I always appreciate it when restaurants try to be creative with their specialties by adding some sort of twist to the traditional dishes that we know. Now some of them work pretty well like π Breakfast and Pies’ Caramelized Spam with Kimchee and Pesto, or Planet Grapes’ pairings of Filipino streetfood with wine. However, not everyone does well in the innovation department – like Gino’s Brick OvenPizza’s Chocolate Chicharon (just because both ingredients taste good doesn’t mean they’ll come out better when fused together), or Wicked Kitchen’smilkshake drizzled with Sriracha.
But then again it always tickles my fancy when I hear of creative cuisine. One restaurant which seemed to have mastered the art of experimenting with classic Filipino dishes is Manam.
Manam used to be called NamNam and is a modern-themed Filipino restaurant from The Moment Group, which is also the company behind Cue Modern Barbecue, 8Cuts, Ooma, and Din Tai Fung. Now I don’t know the reason behind the change of name, but I’m guessing that their hashtag “#MasMalinamnam” has something to do with it.
The menu is divided into two columns – with the first one offering the classic Filipino dishes that we love, and the one next to it offering versions of Pinoy specialties with a creative twist to the recipe.
Bagoong Rice S – Php 95; M – Php 170; L – 310
What I liked about Manam’s Bagoong Rice is that the bagoong flavor does not overwhelm the taste of the ulam you will have.An order comes with thin slices of green mango, and the generous servings are enough to save you from asking for extra rice. The small size is around 1 and ½ cups, while the medium (which is what we had) is supposed to be good for 3 people yet we still had some leftovers.
Sinigang na Beef Short Rib and Watermelon S – Php 245; M – Php 445; L – 775
The “twisted” version of the classic sinigang. I’ve already tasted other soup-based specialties graced with watermelon like Kanteen’sPork Sinigang, but Manam’s version so far has been the best I’ve tried. It doesn’t taste weird, trust me. In fact, the watermelon and tomatoes added just the right sweetness to complement the sour broth. This one goes so well with the Bagoong Rice, giving us a playful contrast of sweet, sour, and salty.
Ensaladang Pako S – Php 95; M – Php 175; L – 310
Nope, we’re not talking about nails here. Apparently pako is the local name of the Fiddlehead Fern, which is an edible vegetable fern often found in Asian countries. A friend recommended this to me yet when we tried it, we just ended up wasting our order because nobody wanted to finish the whole thing. The ferns are served with salted egg, tomatoes, tinapa flakes, and vinaigrette– which overall tasted like seaweed salad. I guess this just proves that I can’t be a vegan.
Gising Gising is one of the few veggies dishes I’m willing to eat, together with adobong string beans, pritong talong, laing, and kangkong. Manam’s version uses sigarilyas instead of baguio beans – mixing it with kangkong, coconut cream, chilis, bagoong, and some bits of pork. Personally, I preferred my Gising Gising to have baguio beans.
Sizzling Corned Beef Kansi S – Php 270; M – Php 495; L – 820
I ordered the Corned Beef Kansi expecting it to be soup-based because I’ve always thought of kansi as some sort of bulalo and sinigang hybrid. Now I would have had that if I ordered the Bone Marrow kansi under the “Classics” column of the menu, but the Corned Beef Kansi is listed with the “Twists” so it only makes sense that I get something out of the ordinary.
Instead of the usual sabaw, the Sizzling Corned Beef Kansi has a very thick broth that strangely reminds me of gravy. Despite the unexpected surprise, the dish tasted pretty good and is actually one of the most memorable dishes we had. I enjoyed scooping up the corned beef chunks, onions, garlic, and pechaymixed woith the predominantly sour broth. Loved it!
Crispy Pork Binagoongan S – Php 205; M – Php 360; L – 645
I was expecting for the Crispy Pork Binagoongan to end up in my favorites list (because hey, it’s got pork, bagoong, and it’s fried!) but sadly it turned out to be a disappointment. The secret to a great tasting bingaoongan lies of course in the bagoong yet, this dish didn’t seem to have an x-factor, which is strange given how I enjoyed the bagoong rice.
House Crispy Sisig S – Php 135; M – Php 245; L – 395
The gentlemen getting our orders seemed to be so proud of the House Sisig, that I knew I’d regret it if I don’t have a taste. True enough, Manam’s sisig is two thumbs-up! The finely chopped pork jowls, cheeks, and ears are served with crispy pork chicharon. Just make sure that you gobble ‘em up while still sizzling because it gets chewier as it cools.
Caramelized Patis Wings S – Php 165; M – Php 295; L – 525
The lengthy name and the Instagrammablepresentation was enough to convince me to have this for dessert. This one has mangoes instead of bananas which made the dish not so bad yet not that special either. Just the usual turon with ice cream, if you ask me.
Gata Leche Flan S – Php 95; M – Php 160; L – 235
Now this is a must-try. Don’t be deceived by the seemingly ordinary leche flan look, because this version has a twist to it, which comes in the form of gata (coconut milk). What you have is a leche flan that has a coconut aftertaste and is reminiscent of the well-loved maja blanca.
I now understand why my friend tells me that Manam is a must-try. Several of the dishes are a hit while some of them miss but I guess it all boils to down to personal taste. Overall though, the dishes are decent enough and would be something that I would recommend to friends or visiting relatives.