Sunday, July 10, 2016

Pinoy Food Favorites at Little Manila

When news came out that Al Ahli Group had opened a restaurant called Little Manila last year, I was excited to try it out. After all, it was the first time favourite dishes and popular food and beverage outlets from the Philippines would all be available under one roof, so you can understand why the Filipino community was buzzing with excitement. However, as days and weeks passed, we discovered through our friends that the quality of food and service were somewhat disappointing. This negative feedback didn’t bother us, though. We still wanted to try it, but I admit the enthusiasm wasn’t as great to convince us to find time in our schedules and go all the way to Al Muraqqabat in Deira.

Fortunately the month of Ramadan happened recently, giving us more free time, and with it came an invitation for me and my family to visit Little Manila for dinner.
Little Manila has a food court concept, which is a first of its kind Filipino restaurant in Dubai. It offers a wide array of food choices from Zagu, Fiftea, Mochi Crème, Binalot, Jay-J’s, Fruitas, Kwekie Bites, and Bread Shop…all of which are brands that Pinoys miss from home.

On the day of our visit (a Sunday), we arrived just a few minutes after 7pm and were welcomed by Ken Peralta, the Brand Manager. He walked us through the restaurant and its different outlets, explaining a bit of history about each, before leaving us to order what we wanted and simply take in the experience.

As we looked around, it was hard not to notice the vibrant and colorful atmosphere. Everywhere you looked, you could see national symbols of the Philippines, scenes that either make Pinoys miss their country even more or make them feel like they were back home.
Actually, a jeepney fender is the first thing you'll see upon entering the restaurant's doors.
Since Little Manila has practically everything for a full course meal, that’s exactly what we had.

For appetizers, we enjoyed the Mixed Street Food from Kwekie Bites that tasted pretty much like the ones we would buy from Manong selling them at the kanto (without the pollution, of course ☺).  Whatever your taste, there was a dip for you.  And each (whether alone or mixed) complemented the street food items perfectly.
For our mains, we had Pancit Canton (didn't get to take a picture of that because Caila and Sophie were getting hungry) and Boneless Daing na Bangus from Binalot, and Half Chicken Inasal, Pusit Sisig and two extra Sisig Rice from Jay-J’s.  I have to say that although the food was tasty, the bangus and chicken still lacked something to complete the Pinoy taste: atchara, which is a pickle condiment made from grated unripe papaya.
Our girls like mangoes, so they shared a cup of Mango Shake from Fruitas.  Since I love and miss Zagu, I just had to see if it tasted the same as I remembered. Fortunately, it didn’t disappoint. You can bet I relished every sip, gulp and pearl of the thick, creamy Black Forest I had while Jovy savoured her Buko Pandan.  Each meal was served with special red iced tea that tasted just like the ones from a popular Japanese fast food resto in the Philippines I frequently ate at. And surprise, surprise! It is the same recipe as the ones from Tokyo Tokyo. Hurray!
Dessert for me and my girls was from Mochi Crème. It was our first time to try the ice cream balls covered in sticky Japanese rice cake confection, and we had a fun time biting into them and tasting the three different flavours we asked for.
Strawberry, Green Tea and Blue Vanilla Mochi
And to top off our visit, we were given a pack of Cheesy Ensaymada from Bread Shop to take home.  Again, I forgot to take a picture of this. Kahit nakakahiya, I eagerly accepted it because I looove ensaymada.  You won't regret biting into this yummy bread because it's soooo delicious! Generous toppings of sugar, butter icing, and grated cheese make this one of their bestsellers.

It's a good thing we didn't listen to the negative feedback by our friends about Little Manila and opted to judge it ourselves, otherwise we would have missed out on sinking our teeth in delicious food from our favourite outlets.
Actually, Ken explained to us that yes, the restaurant did fail a bit in the quality and service department in the beginning, but fortunately, they have improved and the number of diners have greatly increased.  Business must be very good because Al Ahli Group is planning to open a couple more outlets in Satwa and Abu Dhabi. As a matter of fact, as we were leaving, we were surprised that despite it being the first day of the work week, all the tables were occupied, with some diners even waiting and standing for the next table to be available.

So would I recommend it? Definitely!  Hubby and I are actually planning when to visit again. But this time, we'll be going with our friends so that we can try the Boodle Fight from Jay-J's ☺
"Kalayaan" Boodle Fight
Disclaimer: We were invited to dine at Little Manila as guests. However, all views and opinions are my own.

Little Manila Restaurant
K6 Building, Al Muraqqabat Street
Deira, Dubai
Phone: 04-2999315

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