Whenever a new mall opens in Manila, it’s sure to have a lot of awesome food places to visit. If you’re not much into fashion, don’t be put off by SM Megamall’s newest wing called the SM Fashion Hall. Sure, it has a lot of big brands catering to the fashion conscious, but it also has a lot of restaurants who cater to the foodies!
There are many places you could choose from, depending on what you’re in the mood for. I hope this post will give you a good idea of what you can expect from the latest addition to SM Megamall. Here’s a rundown of the places we were able to enjoy while participating in the Mega Food Tour last week (these are listed in no particular order):
Cinnabon has been in the Philippines for years and have a lot of branches all over the metro. My Mom is one of the biggest fans of this chain best known for their sweet, soft cinnamon rolls. Pass by any of the Cinnabon branches when they’re baking and you’re sure to catch a whiff of that signature Cinnabon smell wafting through the air.
The Cinnabon original is a classic favorite. Try not to think too much about the calories you’re ingesting as you sink your teeth in this soft pastry. They can be worth the calories, especially when eaten warm.
Just next door is BONO Artisanal Gelato. I’ve tried some of their products before and have to admit that they’re one of the better dessert brands these days. We had to chance to speak with the owner and it was such a fun way to learn about their products and their store.
My favorite would definitely be the pistachio flavor. The nutty bits contrasted nicely with the smooth gelato. I could eat this often and not get sick of it!
Feeling a bit adventurous? I suggest you try BONO’s newest flavor: the Mango Sake. A refreshing fruity gelato with a punch of alcohol that elevates it to another level. Not into sake but hankering for the taste of mangoes? They also have a plain mango flavor available to satisfy your craving.
I first learned about Chez Karine through my brother and sister-in-law, when they gifted me with several bottles of royal pudding. This branch is their second one, after the successful opening of their first one located at Serendra in The Fort.
What I extremely love about this brand is how everything looks so pretty! The colors, the presentation, even the packaging look so dainty and cute. We were informed that the owner has always been a fan of Japanese things, thus she integrated it into the packaging of her products.
Here’s one of the royal puddings they offer in the store: the Muscovado Royal Pudding.It’s one of their best sellers. It’s a smooth pudding perfect for those fond of sweets. It was a tad too much for me but I loved its texture. Other variants include chocolate, vanilla, coco sugar and the fruity jar.
The French Baker opened their first branch in SM North EDSA so many years ago and, since then, has just grown in number and in popularity. They offer a wide array of bread, pastries, pasta and other dishes which have appealed to the palates of the Filipinos.
Recently, they took one step further and opened The French Baker Salon de Thé located in the SM Megamall’s Fashion Hall. Tea sets and tea drinking has gained a massive following these days in Manila; I think it might be because of a big tea brand entering the local market.
Salon de Thé gave us the chance to sample the things included in their tea sets: raisin scones, hazelnut chocolates, macarons, tea sandwiches, chicken lollipops, quiches and sour cream flavored chips. I loved the quiche and the chips. They’re definitely a must-try!
I chose to enjoy a hot cup of their blueberry and pomegranate tea along with the food. As soon as it was poured from the tea pot, I could smell the sweetness of the blueberries. It wasn’t a very strong-flavored tea, but it had a bit of tartness to it which I happened to enjoy.
Gigi Gaerlan’s Custaroonery kiosk is a real attention catcher. The colors were bright and cheerful, and their products are all in beautiful boxes worthy of its own spotlight.
I’ll be very honest and admit that I’ve never heard of these custaroons before I was introduced to them during the Mega Food Tour. Thank goodness I was given the chance to do so and now, I am happy to say that yes, these things are really good! Don’t let the simplicity fool you; these small custaroons may look plain but they sure pack a very solid flavor. The best way for me to describe these is that they’re a cross between the yema (custard) cake and the coconut macaroons.
They offer another type of sweets called the Custaroon Poppers, which are mainly chocolate covered custaroons. These were good as well, but I prefer the plain ones over these.
