Manila is fast becoming a city of "stars," thanks to entrepreneurs who are shaking the local food scene with the entry of Michelin-starred restaurants.
Celebrated Taiwanese restaurant Din Tai Fung was awarded a star in 2010, and was brought to Manila by The Moment Group in 2015.
Last year, two-Michelin-star chef Akrame Benallal opened a steakhouse/wine bar called Atelier Vivanda at Burgos Circle.
Meanwhile, FooDee Global Concepts, which operates Mesa, Sunnies Cafe and Todd English Food Hall, among other restaurants, has two under its belt-Hong Kong's Tim Ho Wan and FOO'D by Davide Oldani at Shangri-La at The Fort, both boasting a star.
Mark of quality
The Michelin is the most recognised and respected of all restaurant ratings, bestowing as many as three stars to food establishments that have shown commendable excellence in food and service.
It's basically a mark of quality, and while the star is given to restaurants, the credit extends to the chefs, many of whom deem it the highest honour they can receive in their careers.
The recognition might be coupled with prestige and, at times, controversy (both generating good and profitable publicity), but this isn't the main reason why FooDee brings in awarded food brands into the country.
It's more about what it can do to the food industry, says managing director Eric Dee.
"I want to get involved in having the Michelin Guide look at the Philippines as a viable country to have it," he explains.
"Why not? It's all over Asia already. It opened in Singapore two months ago and look what it has done for them. I believe we have the talent and calibre. I want our industry to grow."
By introducing Michelin-starred restaurants into the local scene, Eric hopes that present and future players can learn and, hopefully, be forced to step up their game, not just in the quality of food and service, but also in terms of consistency.
Two new stars
His restaurant group has decided to lure in two more stars this year: Tsuta from Tokyo, the first Michelin-starred ramen shop in the world; and Hawker Chan from Singapore, which offers the world's cheapest Michelin-starred meal.
Both are expected to open this July.
"More than just branding, we make sure that we're up to their level as far executing their menus," says Eric.
"The standards are different. But we also make sure that the food is still affordable and accessible. That's important to us-that it's not a niche market, not something that caters only to one per cent of the city but to majority of the people."
Hawker Chan now has the best cheapest meal in the world-a Cantonese-style soya sauce chicken rice. For an estimated P99 (S$2.80), we can soon enjoy this famous hawker favourite.
As for Tsuta, Eric believes its unique offering will still have many people queuing, even if Manila has already become quite congested with Japanese noodle soup shops.
"Ramen is everywhere, but no one has gotten a Michelin star until Tsuta came into the picture," he says.
"It has a truffle broth. When you walk in, you instantly get a waft of truffle."
Apart from learning from Tsuta Ramen's ways and means, the FooDee group also gets to adopt its technology.
"The store in Japan implemented a new system where you pay for your meal and it will tell you, in colour-coordinated codes, what time you can come back so you don't need to wait and fall in line. That same thing has also been implemented in Singapore, and we are planning to do it, too, in the Philippines."