As the Ber months continue, we’re feeling the holiday spirit more and more. People are putting up Christmas decor, stores are going on special sales, and restaurants are promoting their seasonal menus. One thing everyone looks forward to during this time is all the feasts! Office Christmas parties, Noche Buena with the family – Filipinos will always look for a reason to celebrate with a great meal. It’s definitely a bittersweet feeling when the season dies down come January, but that doesn’t mean you have to wait another year to feast on favorites like puto bumbong, queso de bola, and lechon! Here are some places around Metro Manila serving dishes that make it feel like the “Ber” months all year round.
Manam’s Bibingkang Ube
Manam has quickly become a favorite spot for Filipino food, where you can choose from classic Filipino dishes or something with a twist. While their crispy sisig, pancit palabok, and watermelon sinigang are popular showstoppers, Manam’s Bibingkang Ube (P120/small, P230/medium, P340/large) is not to be missed. Coming from their Twists menu, this is an upgrade from your usual bibingka, with swirls of ube to go with the rice cake, salted egg, and coconut shavings that we all know and love. If you find yourself missing this Pinoy favorite throughout the year, you know where to get one of the best!
Lia’s Cakes in Season’s Puto Bumbong Cake
Image: Lia's Cake
Here’s one fusion you might have never tried: cake and puto bumbong! Of the many cakes and treats made by Lia’s Cakes in Season, this Puto Bumbong Cake (P1,680) is a holiday favorite. With each bite of the fluffy cake, you get their special coco-muscovado sauce, coconut topping, and muscovado sugar. This sweet treat from Lia's Cake will make you feel giddy with Christmas spirit and take you back to nights of Simbang Gabi. The cafe is located in Kapitolyo, Pasig, so you can choose to sit down in their cozy space, or you can also order the whole cake and enjoy it in the comfort of your own home. If you want a smaller bite, they sell puto bumbong in cupcake form, too.
Chubby Chicken’s Carbonara
Image: Chubby Chicken
One family reunion staple in Filipino households is a big plate of carbonara – by no means is it traditional to the Italian style, but the Pinoy version of homemade carbonara has a comforting creaminess for the whole family to enjoy. Even the pickiest eaters in the family can’t resist it! If you can’t wait for the next gathering to feast on some of this pasta, try Chubby Chicken’s Carbonara (P110/solo, P168/sharing). It’s loaded with cheese and bacon, and you can add chicken strips for an additional P55. With an affordable price like this, you’ll be wanting to treat yourself to this creamy carbonara every day.
Sentro 1771’s Keso Flan
Image: Sentro 1771
Around Christmas time, you’ll usually see big mounds of this cheese displayed on the dining table or wrapped up in cellophane before the festivities even begin. Queso de bola has become synonymous to Noche Buena, a great complement to many dishes served around the holidays. Of course, there are many other ways to enjoy queso de bola when the season ends. Sentro 1771 serves an amazing Keso Flan (P220), one of their best selling desserts. It comes in the form of cheesecake presented to look like leche flan, with a side of queso de bola and red egg. To really get the full experience, make sure to get a bite of each component altogether.
Barcino’s Paella Mixta
It’s no question that Filipinos love rice, and during the holidays, this staple gets even better. Paella is usually served for large parties; that unmistakable large, round pan filled with rice, meat, and vegetables could be a meal in itself. If you’re dining with a smaller group, a great place to get your paella fix is at Barcino. The restaurant offers several types of paella, like the Paella Mixta (P890) with mixed seafood, meat, and vegetables good enough to satisfy a party of 4 to 5. Their Paella Negra (P600), made with squid ink and aioli, is another best seller. The best part? Definitely the bits of crispy, toasted rice at the bottom of the plate.
Xocolat’s Taza de Xocolat
Xocolat is likely Manila’s most famous chocolaterie, and for a good reason. Their Taza de Xocolat (P195) has earned many loving and dedicated fans all over the metro. This signature hot chocolate drink is rich and thick, with just the right amount of sweetness to it. To make it even better, it’s served with toasted marshmallows, providing the ultimate comfort. On days when you just miss the cool Christmas air, or when rainy season hits and you need something to warm you up, this Taza de Xocolate is a perfect choice.
Rico’s Lechon’s Spicy Lechon
Image: Rico's Lechon
Save the best for last! It goes without saying that Filipino holidays aren’t complete without a great lechon. You know it’s a feast when a whole lechon is present, with your friends and relatives helping themselves to the roast pork, and little (or a lot) of extra skin. Though this dish is usually an indulgence saved for special occasions, Rico’s Lechon has made it easier for people in Manila to get their hands on some of that famous Cebu lechon. The crowd favorite from Rico’s Lechon is the Spicy Lechon (P290/ ¼ kilo, P500/ ½ kilo, P950/1 kilo), one of the first of its kind, using spicy garlic to give the pork an added kick. And instead of Mang Tomas or other sweet lechon sauces, Rico’s serves their own special Suka Lami, which you can buy by the bottle. Now, this is one dish you’ll be craving this Christmas, and probably all year round, too.