If you’re on the lookout for a dessert which is a bit healthier, head to Pinkberry and get your yogurt fix. This brand was launched in West Hollywood, California back in January 2005. Now, it’s one of the more well-known yogurt places in Manila. I’m not a big fan of anything strawberry-flavored, but have to admit that Pinkberry’s Strawberry Yogurt was pretty good. It has a nice balance of sweetness and tartness, which helped me appreciate it. They offer a lot of add-on’s you could enjoy with your yogurt, but you could go with their recommendation and try pairing the strawberry yogurt with fresh strawberries, milk chocolate crunch and a waffle cookie. Still not convinced? Try their cookies and cream flavored yogurt and see if that’s more of your thing.
Up at the top floor is Lucca Bakery. It’s a beautiful place which makes me think of the coffee stores I get to visit in other countries.
Their Bianca Mocha was a great drink to enjoy when you want to unwind. The Banana Walnut bread was soft and really had a lot of walnuts in them, but they were a little too sweet for me. I’ve tried their other pastries when I visited their UP Town Center branch and would have to say that I liked their cookies better.
That’s quite a lot of dessert and snack places, right? We’re not done yet. Let’s move on to the main meals!
Tim Ho Wan 添好運: the restaurant whose opening has created a lot of buzz in the foodie world. This one Michelin-star restaurant famous in Hong Kong and Singapore finally opened their doors to the Manila market last May 20, 2014. Lines were undoubtedly long since everyone wanted to get a taste of their famous pork buns and see if they live up to the Hong Kong standards.
So were the pork buns any good? I think (and a lot of my fellow bloggers agreed) that they certainly lived up to the hype. For only Php145.00, you get three pieces of these pork buns which are best eaten while hot. They may look ordinary, but the soft bun with its sweet, grainy top and piping hot pork filling makes it so much more.
They also have other dimsum items like hakao and Teo Chew dumplings on the menu. Everything they use are said to be imported so that they could continue to uphold the quality that the original Tim Ho Wan is known for. I plan to return once the hype has died down a bit and see what their other items taste like.
Everyone I know likes fried chicken; what more if they’re double fried and coated with delicious sauces that match your mood? Korean fried chicken is popular in the country right now and so it wasn’t a big surprise for Korean franchises to penetrate the local food scene.
Kyo Chon is said to be the most famous double fried chicken chain in South Korea. They’re said to be the healthier brand because they use canola oil and do not resort to MSG when adding flavors to their products.
Kyo Chon offer four different types of “series” which you can choose from: Red (spicy), Kyo Chon (garlic soy), Honey and Soonsal (chicken fingers/fillets).
As if all the eating wasn’t enough, our group was led to the 3rd floor of the mall where we were introduced to five different restaurants for our mains. Our first stop was Osaka Ohsho, who claims that they produce the type of gyoza considered to be #1 in the world.
Osaka Ohsho’s Chicken Karaage were plump and tender. This was served with a small mountain of grated radish on the side.
Of course we couldn’t leave this restaurant without getting to try their gyoza. We were able to sample two kinds: nori (seaweed) gyoza and the cheese gyoza. Some of the bloggers I was with preferred the nori one, but I happened to like the cheese version better. I thought that dipping them into the mix of soy sauce, miso sauce and chili oil just made them even better.
Just a few steps brought us to Boqueria, a Spanish/Basque restaurant headed by two Spanish chefs in the kitchen.
They offer a lot of contemporary dishes that would cater well to the Filipinos. We were able to try their paella queso hamonado and sangria during our visit and I found them to be pretty good. I would’ve preferred to have the paella just a little bit more toasted at the bottom, but nonetheless, I thought it was still one of my favorite stops during the tour.
By the way, we were also able to try their churros served with Valor milk chocolates. They were delish!
We hopped next door to treat ourselves to some Filipino cuisine. I’ve been to Abé’s other branches before and have always been satisfied with the things we ate. It’s a restaurant that was established in honor of Mr. Larry Cruz’s father and prides itself in serving homestyle Capampangan dishes.
