max Brenner. Photo: R&J Meyer

2) **Kai, Unit 13, Greenbelt 2 (may have moved to GB 5 by now), Ayala Center, Makati City, 757-5209 to 10, 0917-852-3654. Nouveau Japanese, light, expensive. Excellent quality fish and other foods. If you like Bond St and Nobu in NY, you’ll enjoy Kai.

3) **People’s Palace, Greenbelt 3. Modern Thai food.  If you enjoy modern interior design and fine Thai food, you’ll like People’s Palace, another great recommendation from our foodie friend Richard U. of Cebu.

Photo by Chotda, via Flickr.com

People’s Palace photo by Chotda, via Flickr.com

4) Sugi, Greenbelt 3.  Japanese, traditional, expensive. Good lunch specials & high quality japanese food in a nice setting.

5) Zhongnanhai, Greenbelt 3 mall, ground floor, Makati – Chinese restaurant (near Bizu pastry shop & Sugi Japanese restaurant). Has nice teas and tasty tofu dishes. Nouveau Hong Kong style with pleasant modern atmosphere. Moderate prices.

6) Hue, Greenbelt 3, Makati – Vietnamese cuisine. Light. Try veggie crepes. Vegetarian

7) Chimara, Simple, delicious Neo *vegan* fast food eatery, Greenbelt 3, top floor, cinema level. Good pre-movie quick food or light meals. We ate here many times! There is also a smoothie/fruit shake place one floor down.

8)  Dencio’s, Power Plant mall location, Philippine food. Good quality chain restaurant. Ask for the delicious meatless version of kare kare, as well as vegetable side dishes.  My aunt Peggy took us here and recommended this place.  It was the nicest, newest Dencio’s we saw on our last visit.

9) Bizu, Greenbelt 2 & other locations. Café/Patisserie. 02-757-2498. French style amazing desserts & coffees. Try the tea service with three levels of tea delights. Not vegan. Eat here sparingly 🙂

Tea service at Bizu. Photo: R&J Meyer

Tea service at Bizu. Photo: R&J Meyer

*Rich* French-style pastries at Bizu. Photo: R&J Meyer

*Rich* French-style pastries at Bizu. Photo: R&J Meyer

UP / Ateneo area, Quezon area – Vegetarian
Simple but good, clean places serving healthy Philippine food.

1) Greens vegetarian restaurant and cafe, 92 Sct Castor (between Scout Tuazon / Tomas Morato, near Max Chicken House), 02-4154796 – Veggie restaurant recommended by Dessa (fellow veg, native of Manila). This is in UP/Ateneo University area.

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Photos via: Greens

 

2) Likha Diwa, C.P. Garcia, Krus na Ligas, Metro Manila, Quezon City, near University of the Philippines campus Tel: 02-9255522 – Veggie eatery featuring healthy Philippine cuisine. Who knew veg. Phil. cuisine could be so tasty. It is cozy and has an outdoor eating area, but beware it is near a busy, polluted roadway. (Charita, this is the place where we dined with Deb, Hannah, and John.) Recommended by Dessa.

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Photo: via Likha Diwa

 

Shopping for healthy food
1) Rustan’s supermarket – a chain that sells regular supermarket items as well as imported goods. Best one I’ve seen is in Glorietta mall. It has an organic section and also sells soy milk.

2) Healthy Options – next to R’s supermarket in Glorietta. There are other branches at other malls. These small stores specialize in health food and natural beauty items (rice milk, shampoos, insect repellent, sunscreen, organic flours, organic pancake mix, etc.) imported mostly from US. Largest selection is at this branch. Get discount card from them (Green card). They also have soy milk from the US, but it is cheaper to get this locally at most major supermarkets. (Please, somebody open up a version of this store with organic Philippine goods for the city people!)

Outside of Manila
The Farm
, San Benito (2 hours south of Manila) Here’s the upscale new spa/resort (written up in the NY Times) with a live foods restaurant. It’s owned by the same company who owns the eco-luxe hotels in Bali. I haven’t been yet, but if I win big at the lotto, I’ll invite all of my friends and family to go there with me!

