A few weeks ago Mita and I had dinner with an old friend, Manny Paez of Manila Forwarder and Mita steered us right to a very satisfying steak experience. Believe me, this is not easy to do in the Philippines. It’s easy to find beef here in many combinations for breakfast, lunch or dinner but in most cases you are going to be very disappointed … even ground beef is typically tough, full of fat, hazardous to your teeth because of carelessly included sharp bits of bone
Meat cutting (I could write a book on the butchering practices here in the Philippines )… at least as much meat is ruined by the ‘whack everything apart at random with a dull axe’ school of meat cutting as ever goes to waste by other modes of spoilage. Actually, whenever I visit a large butcher counter, as in a supermarket, the carnage behind the glass of the display cases reminds me of overly realistic coverage of a terrorist bombing … serioulsy, meat often looks as if the animal were cut up by putting a hand grenade inside and pulling the pin.
Native beef is generally skinny and tough. Part of this problem is caused by climatic conditions to some degree…Angus and other better beef breeds don’t do well here, and much is made of the fact that Philippine beef is most often grass finished rather than grain finished as we are used to in the US. In itself, this is a bogus reason, though, it is perfectly possible to make excellent steak and roasts from grass fed animals, indeed some of the finest meat in the world is … but you can’t sell it for 100 pesos per kilo bargain prices. Anyway, I didn’t want this to be a rant .. we Americans eat way to much corn-fattened beef and we have the waistlines to prove it.
Every once in a while you want to do something special. And for carnivores as Mita and I proudly are, it takes beef to satisfy. My friend Bob has raved to me about a restaurant, Cawayanon, in Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon in central Mindanao. I’ve heard other independent assessments that says this place likely serves the best steaks in the Philippines. I’m looking forward to a visit there.
In the meantime, we’ve found a darn good substitute right here in Metro Manila … the Highlands Steakhouse in the Mall of Asia, right on Manila Bay. The original Highlands Steakhouse is located in a beautiful setting in the mountains overlooking Lake Taal in Tagaytay Highlands, south of Manila. The developer of the Tagaytay Highlands community use it as a drawing card for their country-club community and it’s only open to residents and their guests.
But when SM corporation opened the really impressive Mall of Asia a few years ago, they needed more than the usual US franchise burger joints and greasy bar-b-que places that serve mainly marinated fat and gristle … thus was born the Mall of Asia branch of Highlands Steakhouse, open to all who don’t mind spend US-level prices for a US quality steak dinner.
We were very happy with the dining experience there, with the view over Manila Bay,
(hint: plan your trip there between 6 and 7 pm to catch the sunset and even if you want to move inside for dinner, enjoy cocktails on the balcony overlooking the bay)
The wait staff is excellent … one of the best I have seen in Manila, (and I’ve eaten at other restaurants in this price range), the air- imported US Angus beef is top notch, the chef knows the difference between rare, medium rare and medium, parking is excellent (valet parking right on the street in front of the restaurant) … all in all a very satisfying visit. Recommended.