It was my first time to try their Tamarind Shake and I’m proud to admit that I’m hooked! This drink has the right balance of sweetness and tartness that can be addictive. Be careful with this because drinking too much too fast can make you feel real full! Make sure to save some space for the delicious Filipino cuisine they have in store for you.
Abe’s lamb adobo is another winner on their menu. The meat is cooked for 6-8 hours and goes through three steps: being marinated, being fried and then stewed. This lengthy process brings out so much flavor and tenderness that you’d just have to have more white rice to go with it. Good thing Abe has unlimited servings of white rice for those who choose to do exactly that.
With bulging but satisfied stomachs, we proceeded to visit 8 Cuts Burger Blends for some (you know it) burgers. As you all know, I don’t eat beef so I had to pass on most of the stuff being served in this place. I felt kind of bad, to be honest, since all the burgers smelled so good! :p
8 Cuts’ hand pressed burgers come in five different types. You could choose whatever feels good to you at your present state. Here are the descriptions according to their materials:
House Blend: Short Rib + Rib Eye; said to be meaty, juicy and is considered their classic
Beef Bomb: Chuck + Short Rib; said to taste fresh, well-balanced and is great all-around
Ox Blend: Flank + Ox Tail + Rib Eye; said to have the umami, intense and beefy flavors
Big Game: Hanger + Brisket; said to be bold and gamey
Steak Cut: Sirloin + Chuck; said to have a rich flavor and is perfect with sharp and tangy toppings
Since I wasn’t allowed to touch the beef patties, I decided to enjoy their onion rings instead. I was able to try the ones with barbecue seasoning and can say that these are one of the best ones I’ve tried locally. I now know what I can order from this place while my friends enjoy munching on their beefy burgers.
The final stop at the 3rd floor was Lugang Cafe, a restaurant serving Taiwanese dishes. I’ve never eaten in this place before, but have heard a lot of good things about them. They’re best known for their xiao long bao or soup dumplings. I was excited when I learned that it was something that we would get to try.
From top left, clockwise: xiao long bao, spicy sliced offals, breaded shrimp balls with mozzarella, pudding with fresh fruits and Arabica coffee. I noticed that a lot of people liked the soup dumplings, but left the sliced offals alone. If only those were made out of pig offals (they said it was from beef), I would’ve devoured that. I guess it really is an acquired taste. :p
After five main courses, you would’ve thought that we would finally stop eating. No, we went up a floor and headed straight to Vikings. Last on my list is this huge luxury buffet, which has gained popularity by offering a big selection for those who are willing to eat, eat, eat. They have several branches in the metro, including one near SM MOA, at SM North EDSA’s The Block and at the SM Fashion Hall.
We were treated to a carefully selected menu of items from Vikings, including one which they will be introducing to the public in the near future. If you’re planning a visit to Vikings soon and want to try the stuff in the photo above, here are the names of the items to guide you along: Lumpfish Caviar Om Blinis, Vikings Scandinavian Gravlax, Spicy Ika Sushi, Venison Terrine with Blueberry Compote, Steamed Red Lapu Lapu Fillet, Mini Tornado (Angus Beef with truffle sauce), Spinach Mushroom en Croute Consommé. Everything was washed down with a glass of shiraz cabernet.
After 4.5 hours of eating, we ended the food tour feeling very, very full but happy. If you’re interested to visit all these places and see if you can survive the Mega Food Tour yourself, all you have to do is post a foodie photo of you from any of the participating restaurants via Instagram. Don’t forget to tag @SMMegamall and use the hashtag #MegaFoodTour. If you get selected, you’ll be joining the other participants on May 31 or June 7, 2014 for the next tours! 🙂
*Thank you very much to the SM Team, Mr. RJ Ledesma and Mr. Anton Diaz for inviting Have at You! to the media launch for this event.