Dubbed as the oldest Chinatown in the world, Binondo has long been one of the favorite districts of urban explorers in the capital city. Its mélange of vibrant colors, aromas, rich culture and history is what draws you in – its bargain shopping and addictive culinary treats, though, is what makes you keep coming back.
Open daily from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.
2F 650 Ongpin St., Binondo, Manila
Located in the heart of Chinatown, Café Mezzanine is part of the humble Gerry Chua’s umbrella of restaurants that also includes Eng Bee Tin, Mr. Ube Rice and Noodle House, Chuan Kee Chinese Fast Food Restaurant, and his latest offering—The Great Buddha Café (more on this later).
Apart from Chua’s obvious passion for food, Café Mezzanine is also founded on paying it forward.
“My dad says one of the most important things is to give back and do good deeds. For him, it was easy to decide on a beneficiary – the volunteer fire brigade. Ever since he was young, my dad has harbored a fascination with fire. He also joined the volunteer fire brigade,” Roche Chua, Gerry’s daughter shared with Expat.
Also known as The Fireman’s Coffee Shop, its cozy ambiance has made it an ideal hangout place, and a perfect spot to absorb the hustle and bustle of Binondo. Among some of its must-trys are the exotic Soup No. 5 (made with bull’s testicles), its Xiao Long Bao, and its Kiampong (salty brown rice), and Gokong (highly recommended for meat lovers).
Aside from other treats like Pork Maki, Asado, Camaron, Kimchi Fried Rice, Grilled, and Honey Garlic Chicken, when you dine at Café Mezzanine, you’re also championing fire safety as all revenue are donated to the Binondo and Paco Fire and Search and Rescue Brigades.
If you still have room in your tummy after indulging in the huge servings of Cafe Mezzanine, your next stop is just one floor below, where the oldest fast food restaurant in Chinatown can be found, along with what is renowned as the best Kiampong, Maki, Gokhong, and Lechon Kawali in Binondo.
The Great Buddha Cafe
opens daily from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.
2F 628 Ongpin St., Binondo, Manila
Opened just this August, The Great Buddha Cafe is located on the second floor of Eng Bee Tin’s flagship store. Aside from having a massive 1.2-ton golden Buddha that symbolizes happiness, plentitude, and contentment– three things that their customers can expect every time they visit The Great Buddha Cafe, the restaurant takes pride on its innovative and unique take on Chinese dishes. According to its General Manager, Roche Chua, their wide array of offerings is a re-imagination of classic dishes, while still maintaining the essence of what has made them so loved.
Meticulously prepared by a seasoned Cantonese chef, the menu is divided into six major sections: Dim sums, Claypot Rice, Roastings, Short Orders, Noodles and Congee, Dessert, and Drinks. The dim sum menu is a mix of classics like Pork and Shrimp Siomai, Xiao Long Bao, Shrimp Hakaw, and Pan-Fried Dumplings, and new concoctions like the Ham Sui Kok (glutinous rice dumpling with a savory, meaty filling).
Other must-trys include the Hainanese Chicken, Soy Chicken, and the HK Style Honey Asado (sweet and savory and its meat roasted to perfection).
The Great Buddha Café is also doing its part to promote Binondo as a tourist destination, with a souvenir shop featuring all sorts of crafts made by local artists related to the Chinese and Filipino cultures, while plans are ongoing for a museum that showcases the history of Eng Bee Tin, and how every hopia is made from start to finish.
“Aside from Eng Bee Tin bestsellers, we want to show the best of the best of our country’s products. As my dad always says, the success that we’ve been blessed with, we should use that to help others. Let’s help bring more attention to the different products of the Philippines,” Chua said.
New Po Heng House
Open daily from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Uy Su Bin Bldg., 531 Quintin Paredes St.
Your Binondo food crawl would not be complete without this Chinese spring roll house in your list of the restaurants to visit. Tucked away in Quintin Paredes Street is the small, family-run eatery offering one of the best Chinese-style fresh lumpia in Binondo.
The filling dish is made with tofu, cabbage, carrots, lettuce, cilantro, ground peanuts, and seaweed rolled together in a thin lumpia wrapper. The experience is completed with a dab of sweet and spicy sauce, a sprinkling of crushed peanuts and sugary power, and served with bihon and seaweed—an experience with every bite!
Hao Kang Hong Kong Dessert
Open daily from 10:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.
Unit A 912-928 Reina Regente St.
And finally, for your sweet fix, head on over to the home of authentic Hong Kong desserts.
Fall in love with your first bite of the Mango Pomelo Sago, as the bestseller refreshes
both your body and palate. Enjoy it with a scoop of ice cream for added indulgence.
Other favorites include the Coconut Water Pudding (made with coco water jello and creamy caramel), the Glutinous Rice Balls (rice flour dough with sweet bean paste/tangerine peel and sesame seeds) Mango Mix Fruit Frost Tower, and Red Bean Frost Tower (perfect for sharing!)
By VIA BAROMA
Photos by MACJANRY IMPERIO