While sending me off as a college freshman in 2010, my older cousins promised: “You are going to love Malate. There’s a bustling nightlife scene there and you are going to love the energy.”
My cousins were what we call “cuspers”, those who find themselves between Gen X and the earliest set of Millennials who came of age in the late 90’s to early 2000’s. Like me, they went off to college in Manila some ten, eleven years before I did, and swore that Malate was the place to be. I was a probinsyana back then, enthralled with the tales of Manila and all the exciting sights and sounds the city had to offer a small-town girl such as myself.
Boy, had I never been so disappointed in my entire life. As soon as I stepped foot on the gritty streets of old Manila, it was clear that Manila and its center of activity, Malate, was long past its heyday. What used to be a dazzling bohemian quarter bursting with music and culture had turned into a frenzied red light district, with chaos and crime weaved into everyday life. It was a massive culture shock.
That was seven years ago. Within that timeframe, I’ve traded my precarious life in Manila for the quieter suburbs of Quezon City, and later, the cosmopolitan enclaves of Makati. Our generation never gave much thought about Manila, with its reputation as a haven of culture long sitting in the rubble. Much can change in a decade, however, and there’s been a recent revival in the area, breathing new life into an old district. One of these particular gems is The Minokaua.
The Minokaua has taken up residence in the former location of bar@1951 along Adriatico, serving up some amazing comfort food while staging talented local acts. Named after the creature in Philippine folklore, The Minokaua is meant to be a hub for the artsy types to gather.
It’s a gastrobar, a music venue, an art gallery, and a co-working space in one — Minokaua has two stories, the first floor being a dining area-slash-co-working space, while the second floor is where guests can watch the gigs live, with another upper loft meant for VIP reservations.
The place is decked out with framed photographs from talented local photographers, with the whole space designed to look like an apartment with its modern accents.
Billy Villareal and Chef Mike Tayag are at the helm of The Minokaua, with Billy in charge of design and marketing, while Chef Mike created Minokaua’s menu, an eclectic mix of Spanish-Southeast Asian comfort dishes, all mouthwatering dishes that offer bang for your buck. And speaking of dishes, here are the ones we tried:
Laksa style mussels
The Minokaua dishes in general give generous servings, and the laksa style mussels are no exception. What was particularly enjoyable about this dish was that the mussels were large in size and juicy, while the laksa curry was well-seasoned, with just a slight hint of spice.
Sisig Minokaua rice
I absolutely loved the Sisig Minokaua Rice, which is said to serve 4-5 people. I’m usually wary of supersize portions as from experience, quality tends to be sacrificed for quantity. But, wow — this dish totally exceeded my expectations. Served paella-style, the rice was hearty and flavorful enough to complement the Kapampangan sisig on top, which was the true star. A perfect combination of sour, spicy and savory, fresh pork bits were cooked just right with a nice crunch on top. Come for the music, but stay for the sisig.
Salted egg bone-in fried chicken with potato wedges
Fad foods can be risky to do in a restaurant, but the Minokaua’s take on the salted egg craze is actually pretty impressive that it can stand on its own long after we’ve gotten over salted egg. Covered in salted egg coating, what I liked about it was that it wasn’t too rich or cloying after a few bites. Even so, there’s sauerkraut on the side to provide a hint of contrast in taste. Plus, the wedges were cooked to a perfect crisp.
Salsa Longganisa rice
“Not Really Salad” dish — wilted Taiwan pechay and garlic, grilled tomato, fried egg
Grilled ensaymada ice cream melt
Millennials, if you’ve never given Malate a second thought before, we guarantee you will now — and The Minokaua is set to become your newest favorite hangout.
Photos by Glenn Imperial
1951 Adriatico St, Malate, Manila, Metro Manila
Monday – Saturday, 6PM-3AM