There’s a chain called Bodhi in many of the malls, that serves vegetarian, Chinese fast food. It serves dishes mainly with fake meat (wheat gluten or tofu) with veggies. The veggies aren’t that fresh, but ok if you are in a hurry. My cousin  took us to the best Bodhi, that was a new, stand alone restaurant. (Mutya where was this again?)

Cebu

Thanks to our friend, Cebu-native and sometime Austin, TX resident Richard for introducing us to all the best restaurants and wine bars in Cebu.

Crossroads – Outdoor mall featuring veggie-friendly restos: Persian Palate, Banri noodles (Japanese), and some Thai places. At Persian Palate, We avoided the yogurt products at all locations because they disagreed with our stomachs. The Crossroads is five minutes away from Ayala mall by taxi. On same road as Gaisano country mall (halfway between Gaisano and Ayala).

Yumeya Kihei — Pacific Square Building, F. Cabahug St., Mabolo, Cebu City, in Castle Peak hotel area (it is on 1st floor of office building, look for name of ofc bldg or you might miss it), 032-231-7886, 234-2388.  Authentic Japanese restaurant with extensive menu. Recommend: tofu dishes esp. yudofu, agedashi tofu, miso soup, veggie sushi rolls.

Various Korean restaurants around town. (There seems to be many Korean businessmen in Cebu for some reason.) Ask for vegetarian Bi Bim Bap, rice topped with egg & various veggies, served with a hot past and sometimes served in a stone bowl. Foodie friend Richard knows of small eateries, but recommends the restaurant in Lahug as best one (where business men eat).

Big Mao, Ayala Mall — A healthy, clean Chinese restaurant with really good fried tofu with steamed mushrooms and bok choy.  Note: Aside from Starbuck’s, we have tried and generally avoided the other Ayala mall food.

Bok choy & mushrooms

Bok choy & mushrooms at Big Mao. Photo: R&J Meyer

Fried tofu at Big Mao

Fried tofu at Big Mao. Photo: R&J Meyer

Golden Cowrie – Good quality, inexpensive Filipino food. May accommodate requests for veggie versions of Filipino dishes. Locations all over Cebu including SM mall.

Supermarkets
Gaisano – Ayala mall
SM supermarket  – SM mall
Koreana – Cesar’s Foodland Building, corner Gov. M. Cuenco Ave. & Paseo Saturnino, Banilad,  A Korean supermarket. Next door is a little Korean restaurant.

Healthy Options – Health food and beauty product store. Ayala center location in Cebu is good, but has smaller selection than Manila branches.

 

Dumaguete

When in town, the best place we have found to stay is Coco Grande. It offers a/c, cable, warm décor, clean rooms, marble bathrooms, a friendly staff who remembers frequent visitors, and a good lounge for meeting friends. Look at rooms in order to choose newly renovated rooms. Best/campus downtown option. The restaurant not recommended, unless the European chef returns for a special appearance.

Restaurants
Persian Palate – Lots of veggie options, like hummus. We avoided the yogurt products at all locations because they disagreed with our stomachs. Close to pier, around corner from La Residencia hotel.

Why Not — The bar, restaurant and internet stations are generally populated with older European men and their young Filipina companions.  However, the cafe has less of this scene most of the time and has good quality European cafe food. (Of course the only times the sexpats were out in full force at the cafe was the time I brought my mom and she was super uncomfortable.)  Recommended: breakfasts, apple strudel, chocolates, tofu schnitzel.

Desserts (local non-vegan favorites)
Ana Maria – beside DHL office. Coco Amigos & Grande order their cakes from here
Sans Rival – Local desserts

Stores
There are no health food stores in Dumaguete that I have visited.  However, at Lee supermarket, one can find good coffee, organic brown rice grown in Negros made for export, soy milk, organic spaghetti, and meusli.  There was also a Japanese store near La Residencia that sold quality soy sauce, nori, and soba noodles.

 

Siargao

We visited to learn how to surf and found some wonderful places. Restaurants at the small, family-run Sagana, and Ocean 101 inns are good.  Sagana’s chef prepared amazing fresh, thoughtful pan-asian and European-influenced light, satisfying foods.  The friendly staff and owners are local, Australian, and Japanese.  The architecture is breezy, modern, and clean. (The photos of the cottages on the website don’t do the place justice.) This was our favorite place to stay and eat.

