The Insanely Good Manang’s Chicken: Battle of the Double Fried Chickens PART I

I first read about the double friend chicken phenomenon in a blog entry at Our Awesome Planet. I wondered, why would anyone go through the trouble of frying chicken twice? Doesn’t the miracle that is Jollibee’s Chickenjoy prove that chicken fried once can be an amazing thing?

A little over a month ago, I saw friends on Facebook who were badly craving Bonchon Chicken. I thought to myself: there must be something to this double fried chicken thing. Time to find out more about it.

I googled Bonchon fried chicken and after a few minutes of researching, I found out that there are three double fried chicken restaurants in the Philippines: 1) Bonchon Chicken; 2) Chicken Charlie and 3) Manang’s Chicken. Reading all those food blog entries about double fried chickens made me eager to immediately try it out and jump on the fad bandwagon.

Several days later, I tried out Bonchon Chicken. It was good but I wasn’t overly impressed. A week after that, I tried the sweet soy sauce of Chicken Charlie (because the sweet spicy sauce wasn’t available) and was left underwhelmed. After reading all those foodie raves about the double fried chicken, I was left unsatisfied. I never quite tasted what everyone was raving about.

That is, until I visited Manang’s Chicken today. Since I was swinging by UP in the morning, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to finally visit Manang’s in Ortigas.

If you can, try to visit Manang’s before or after the lunch and dinner crowd. Since it’s located nearby so many offices, the place tends to fill up quick during lunch hour. I was lucky enough to arrive at around 1130AM, before the onslaught of office dwellers.

the lunch hour crowd

The first thing I noticed was the very friendly staff. I was cheerfully greeted by the order counter crew and they were eager to help me decide between original and mild spicy sauce. As a compromise, I ordered their 2pcs Chicken with Rice (P124) and had one piece original and the other mild spicy.

Manang’s chicken is refried with Manang’s Secret Soy Garlic Sauce. More sauce is poured down onto it for good measure. The sauce is available in Original, Mild Spicy and Extra Spicy.

Since my favorite part of the chicken is the white meat, I was very excited that Manang’s offered chicken breast part options. Manang’s gives you the freedom to choose which part of the chicken you want, and for that breast part lovers everywhere thank you!

Upon selecting a seat, I started to set-up my camera. I was quickly and efficiently served order. The staff was efficient, friendly and professional.

Manang's 2pc Chicken with rice (one original, one mild spicy)

The first thing you will notice about Manang’s chicken is that it is not your run-of-the-mill anemically small double fried chicken. This feels like a real person’s chicken. This is not a small piece of chicken with some skin, this is chicken bursting with meat and drenched in sauce. Its breading adds to its size and just by looking at it, I knew it would be filling.

After the prerequisite food shots, I dug into my chicken. It was heaven. My first stream-of-conciousness thought was, THIS CHICKEN IS INSANELY GOOD. I ate more chicken, and it still remained insanely good.

Manang’s secret sauce hit that mythical balance between sweet, spicy and salty. The white meat of the chicken breast was juicy and perfect for dipping in the sauce that pools into your plate. I ended up ordering some Extra Manang’s Sauce (P10). This is a wonderful extra for people like me who love pouring sauce on our rice.

During the space of my meal, I fell deeply in love with their spicy soy-garlic sauce. I wanted to take that sauce home with me. I wanted to have a Knorr Seasoning bottle full of that sauce and slather it on everything I ate.

I felt like How I Met Your Mother’s Marshall Erikson when he was describing the best burger in town. Yes, I loved it that much.

Wonderful chicken, drenched in sauce. Can you say yum?

Manang’s has many other dishes to offer aside from its chicken. If you need a wee break from the chicken you can order their Garlic Pork Bagnet (P89) or their Sesame Beef (P89). Those fond of noodles can also choose from their Fried Pancit (P59) or their Cheesy Spaghetti (P49).

I think it’s very smart of Manang’s to have non-chicken viands. I know some people who are allergic to chicken and it’s good to know that they’ll always have something else to order here.

I’ve always loved fried noodles and mourned its loss from Chowking’s regular menu. Since Manang’s had a similar dish, I seized the opportunity to order their Fried Pancit for the oh-so-affordable price of (P59).

Fried Pancit

This was also very good. The noodles were crunchy and retained its crunchiness, despite the fact that it took me a while to get to it. The sauce was salty with a touch of sweetness. This reminded of the fried noodles they have in Maxim’s and brought back some pleasant memories of eating in Maxim’s as a child.

