Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants: 4 Filipino Restaurants Make It To The Essence Of Asia 2021 List
The diversity of Asian food is a treasure to the culinary scene. This year, Asia's 50 Best Restaurants honours those that "preserve culinary traditions, honour authentic flavours, and provide a vital link to their communities" with the first-ever Essence of Asia Collection. Unranked and inclusive, the collection features establishments from 49 cities across 20 countries with a myriad of food purveyors that range from street vendors to well-established eateries and casual restaurants.
The list, which was based on recommendations from chefs and professionals from the Asia's 50 Best Restaurants network, features four Philippine restaurants from all over the country.
Farmer's Daughter in Baguio
Plumped just outside the Tam-awan Village, The Farmer's Daughter is a charming nipa hut set against the verdure of Baguio City. Its name is a humble homage to the women who have impacted the life of owner, Pil-od, whose mother, grandmother, and wife are all daughters of farmers.
The food, which is fresh and straightforward, may look simple but, once tasted, prove to be a medley of complex yet complementary flavours. The chefs use traditional cooking techniques to bring out the best in each ingredient. In particular, they're famous for their kinuday or smoked meat, which is applied to beef, chicken and pork. Pinikpikan is another distinctive dish, which is prepared by beating a live chicken to give it a distinct flavour. By serving up uniquely Northern cuisine, The Farmer's Daughter preserves culinary traditions that would otherwise have been lost amongst the modernisation and Westernisation of Filipino food.
Earth Kitchen in Manila
Earth Kitchen is dedicated to serving wholesome foods that satisfy. Its three pillars continue to be to serve local, healthy, and sustainable cuisine that also supports local farmers and indigenous communities. Though their menu stretches to include international favourites such as chicken kebab and smoked duck breast, they manage to infuse a sense of Filipino-ness to their flavour by remaining loyal to local suppliers and empowering them.
"The recent feature from the Essence of Asia collection has given us great honor. We feel grateful and validated, and made the sacrifices we made, specially during the whole year of 2020, worth it" shares co-owner Melissa Yeung-Yap.
Though their recent recognition is an obvious win for the team - which includes owners Melissa Yeung-Yap, Joseph Hizon, and David Hizon plus executive chefs Elguin Guevara, David Hizon, and JR Trani- they've also acknowledged their own difficulties in the past. "Like most restaurant businesses at the start of the pandemic, we have contemplated on closing down because it was the easier and the most logical option. But we fought our way through and decided to keep going to keep the market open for our partner farmers, to provide jobs for our employees during a most difficult time, and also for our customers who have patronised and stood by our advocacy throughout more than seven years of our operation," says Yeung-Yap.
Hapag in Manila
Named after the low-legged Filipino dining table, Hapag is a local restaurant that manages to find a balance between modernity and tradition. Helmed by Thirdy Dolatre, John Kevin Navoa, and Kevin Villarica, Hapag's goal has always been "to serve Filipino food in the highest and purest form possible". They've sourced local produce grown in native mountains or found in our indigenous jungles and seas. All this to create the most flavourful yet authentic Filipino foods.
"Being a part of this collection of humble Asian restaurants is truly an honour for our little restaurant in Project 4, Quezon City," says team Hapag.
Their March 2021 tasting menu includes intriguing courses that include chicken inasal crackers, uni arroz caldo, and kambing luzviminda reinterpreted thrice to honour flavours from Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. "We still have a lot of things to learn and discover but one thing remains the same, and that is to showcase the beauty of Filipino cuisine," they agree.
Bale Dutung in Pampanga
It's no surprise that the highly-acclaimed Bale Dutung has found its niche as a member of the Essence of Asia collection. This renowned restaurant has a loyal fan base of experienced diners just waiting to get a seat. Owned by Chef Claude Tayag, Bale Dutung has won praise for its contemporary take on Filipino cuisine. In the past, they've served up courses that included pastillas cheesecake, sisig in bone marrow, and chicken inasal tostadas.
"I am quite elated for Bale Dutung to be included in the Essence of Asia 2021," says chef and owner Claude Tayag. "My wife Mary Ann and I feel that our efforts in promoting Philippine cuisine, not only in the use of local produce and ingredients, but also the narratives behind each dish, have paid off since we opened in 2000."