Curry at Sagana. Photo: R&J Meyer

Curry at Sagana. Photo: R&J Meyer

Ocean 101‘s restaurant is an inexpensive option for both food and lodging (though the cement block room made me feel somewhat claustrophobic). Pansukian, a fancy hotel inland was also recommended to us, but we never had the chance to try it.

Read about vegetarian restaurants in the Philippines at Happy Cow.

Of course, most of the food we usually had was very simple and some of the best food we’ve had was made at our hut or at homes of friends.

Pita pizza at Batad. The chef was trained by a backpacking Israeli. Photo: R&J Meyer

Pita pizza at Simon’s, Batad. The cook was trained by a backpacking Israeli. Photo: R&J Meyer

The most fresh Japanese-style seafood & veggies I've ever had. At the Harada's house, Siquijor. Photo: R&J Meyer

The most fresh Japanese-style seafood & veggies I’ve ever had. Dinner at the Harada’s house, Siquijor. Photo: R&J Meyer

Andreas prepares the fire pit for our fresh fish and shish kabob dinner in his backyard. Photo: R&J Meyer

Andreas prepares the fire pit for our fresh fish and shish kabob dinner in his backyard. Photo: R&J Meyer

Dinner at Andreas' with Hannah & Shiva the dog. Photo: R&J Meyer

Dinner at Andreas’ with Shiva the dog and Hannah. Photo: R&J Meyer

 

Happy Eating! Enjoy! Click on “comments” below to let us know about your experiences at these places, updates, and if you’d like to recommend more delicious, healthy restos from your travels through the Philippines!

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5 Comments

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5 responses to “Food adventures in the Philippines

  1. hi R!
    The Bodhi we went to was along Ortigas Ave, near Greenhills area/Xavier. They can make veggie meat oh so tasty! 🙂 lovin that pic of John and his pizza! 😀 Why so serious!? hehe

    • thegreencloud

      He was hungry. (It was a long hike up to Batad! 🙂 Thanks for the address of that branch of Bodhi! We went to the one in Glorietta later and it wasn’t as good (environment and food-wise) as the one you took us to on Ortigas!

  2. Thanks, Rosanna. This is great!

    I did dig Persian Palate in Dumaguete and have been to Golden Cowrie & Dencios. I’ve been hearing many lovely things about Likha Diwa, so I’ll be checking that out next!

    I am also a fan of the Weekend Farmers Markets. I went to the Sunday Market at the Lung Center in QC. I bought produce and made friends with Eli from Eli Organics. One of these mornings I promise to wake up early enough to check out the Salcedo Saturday Market in Makati.

    Here are a couple more places that come to mind:

    Trimona Cafe
    112 Anonas Extension, Sikatuna Village, Quezon City, telephone no.920-0084 ; 435-4533

    Bohol Bee Farm
    Dauis, Bohol
    http://www.boholbeefarm.com/

    Buzz Cafe (owned by Bohol Bee Farm)
    Island City Mall
    Tagbilaran City, Bohol

    • thegreencloud

      Yay. Thanks for all the great new info! It’s amazing how small the country is in land area, and just in Manila you can eat for weeks without eating at the same place twice. My hubs and I feel like there is more delicious cuisine variety in Manila than the SF bay area. Bohol Bee Farm looks awesome. I have been just so excited about the organic farms I’ve heard of in the PI. Livian, an NGO worker/activist who worked on many of the film translations (that your Mom proofed), told me that she wants to open an organic cafe in Dumaguete. Since it’s such a small town, you’ll probably meet since she was introduced to me through Dessa. Keep the recommendations coming! Love that phrase: “Sunday Market at the Lung Center in QC.” It should be the title of an album or soundtrack song 🙂

  3. More recommended restaurants

    “Top ten vegetarian restaurants in the Philippines” by PETA

    Baguio
    Cafe by the Ruins
    “Our menu is designed to feature natural and local ingredients of the region, to purvey vegetables and fruits in their best season and to provide vegetarian options.”

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