While I was eating, the branch manager Sonny was nice enough to come chat with me. He told me about the origins of Manang’s–how it started as a stall in the Fort Mercato, opened the Ortigas branch and it’s plans for future branches. Sonny and the entire crew were all very helpful. While eating in this restaurant, never hesitate to tell them if you have any extra orders. Just give them the appropriate amount and they will serve you your order, return your change and furnish you with a receipt.

Sundae Cone

Sonny gave me a complimentary Sundae Cone (P11). YAY! Their soft-serve ice cream is creamy, sweet and cool. The perfect end to a spicy meal.

Finally, after reading about the double fried chicken fad, I was finally tasting what I expected. I was happy. I was definitely a convert. I was a fan. I wanted to shout it from the rooftops.

And I did:

A Facebook status message to commemorate my love

I brought some chicken home to my aunts and even though they ate it several hours after, they both loved it. One of my aunt’s comments was, “Pwede ba kainin ang buto?

We quickly devised ways to grab some Manang’s chicken even though we live in Las Pinas/Paranaque. I hope you come to the South eventually, Manang’s Chicken!

Is Manang’s Chicken the best double fried chicken in Metro Manila? You be the judge. You can visit them at:
Monday-Saturday – 9:00 am to 01:00 am
Sunday – 9:00 am to 5:00 pm
AIC Gold Tower, Garnet Road
Ortigas Center, Pasig City (near Emerald/former NU107)

Fridays
Midnight Mercato – 10:0 0pm to 3:00 am

Saturdays
Mercato Centrale – 7:30 am to 2:00 pm
Midnight Mercato – 10:00 pm to 3:00 am

Sundays
Mercato Centrale – 7:30 am to 2:00 pm
Legaspi Sunday Market – 7:30 am to 2:00 pm

Our Delivery Schedule:
Monday – Saturday 10 am to 10 pm
Sunday 9 am to 6 pm

Antonio’s: An Excursion into the Sublime

What better restaurant to start with than the pinnacle (in my opinion) of Philippine fine dining? Yes, this seems like the perfect place to start.

I remember first being told about Antonio‘s by my mother. I was in Europe at the time and was skyping with her. She had excitedly told me about this restaurant in Tagaytay that according to her had the best steak around. Mama told me we’d visit the restaurant as soon as I got back to Manila.

A little under two months later, I was in a van on my way to Tagaytay and en route to my first visit to Antonio’s. I was understandably excited, I’m a big fan of beef and was eager to put my mother’s claim of best steak in the Philippines to the test.

stairs by the entrance

Upon first entering Antonio’s, you realize that this isn’t going to be your ordinary dining experience. I felt like an Alice that had fallen into a rabbit hole that led to a gastronomical Wonderland.

The building itself is gorgeous. Walls were painted a cheery white. Floors were covered in brightly colored tiles. Foliage was just the slightest bit overgrown and lent an extra layer of privacy. Upon entering the establishment, you really have to wonder if you are truly in a restaurant or are in a funky hacienda from the 1900s.

My family opted for garden seating to enjoy the lush greens and the koi pond. Despite being noontime, it wasn’t hot at all and the occasional breeze would sweep by to blow away any thoughts of being too overheated.

Tables are placed far apart and covered in crisp white cloth.

Crisp white table cloth and bold colored chairs

Squid Ink Bread

To start we were given some squid-ink bread. The bread took a while to get to our table, but when it did it was definitely worth it. Our rolls were fresh out of the oven. The addition of squid ink was a quirky fun touch. The squid ink had no distinctive taste, it just a added a bit of saltiness which went well with the sweetness of the butter.

As usual, my dad went a bit overboard with ordering appetizers. We ordered at total of three appetizers: 1) Tempura Scallops w/ Mango Orange Sauce and Lump Caviar (P450), 2) Gratinated Escargot with Garlic Cream (P350) and; 3) Gratinated Portobello Mushroom with Foie Gras (P750). I ended up loving two out of three of these appetizers.

Tempura Scallops w/ Mango Orange Sauce and Lump Caviar (P450)

First up was the tempura scallops. Wow, this was such an amazing appetizer! We initially ordered this just so we could have some scallops. It was the only appetizer in the menu with scallops and we didn’t go wrong in ordering it.

