At first glance, Pasig’s Barangay Kapitolyo seems nothing more than an old residential enclave – a small spot in the middle of the metropolis that the urban crawl seems to have missed – betraying its proximity to dense urban areas like the stretch of Shaw Boulevard, and the Ortigas Central Business District. However the area has been gaining popularity as a foodie destination, and Anglaagan just had to check it out and see what the fuss was all about.
One of the newer establishments in the area, Haru is pretty eye-catchy for a Japanese restaurant. For those familiar with the new location of Cafe Juanita (which is THE institution around the Kapitolyo), Haru sits right beside it, and its “Japanese Zen meets Al-Fresco Dining” exterior is pretty hard to miss when you’re passing by West Capitol Drive.
Inside, Haru is probably one of the most “Japanese” among the Japanese restaurants that I’ve been to in Manila, outside of the Little Tokyo area. For starters, the staff wear traditional kimonos, and the decor of the interior gives a traditional Japanese feel – none of that Zen-like minimalism that most places try to achieve.
The food won’t disappoint either. They have a very long list of various sushi on the menu – one of the longest I’ve seen in fact. This will be a big problem for sushi fans – choosing which ones to have. I just had the plain old tuna nigiri, one of the world’s most recognizable sushi, but what showed up infront of me was one of the freshest looking nigiri I’ve seen in a long time. The tuna was deep red, and prepared in very precise cuts. We then proceeded with a bowl of Shoyu Ramen. Now ramen has been invading Manila like a Kamikaze wind, and certainly standards of ramen fans here have been taken up by a notch or two – me and my wife among them. In that regard, Haru’s ramen is nothing out of the ordinary. It was good, but there are better. We then had two very recognizable rice bowls, Katsudon and Oyakodon. Suffice to say though, that those were among the two best Japanese rice bowls we’ve had – high quality Japanese rice, and eggs cooked just right blanketing the meat – lovely.
Overall impression? This is a place I wouldn’t hesitate to take guests and visitors to. Food is good, place is presentable, and the price is in the lower range of good Japanese restos. But if there is one thing I would really come here for, it’s the sushi.
Just a few steps from Haru is another Kapitolyo newbie. Situated right at the corner of West Capitol Drive and United, Ramen cool is the exact opposite of the former. It is brightly lit, with a slight nod to zen-like minimalism.
Here the name of the game is ramen, although unlike most other ramen bars in Manila, they have a more robust menu that includes rice bowls. By ramen standards it can step in line with the likes of the Ramen Bar and Kenji Tei, which in part formed the initial pillars of the ramen craze. However the market has moved on since then, with the entry of big names from overseas. If I were to look for an absolutely divine ramen experience, this is probably not that place, but what Ramen Cool offers that others could not is that friendly, cozy feel of a neighborhood mom-and-pop store. Here you can get ramen without the hustle and bustle of a mall. Their ramen is still pretty darn good, mind you, and had it not been for the deluge of big ramen names left and right, I still might have considered them one of the best out there. And while I may not call them as among the absolute best, they’re still close.
Just a bit further from Ramen Cool, along United St. is a Vietnamese restaurant, going by the name Ba Noi’s. Vietnamese has not yet become “mainstream” in Manila, not in the same way that Japanese and Korean have become, which means comparisons come few and far between. The face of Ba Nois’s competition comes in the form of mall based chains, like Pho Hoa, Pho Bac and Pho 24, and in the face of such meager opposition, my choice of Ba Noi’s as the best Vietnamese food within Manila was an easy one. Service, food and overall bang for the buck – it’s the best we’ve got so far. Try the usual Vietnamese favorites, like spring rolls and pho.
This one has been around for quite some time. This is perhaps the only place in the world where you can eat Wagyu burger while having your car washed. Located unceremoniously behind a carwash along United St., a few steps away from Ba Noi’s, Charlies serves what is perhaps the best burgers in town, along with real good finger food like fish and chips, and wings. This is one place where you definitely won’t go for the ambiance. It’s as spartan as you can get without getting unsanitary, and it’s just about the last thing that you should go to for a romantic date. But if all you want is to wolf down food…glorious food…this is hard to beat. The place has nothing else going for it except the quality of food, but that is enough to make it one of the best foodie experiences in the metro, in my opinion anyway. The place may look dirt cheap but the prices certainly are, though trust me, it’s worth every peso.
Further down the road is an amazing ribs places called Rub. This small, humble resto can get packed full, even on weekday nights, and for good reason. No other place in the metropolis gives more bang for the buck when it comes to ribs. Huge, generous racks of flavorful, tender ribs are served at your table along with a wide selection of sides, and they don’t scrimp on their barbecue sauce, if you like your meat with a sweet, spicy kick.
* All photos taken with an IPhone