Tuesday, September 8, 2015

A Foodie’s Guide to the Best Music Venues in Metro Manila (A Series)

When I was in my 20s, I’d go to every Cynthia Alexander and Session Road gig I could find, in the constant company of my BFFs Badette, Doyts, Leda, Io and Cristie. We were then publishing a multicultural lifestyle magazine called Tribu. It was a time of intellectual and spiritual awakening for me. I loved being in the company of artists and thinkers. We would spend hours chatting at Inca, attend events at Big Sky Mind, street party on Nakpil or just hang out at Penguin Café in Malate. Those were the days.

I used to dress this way and teach mask-making in EarthLite at the former COD Building in Cubao
These days, I still go out to listen to bands, mostly with Judd, who is a big music lover. We have superb local musicians so the music is mostly good, but glutton that I am, I am often there for the food. Here’s my review of different music venues where the food is as good as the music.

Historia Bar & Restaurant
5 Sgt. Esguerra Ave, Diliman, Quezon City
(632) 376-6520

Before we discovered this place, we would drive all the way to Makati to listen to bands. Sometime in July, a friend’s despedida was held here and one of Judd’s favorite bands, MusiClimax, was onstage.

Side A
I decided to hold Judd’s birthday salubong here in August because Side A (minus Joey G. and Joey B.) was scheduled to play. We reserved the air-conditioned function room, which can accommodate up to 100 people. The bigger area where the stage is has no air-conditioning although it is well-ventilated. When the band started playing at 10 p.m., we opened the sliding door that linked the two sections and we were able to enjoy the music while staying cool.

While arranging for the salubong, I discovered that the person in charge of the kitchen was my friend Jaemark’s dad who used to own Joseph and Jaemark’s. Jae suggested which items to order. They were all seriously good but the one standout was the binusog na pechay, which is local bokchoy stuffed with ground pork and smoked fish. The coconut-based sauce was genius. This is one of the things I dream about while fully awake.

Nuvo Restaurant and Bar
Greenbelt 2, Greenbelt Drive, Makati City
Phone (632) 757-3699

Nuvo is our default choice when we want to listen to a band. The band plays at the open area from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. after which they move to the main dining hall for their last set. One of our favorite  bands these days is Crib.

The very talented musicians behind Crib Band

Peppered Chicken
The atmosphere is relaxed and the food is always good. The meatballs spaghetti is one of the best, according to meatballs addict Judd, while I always order the peppered chicken.

Meatballs Spaghetti

It’s always fun when someone orders the linguini dans la meule because Anthony Btesh, the chef, finishes the cooking tableside by flaming a half-wheel of cheese. When the cheese melts, he puts in the pasta. It leaves the room perfumed with truffle oil.

And because every meal should end on a sweet note, you must order their frozen brazo de Mercedes, which has a chewy, nutty dulce de leche bottom crust that I can't resist. 

Salon De Ning Lounge Bar
Ground Floor Manila Peninsula
Ayala Avenue, Makati City
Phone (632) 887-2888
7:00 pm - 2:00 am (Tuesday to Saturday)

I always give myself an outfit check before I decide to go to Salon de Ning. I don’t want to look shabby amid its well-polished Art Deco objects d’art.

The bar is impeccably furnished in sophisticated 1930s Shanghai style, with four semi-private sitting room alcoves. In terms of interiors, this venue is a cut above the rest.

Their bands are also consistently good. At one time, we dropped by with Binky after a cheese event and were surprised to see Juan Miguel Salvador performing! We didn’t know he was still active in the scene. He played all our New Wave favorites and we were simply ecstatic. His band is called The Authority.

I can't say much about the food because all I've tried is the cold cuts platter (which, to my bewilderment, was served with croissants). I usually either dine at the Manila Pen lobby (for the smoked salmon with capers and bagel) or order something from the lobby to be served at the bar. Or munch on the wasabi potato chips and mixed nuts, which are served with my drink. 

110 Jupiter Street
Bel-air, Makati City

I didn’t know why we went to Strumm’s that night in May while Badette was in town and how we ended up watching Route 70 and The Authority. The stars must simply have aligned to take us to the music of our generation, albeit the ‘70s sound is a little early for me and Eyron.

I’m afraid I can’t write much about the food here because Badette and I came from dinner with my family. But if you’re an ‘80s baby like me, come on a Thursday and you’ll have a night to remember.

Sage Tapas Bar
Ground Floor Shangri-La Makati
Ayala Ave. cor. Makati Ave, Makati City
5 p.m. to 2 a.m. (Sunday to Thursday)
5 p.m. to 3 a.m. (Friday and Saturday)

The entrance from the lobby of Shangri-La Hotel Makati

The bar

Two words: Cubano sandwich. It was sweet, smoky, and cheesy, with the proper ratio of filling and bread. So good. So were the chicken lollipops.

Like Salon de Ning, they have a fantastic band lineup for those who are looking to unwind after work, even on a weekday. The bands are always obliging to guests. The best table is at a corner near the stage where you can sit comfortably in club chairs with a full view of the band.

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