With all of the foot traffic inside its attractions and boutiques, it is only a matter of time until restaurants establish their presence in SM Mall of Asia (MOA). True enough, many reputable names from different places serve their menus for shoppers in MOA. The abundance of choices can be daunting, but if this whets your appetite, we have some ideas about the best restaurants in MOA.
Best restaurants in MOA for classic Filipino fare
1. Rico’s Lechon
While Rico’s Lechon is a household name in Cebu, their popularity in Metro Manila only began when they found a place in MOA. Just like in the Queen City of the South, their lechon has led to their inevitable breakthrough in Manila. So why buy frozen packs of this heavenly pork goodness when you can enjoy them freshly roasted right by the seaside? (The frozen packs are still pretty tasty, though.)
What is there to say about this legendary lechon franchise that hasn’t already been said? It is certainly different from the roasted pigs cooked in places like La Loma. That difference is credited to the sophisticated use of herbs and spices stuffed inside the roasted pig. When properly cooked, the pig’s fragrance elevates the already sinful flavour with every bite.
Pair it with their suka lami (their special vinegar with a hint of calamansi), and you might just find a new favourite lechon spot.
2. XO46 Heritage Bistro
Often considered a legend among the Filipino food circles, XO46 Heritage Bistro highlights traditional Filipino food through elegance and finesse. Their menu consists of progressions of Filipino cuisine, fused with colonial Spanish and Chinese influence. For people who love history: yes, it is as exciting as it sounds.
For a fee, XO46 can give interested diners a gastronomic course about their culinary foundations, all inspired by Philippine history. Think of it as a history lesson, but with a lot of eating involved. From native ingredients like wild boar and coconuts to foreign spices introduced to us by trading partners like China and Indonesia, XO46 uses elements that display their firm understanding of where Filipino cuisine stands today. On top of all this, everything is delicious and filling, of course.
If you don’t have the time to go through the course, order their kare-kareng crispy Tadyang or sinigang na lapu-lapu sa santol. Both perfectly summarise the gastronomic creativity that XO46 holds.
Locavore is one of the best restaurants in MOA that does simple modern Filipino cuisine with an intuitive twist. With a few additions and subtractions, they’ve made traditional Filipino recipes a weekend must-have. Their techniques are a bit experimental but still surprisingly basic.
To see what we mean, try out one of their popular dishes — the liempo bun, a slice of sweet barbequed pork stuffed inside a fluffy bun. Initially, Locavore created the dish to ride the Chinese bao trend; but considering its popularity to date, you can say the dish has become timeless in its own right.
Another recipe that they’ve made popular is the sizzling sinigang, which absolutely deserves its fame. Pair a viscous sinigang broth with tender pieces of beef, and then have them sizzle — yes, that definitely makes an instant mood-booster for any day of the week.
4. Kanin Club
Its name says it all: Kanin Club specialises in dishes that go really well with rice. On paper, it’s pretty simple; execution is where Kanin Club shines.
The most famous dish they serve is crispy dinuguan (crispy pork blood stew), an unimaginable recipe… until Kanin Club initiated it. Traditionally, dinuguan shouldn’t have to involve any frying. But, the innovative restaurant has managed to use deep-fried pork to add another dimension to their dish, along with the thicker consistency of the broth. The flavours are further enriched with chicharon bits.
For a more literal example of how they highlight their name, try their sinangag na sinigang. Kanin Club heard you like sinigang on your rice, so they saved you the hassle by literally cooking rice in sinigang. They then top it with a piece of pork belly and tempura vegetables. The results are unthinkable but undeniably delicious.
Best restaurants in MOA for Asian cuisine
Traditional set meals in Japan are known as teishoku. These meals consist of soups, sides, pickles, and rice and often aim to strike a nutritional balance. Teishoku is mainly served inside Zen temples and has spread throughout the nation ever since.
While Yayoi isn’t a Zen temple, they do their best to strike a balance in every meal they serve. Their service is efficient, too. While they’ve integrated their menu in tablets, their staff remain quick and informative when asked about specific dishes. Food options include meat, fish, and vegetables for the main dish. They also serve sushi here, in case you want a little extra for your set meals.
6. Royal Indian Curry House
It’s no secret that Indian food is exciting to explore. The dishes served in Royal Indian Curry House (RICH) are a testament to that. Their meats are tender, their vegetables are nutritious, their flavours are layered, and all of their dishes are aromatic.
Most of RICH’s dishes are uncompromising when it comes to taste. Spices help elevate dishes like chicken tandoori or Hyderabadi biryani, which should be expected of an Indian restaurant. True to their name as well, RICH only serves elegant curries — fit for royalty and nothing less. Try out their creamy Afghani chicken dish to see what we mean.
The rustic charm of Basil translates well with their food. Every ingredient is fresh and cooked with mastery, almost as if it’s home-cooked. If you haven’t tried Thai cuisine yet, Basil’s menu provides an easy introduction.
Every ingredient used in Basil’s kitchen plays a crucial part when it comes to their dishes. You’ll understand this when tasting their Thai bagoong rice. You might not have thought of adding green mango slices to your savoury meal, but Basil does this to balance the saltiness of shrimp paste and add a sweeter dimension to the dish. The same principle applies when you dine a full meal in Basil. With their commendable service and ambience, they certainly play their part well in providing sumptuous treats to their diners.
Also read: 12 Best Thai Restaurants in Metro Manila
Best restaurants in MOA for Western Cuisine
8. Highlands Steakhouse
The moment you see this restaurant, you know you’ll want to eat there. Listen to your instincts then, because Highlands Steakhouse will satisfy your hunger and more. And they do it unapologetically.
We can only expect perfect steaks when it comes to restaurants that identify as steakhouses. Fortunately, Highlands Steakhouse delivers this in spades. Your preferred temperatures will always be their priority, and they’ll make sure that you dine in perfection.
If you’re up for some surf and turf, pair their steaks with fish, shrimp, or mussels. Highland Steaks isn’t a one-trick pony, and their seafood repertoire proves it.
Never underestimate the convenience when it comes to good food. Gringo is a great hangout spot for friends who enjoy good food and drinks. Their appetising dishes definitely stand out, but you can also easily gobble them up thoughtlessly. Most importantly, they all go well with beer!
This Latin-American restaurant serves delicious tacos, chicken, and ribs, all of which are satisfying for the palate. Their portions can fill any type of appetite, so if your friends are also foodies, this is the place to go. If you’re looking for something unforgettable from Gringo, try their 1875 pot stewed beef!
10. El Pollo Loco
El Pollo Loco is guilt-free goodness. It won’t hurt you to have a little bit more of their chicken, because it’s good for you! You won’t have to worry about cholesterol since they serve fire-grilled chicken instead of fried.
Here’s a tip when dining in El Pollo Loco: Pull your chicken apart into strips. They usually serve pita bread, Spanish rice, and salsa along with the chicken. Wrap the chicken, salsa, and rice in your pita bread, and you’ll get the delicious taste of El Pollo Loco in just a few bites! You can also order beans to include in your chicken wrap for more protein and more flavour.
The best restaurants in MOA can change in a blink of an eye because competition is concentrated. If you don’t go here regularly, we’re sure that a new restaurant will pop up somewhere. But until then, conclude your weekend shopping by spoiling yourself by dining in MOA.
Featured image credit: XO46 Heritage Bistro | Official Facebook Page