Food corner

"To eat well in England you should have breakfast three times a day."

Somerset Maugham

Twitter feed
Aleppo pepper Alicante all spice almond anchovy apple apricot Argentina artichokes asparagus aubergine autumn avocado bacon banana Bangkok basil bay leaf beef beetroot bergamot berry biscuit bistro bloggers blue cheese Bolivia Borough Market bread breadcrumbs British budget budwig diet Buenos Aires buffalo sauce bulgar wheat burrata butter cabbage cafe cake Calais capers caramel caraway cardamom carrot cauliflower chard cheddar cheese chicken chickpeas chicory chilli chocolate chorizo Christmas cinnamon clams cloves cobnut cocoa coconut cooking class Copenhagen Córdoba coriander cornflakes cottage cheese courgette flowers crayfish cream cream cheese creme fraiche cucumber culinary catastrophe cumin currants daikon Dalmatia dates delivery dessert dill dips dough Dubrovnik Easter easy Edinburgh egg eggplant fennel festive feta fettuccine ffine bean fflour Filipino filo fine dining Finsbury Park fish fish sauce five spice flour food aid food anthropology food tour French game garlic gastropub gherkin ginger gluten free goat's cheese goat's curd golden syrup greengage Guinness halloumi ham Hanoi harissa hazelnut hibiscus Hoi An hominy honey horseradish humanitarian relief Indian Islington Istanbul Italian jam Japanese juniper Kent ketchup kielbasa kinilaw Korean lamb leek lemon lemongrass lentils lime linseed London loquat Madrid market mascarpone Mayfair Mendoza Mexican mid-range milk mint mirin mixed peel mixed spice monk's beard morcilla mozzarella mushroom mussels mustard Nahm Natoora Nepalese New Nordic New Year's Day New Zealand noras nose-to-tail oats olive olive oil onion orange Oxfordshire oxtail paprika Paris Parmesan parsley party pastry peanut pear peas pepper Peru Philippines pickle pine nuts pistachio pizza pomegranate pomegranate molasses pop-ups pork potato prawn preserved lemon prosciutto Provence providore prunes Puerto Iguazú pulse pumpkin purple sprouting broccoli quail egg quick radish ragu raisins ras el hanout raspberries red pepper paste red wine refugees restaurant rhubarb ribs rice ricotta rocket rosemary runner bean saffron sage San Sebastian sausage seafood shallot short and sweet slow-cooked smoked mackerel smoked salmon sorrel souffle soy spaghetti spinach spring squid St Basil's Day stilton stock street food sugar sumac summer supper club Sydney syrup Tabasco tagliatelle tahini take away tamarind tarragon tart Thai thyme toffee tom yum paste tomato tomato paste tray bake tuna Turkey veal vegetarian versatile Vietnam Vietnamese vinegar walnut water chestnut white pepper wine wings winter yoghurt
« Oxtail Ragu, simply the best | Main | Spectacular Sunsets and disappointing food in the Philippines »

People's Palace Thai, Manila

It did not really come as a surprise, having travelled around the Philippines for 2 weeks, that the best meal I had there was (a) in the cosmopolitan capital of Manila and (b) not Filipino. I am willing to be proven wrong – I did end up in some rather provincial places – but overall I found Filipino food to be too sweet, greasy, bland or all of the above.

In some ways it is a shame that we didn’t do Manila first, when we were excited to try the local food, as I have read about some places that do modern Filipino food and get rave reviews, but after 2 weeks of eating greasy meat, sweet bread, margarine coated everything and a lot of junk food at bus stations, we just weren’t keen to give them a go.

This is how we ended up at a modern Thai restaurant for our final meal in the Philippines. People’s Palace Thai is similar in style to a David Thompson restaurant, except with less emphasis on the cultural style of eating and more on traditional recipes cooked and presented in a modern style with a focus on high quality ingredients.

We started with betel leaves topped with sweet pork, crispy fish and green mango, which was a perfect Thai mouthful – sweet, sour and salty with just a little heat. Small portions and its leafy mode of transportation made something that could be quite heavy and intense, quite manageable on a hot and humid day.

Sitting outside in the muggy Manila heat all we could think of was salads, so we ordered three. The best was the larp gai - a minced chicken salad seasoned with lime, fish sauce, chilli and herbs, and served with raw vegetables for crunch and substance.

I rarely order larb out – it is something that is so simple to make at home and so often messed up in restaurants. I generally find that the dressing is not tangy enough (not enough lime), not salty enough (not enough fish sauce) or too sweet (too much palm sugar) and/or the meat is too greasy. It’s such an easy dish, I can’t fathom why. Anyway, all this to say that the People’s Palace Thai got all this right. It was perfectly balanced and light and refreshing as it should be.

Prawn, pomelo, chicken and coconut salad was disappointing – far too much pomelo, not enough of all the other stuff. You want the pomelo to be a garnish not the main event.

Soft shell crab with green papaya salad was not the best rendition I have had, but not bad either – the batter could have been a little lighter but the crab was very fresh. The green papaya salad was too sweet for my liking, but texturally it still complemented the crab well. 

Another thing we had been missing was a decent drink so we ordered several glasses of white wine. Libs chose a Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc and I tried several but eventually settled on a Martinborough Riesling. They got warm pretty quickly outside so we knocked them back sharpish.

I was pleasantly surprised by the kaffir lime marinated prawns with crispy shrimp crackers, which Libs ordered. I thought it sounded a bit plain, but the marinade was on point – zesty and a tiny bit sweet with just a hint of chilli. The prawns were perfectly poached, cool and refreshing and the crispy prawn crackers made a great vehicle for them, adding salt and crunch.

I wasn’t sure about the crab omelette either on a hot day, but it was lighter than I expected. Again the crab was nice and fresh, but I think the omelette could have done more seasoning (it was a bit bland) and less cooking (I like a gooey centre).

I finished up with a lemongrass ice cream on ginger brandy snap biscuit, which was fantastic. I am not usually into Asian desserts, but this fusion dish brought together the best of East and West with refreshing Asian flavours and French finesse.

Reading back over this review it might seem odd that I remember the meal so favourably, because actually only half of it was really good. It goes to show that so much of a good meal is about timing, mood and circumstance. If I had just been travelling around Thailand for two weeks and then paid over the odds for this meal in the capital, I probably would have focussed on the negatives, but in this context it was a great note to end our holiday on.

PrintView Printer Friendly Version

EmailEmail Article to Friend

Reader Comments

There are no comments for this journal entry. To create a new comment, use the form below.

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>