In July’s edition of Word On The Street we ran a front-page story detailing how Hensonville was quickly emerging as more than just a neighborhood full of nice subdivisions. In retrospect, it doesn’t take long for the typical foodie to notice the growth of the Angeles City restaurant scene because quite frankly it is becoming hard to miss.
Now, you might be asking yourself: wasn’t this place already the gastronomic center of the country? From a domestic perspective the answer is definitely yes. Non-Kapampangans who know nothing about the area in general usually know one of two things: Pampanga is where both the best food and chefs in the country come from, and oh, it also happens to be the place where a volcano erupted 25-years ago.
Pampanga has long been dubbed the “Culinary Capital of the Philippines” despite the fact that foreigners nag incessantly about the lack of quality in the area. It’s not necessarily the quality that is being bashed – it’s the consistency. To this day, good consistency is still difficult to come by and most foreigners feign for such things. (Dear restaurateurs, there’s nothing more frustrating than inconsistency.) You might get a great dish this week and head back for round two a few days later; meanwhile, Chef Boyardee is at the helm and you get served something that doesn’t even come close to what was previously prepared. #Fail.
When it comes to local cuisine those with untrained palates still have a lot to learn. As a foreigner, many Kapampangan dishes are difficult to compare from one to another without a sizeable history of samples to pull from. For example, if you were to ask an expatriate “how does this sisig compare to that other one?” - you’d likely be returned with a blank stare. Perhaps there has been a perception that there is a lack of local dishes to choose from, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Concoctions such as Morcon, Bringhe, and Balo balo have names that aren’t easily remembered but can be found on just about every Kapampangan menu. And as the saying goes, “don’t knock it until you try it.”
If you’re living in the area or just passing through, here’s a quick update on some of the newest spots in town that you might not of gotten a chance to check out yet: The Nepo Quad in downtown Angeles is home to several great restaurants including El Pedro’s Cubano’s, Bifs, and Downtown Café. Just a few blocks away from there you can dine at Café Fleur, which is one of the best restaurants in town, or the Perfect Loaf, which is a Filipino favorite just across the street from the Nepo Mall.
In the Marisol area, two new places have opened up that you’ve likely never heard of – Fushion Sushi by Chef Ronnie, Steak Street, and The Project Grill, all located on Don Pepe Henson Street. These joints must be doing something right because at night there is a line of people hovering around the street out front.
Still off MacArthur Highway, just up the way near the Diamond subdivision along Arayat Street there’s a relatively new Hallal restaurant called Al Quds Lamb Restaurant, as well as a 2nd-floor Japanese restaurant called Wakamatsu Yakiniku across from the Wishing Well. Wakamatsu offers P529 for all you can eat and drink (San Miguel Pilsen) starting at 5:30 PM.
Clark too has its plusses, including Amare by Chris at Royce Hotel & Casino, which has been reviewed as August Restaurant of the Month (turn to page 23 in the August print). The Pavilion, which used to be a sparse strip mall without any action whatsoever, is anchored by one of Trip Advisor’s favorites – Spanglish, as well as newcomers Bretto’s and Charlie’s, both which have quite solid menus to choose from.
If you're tired of eating the same thing over and over, give one of these places a try. Let us know how it goes.