Filipino foodies are always in search of new restaurants that offer the best, if not the most unique, dining experiences. As 2014 arrives, the quest for these food destinations begins anew, and with a much stronger craving.
Tucked inside the Manila Ocean Park—a hub for popular recreational activities—is a food village bursting with rich and diverse Southeast Asian flavors. Called the Makan Makan Asian Food Village, it is one of the two food outlets at Hotel H2O.
The Manila Times had the delicious opportunity to taste the best and most unique among Makan Makan’s offerings shortly before the holidays, with hotel general manager Lily Santos Adrid and director of sales and marketing Antonette Mitschiener playing the gracious hosts. The lunch was a discovery of Manila’s best-kept secret in the food department to date.
“With more than 150 dishes to choose from, Makan Makan is more than a restaurant. It’s a veritable Pan-Asia village where the culinary delights of Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines abound,” enthused Adrid.
Among the restaurant’s best–sellers are two appetizers, Malaysia’s Roti Prata—a flat bread with tasty curry dip—and Indonesia’s iconic meat skewers, the Satay. Both dishes are simple but very Asian in presentation and taste.
These spicy choices go well with Indonesia’s bandung, a concoction of rose-syrup, evaporated milk and grass jelly, or Singapore’s Michael Jackson, a curious drink best explained by Hotel H2O’s food and beverage manager Jojo Moises: “The drink is actually in reference to Michael Jackson’s song, ‘Black and White’ because it is iced white soya milk with black jelly.”
He added that the soya served by the hotel is “very good and very clean” since they make it in their kitchens.
For soup choices, The Manila Times recommends two dishes, one creamy and the other clear. The first is Seafood Tom Yum, Thailand’s zesty lemon grass soup, which is a perfectly balanced sour and spicy broth. The soup is very refreshing and perfect for those who prefer lighter bowls of starters.
The creamier option is the Laksa, specially made for diners who go for hearty and filling soups. One of Singapore’s most loved dishes, Laksa is a spiced rice noodle soup with coconut cream, topped with seafood and fish cake.
According to Adrid, Singa–porean dishes are very popular in Makan Makan, precisely because the restaurant was originally inspired by the country’s famous hawker food stalls. In fact, the layout and interiors of the food hub is very hawker-style.
“Earlier on, our hotel guests would line up in the different food stalls offering the food of their given nations. But later on—because Makan Makan is an all-day dining—many guests preferred food to be served to them so we decided to just offer everything in a menu,” Adrid added.
What has been kept is cooking the dishes for all the diners to see, just as they do in Singapore.
As for main courses, Makan Makan’s bestsellers come from four different nations, namely the Pineapple Fried Rice from Thailand; Sambal Squid from Malaysia; Steamed Lapu-Lapu with Soya Sauce and Makan Fried Chicken both from China; Singapore’s Cha Hae Mee stir-fried bihon noodles with shrimps.
According to Makan Makan Executive Chef John Orit, who took time to see guests while eating, Cha Hae Mee is best eaten with calamansi juice and sambal sauce, which indeed gives the dish an explosion of flavors.
Hailing from Maasin, Southern Leyte, Orit has previously worked in Brunei, cooking for the Sultan at the palace, as well as in Movenpick Hotel in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. He became Makan Makan’s executive chef in 2009 as part of Hotel H2O’s pre-opening team. While his specialty is Chinese cuisine, he trained under a Singaporean chef, thus mastering the authenticity of Southeast Asian flavors.
As for the Philippine menu, the star of the show is Makan Makan’s Lechon de Leche. This indulgent charcoal-roasted piglet is soft and juicy, and best had with spicy soya-vinegar to counter the oiliness.
Adrid revealed that Filipino dishes, like the lechon de leche, are also a hit at the restaurant thanks to the balikabayan guests.
For dessert, a must-have is the Mango Pudding and taku (frozen coconut cream from Singapore), both served with sago pearls.