We were served five or six puffs of tempura generously dripping with mango orange sauce. I was initially apprehensive that the sauce might overwhelm the scallop but all my fears were soon put at ease–  the sauce was sweet and creamy and light. It had just the right balance and it brought out the natural sweetness of the scallop. The scallop itself was of a generous size and very fresh. I was in scallop heaven!

I quickly did the math: 6 pieces / three people = I was only entitled to 2 pieces of scallops. Boo. Oh well. I consoled myself with the thought that there were more dishes soon to come and I had several more courses to work though.

My only beef with this dish is with the caviar. The caviar while immensely pleasing to the eye did not really add to the flavor of the dish. I barely tasted the caviar.

Gratinated Escargot with Garlic Cream (P350)

Our next appetizer was the Gratinated Escargot with Garlic Cream (P350). This one I didn’t like so much. To start with, I’m not a really big fan of escargot. When I eat glorified snails, I prefer that it be drenched with sauce to make me forget that I’m eating snails. Unfortunately, the sauce of this was also very light and wasn’t overpowering. Thus it did not make me forget that I was eating snails.

Gratinated Portobello with Foie Gras (P750)

Ah foie gras. A friend of mine told me last year that he thought foie gras tasted like cardboard. My reaction was to: 1) GASP VERY LOUDLY, 2) get very defensive on foie gras’ behalf and; 3) sold him vehemently and tell him that he’s not been having foie gras at the right places.

Foie gras is one of my very favorite things to eat. Mushroom is also something I enjoy eating. This dish was the perfect marriage of both. Both went very well with the gratin (au gratin?) sauce. The mushroom was meaty and flavorful. The foie gras lightly seared and not burned as some restaurants are wont to do.

We ordered the set menu which includes the house salad, soup of the day, dessert and coffee or tea. Your bill will be determined by the  price of the entree you select. I wish they included sorbet as a palate cleanser to the set menu. Other restaurants (with cheaper dishes) customarily include a palate cleanser for free and I didn’t quite understand why Antonio’s didn’t give you that for free also.  We were served the soup of the day but unfortunately I wasn’t able to take any pictures of that.

Antonio's Farm Fresh Mesclun Salad with Glaze Wallnuts, Dried Currants & Cranberries w/ Raspberry Vinaigrette

For my salad course, I had the house salad with raspberry vinaigrette. Antonio’s greens are all grown in the property surrounding the restaurant. Their vegetables are fresh and you can definitely tell the difference. Just greens of this salad alone is a symphony of tastes and textures exploding in your mouth. The salad has liberal doses of arugula to add some spice to the salad. And the sweet and sour raspberry vinaigrette does a good job of balancing that heat and adding another dimension to this salad.

The humble salad has been elevated to art. It should be very happy with itself.

Foie Gras Potato Truffle Tempura (P495)

Since my mother loves foie gras as much as I do, she opted to add the Foie Gras Potato Truffle Tempura (P495) to her salad. My mother was generous enough to give me a big-ish slice of this. This was pretty amazing. I appreciated the innovative use of the foie gras. The potato was a good extender and added some sweetness to the fatty awesomeness that is foie gras.

Finally, our main course arrived!!! It was time to put my mom’s revered steak to the test. We ordered Antonio’s Steak (P4,900 for two persons). It’s served Peter-Luger style in a deep dish to soak up all the oil. You’re given two choices of side dishes. My mom chose Mashed Potatoes while I (ever the rice obsessed Filipino) ordered the Black and Green Olive Rice. 

Antionio's Steak - Grilled Certified Angus Prime Ribeye Steak, rubbed with Cardamon (P4,900)

Antonio’s Black and Green Olive Rice with Haricots (French green beans)
Mashed potatoes with haricot verts (French green beans)

To put this simply: this is the BEST steak I’ve ever had in the Philippines. And probably the second best steak I’ve ever had in my life. In the age of wagyu and wagyu pretenders, this steak shows that you don’t need to have wagyu beef to have delicious steak. You just need quality beef and good old fashioned spice rubs and quality marinating.

Condiment Service for the steak. Lemon, gravy and rock salt

No need to drown this steak in sauces, to fully enjoy the quality and taste of the beef you need only add some rock salt and lemon. Maybe a dash of gravy.

Crispy bits of onion are also added on top of the steak to add some sweetness. This is an amazing steak. If you’re a beef lover, go do yourself a favor. Save up for a special occasion and share this steak with someone special.

Chilean Sea Bass, Foil Baked w/ Tomatoes, Olives, Pine Nuts and Parsley on Mashed Potatoes (P1,650)

For his main dish, my father ordered the Chilean Sea Bass, Foil Baked w/ Tomatoes, Olives, Pine Nuts and Parsley on Mashed Potatoes (P1,650). I wasn’t able to taste this dish as my father is less inclined to sharing than my mother. Haha. However, it looks moist and makes for a very, pretty picture. 

Now on to dessert! 


Dark Chocolate Souffle w/ Cardamon Creme Anglaise


Finally for dessert, my mom and I ordered Dark Chocolate Souffle w/Cardamom Creme Anglaise. At this point, I started to wonder, “What the heck is cardamom and why is it so delicious?” The steak had been rubbed with cardamom and now the sauce for this souffle had it.

The souffle is light and airy yet warm and gooey in the inside. The chocolate was decadent and the creme anglaise made it more so. It was the perfect decadent cap to a decadent meal.

THE VERDICT: VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

From the other-wordly ambiance, to the small touches and flourishes and the (as a whole) AMAZING food; Antonio’s is a treat to the senses and a gift to your stomach.

Antonio’s is the only Filipino restaurant to make the Miele Guide’s Asia’s Top 20 for 2009/2010 list. And I really do have to agree. This is hands down the best dining experience in the Philippines.

SOME PRACTICAL TIPS

  • Before dining at Antonio’s make a reservation at: http://antoniosrestaurant.ph/
  • Meals at Antonio’s tend to be drawn out and leisurely. Block out at least three hours to fully enjoy your meal.
  • Prices in the menu are inclusive of VAT and exclusive of 10% service charge
 

Antonio’s Restaurant, Tagaytay

Bgy. Neogan
Tagaytay City, Cavite
Philippines
(0918) 899-2866

Good Eats, Pilipinas: A CAVEAT!

I want to start hesitantly, as I feel wholly unqualified to maintain a food critique blog.

The reasons NOT to start one is a long and varied list:

I’ve never enrolled in a cooking course. I’ve never been able to pull off a decent nor edible chicken adobo. The extent of my cooking prowess is limited to mongolian bbq, french toast and really crunchy bacon. Oh, and instant noodles, if you can count that.

I’ve been a very picky eater most of my life and during entire years of my childhood my diet consisted wholly of that pinnacle of Epicurean complexity–Maggi Beef Noodles. I try to avoid vegetables whenever I can. I probably couldn’t tell apart herbs to save my life. I have never tasted an actual honest to God truffle (although I could consume truffle oil by the gallon).

Totally unrelated photo to impress you with my photo skills

So after all that bruhaha, why in God’s name start a food blog?!!?? Are you mad, woman?

All the reasons stated above are completely true. But the irrefutable, compelling reason remains : I truly, truly love food. And I truly, truly, love eating.

Food for me (as it is for most) is so much more than satiating a biological imperative. Food is about family, friendship and sometimes love. Food is about being able to share a great three-hour meal with people you love and laugh the entire time. Food is about how the perfect dishes, the perfect ambiance and perfect company come together and can culminate in a memory that could transcend years and decades.

Food is about happiness and comfort, whether it be a meal in a five-star restaurant or Jollibee take-out brought to you by a friend to lift your spirits.

After twenty-six years of being comforted by food, I say it’s time to give something back. So this is my little thank you to all the wonderful chefs and cooks and restaurants that have brought joy to my life.

Thus armed with my semi-pro camera and the copious hours wasted–erm, spent reading other peoples’ food blogs, I officially open Good Eats, Pilipinas!

This blog will basically be listing the food that I eat. What I liked, what I didn’t like and the whys. No complicated exposition on the way X ingredient elevated the dish to gastronomical heights. No description of the cooking methods properly or catastrophically employed by chefs. Just some comments and observations to guide and inspire the similarly inclined.

And some pretty pictures and semi-funny quips on the way.

Enjoy and please do be warned! First for-reals food post to follow soon.

Totally unrelated photo to impress you with photo skills No. 2

GRATITUDE AND THANKS TO:

 1) The incomparable ABBIE FERAREN who came up with the stupendous blog name and kept me excited about the whole food blogging concept. See her bring beauty to the world at: http://makeupbyabbieferaren.multiply.com

2) My lovely parents (Shout-out to LELET MARFIL) who have brought me to enough fancy restaurants to allow me to intelligibly write about food.

3) My foodie friend GRACE PASTORFIDE. Before I met Grace, I didn’t even know there was such a thing as a food blogger. Read her knowledgable food reviews at: http://retsolicious.blogspot.com

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