3 for '007: pt. 2, manila: people's palace.

people's palace menu

part 2 of my favourites lands us in makati, manila, which is the central business and commercial district for the philippines. i don't know, i feel like i'm going to get a bit of flak for picking this particular thai restaurant as a favourite as makati has many good restaurants, some that probably deserve more attention; also, according to a recent texting conversation i had, people's palace was featured in several society magazines this month to glowing reviews. i know people have strong opinions about this place: it's pricy, it's trendy, the interiors and service staff seem cold, the food's not authentic. i agree that it is expensive, and it's probably trendy, but having spent my formative restaurant patronizing years in los angeles, i don't find the decor nor the staff to be glacial--perhaps a little cool. not a bad thing in my book at all; i prefer discreet service and they seem to know when to ignore me and more importantly when not. the decor may be all clean lines and white walls, but i find the space calming and the shade of white quite warm. i'm not a connoisseur of thai cuisine, so i don't know if it is authentic; it rather reminds me of the gentrified, westernized thai food one finds in the westside of los angeles--certainly pretty and most times well-cooked, but rather muted in flavour. however pretty the food is at people's palace, i feel that while the stronger flavours are muted, the food does not seem to be missing any key tastes. in fact, as some of the dishes lose heat and pungency, they gain subtlety so other ingredients can fully be appreciated. i find that the consistency, freshness and quality of the food and service overcome my desire to seek more "authentic" flavours.

people's palace morning glory drink people's palace lemongrass ginger juice

the menu is one of the smallest i've seen for a thai restaurant, but there is a relatively extensive and interesting drinks list: there are several iced and hot teas and tisanes, herbal and fruit tonics, smoothies, alcoholic cocktails, and some non-alco, non-caffeinated options like the gorgeously bejewelled-toned morning glory flower drink, or the iced lemongrass and ginger drink. 'morning glory' is another name for kang kong, water convulvus or water spinach, but i'm not sure i really know what the flower of one looks like--i certainly don't know how it tastes. however, the morning glory flower drink looks and tastes much like hisbiscus tea, only with a deeper purpley amethyst shade and a milder, less acidic flavour. the lemongrass ginger drink is refreshing on a hot day, more herby than lemony, slightly floral and only tinged with ginger (for a bolder take on this, order it hot--it comes as a concentrated syrup of lemongrass and spicy ginger to stir into a cup of scalding hot water).

people's palace pomelo prawn and coconut salad

the thing i never miss out on on the menu is one of the thai pomelo salads, which are a mix of sweetish pomelo fruit, lots of greeny herbs, peanuts, garlic, and some sort of complementing savoury ingredient. my favourite is the prawn, pomelo, and coconut salad which features barely cooked through prawns (perhaps marinated in lime juice?), freshly shredded buko coconut meat (neither too young nor old), an abundance of pomelo and cilantro. the dressing seems to little more than citrus juice and fermented fish sauce used quite sparingly, so the sweet milkiness of the prawns and coconut strips is still evident amongst the medicinal greens, toasted peanuts, and mild sweet-tartiness of the grapefruit-like pomelo.

people's palace lapu-lapu

fried things are handled well here--everything from the prawn rolls with sweet chili sauce to the rice flour and sesame seed battered bananas are crispy and greaseless. there are also the lightly battered lapu-lapu (snapper) filets which are surprisingly tender and delicate, also lacking any greasiness, and served with basil leaves and a red curry sauce touched with a bit of coconut milk. if i do have a complaint, it's that there isn't any whole fish on the menu, but that would go against the genteel nature of the menu.

people's palace crispy catfish salad people's palace pad thai
crispy catfish salad, pad thai

people's palace red curry people's palace pineapple seafood fried rice
seafood in red curry, pineapple fried rice

a good gauge for me to decide if i like a thai restaurant is how it prepares its pad thai, a stir-fried rice noodle dish. people's palace's version passes the test. i despise the version that is commonplace in many restaurants, which seems to be coated in an oily, sweet chili sauce and colours the noodles a garish orange-red; their version is the kind i prefer, without the unnatural colour, and filled with egg, chicken, and prawns, then topped with a snowy mountain of bean sprout, with crushed peanuts and cilantro on the side. the noodles are stir-fried expertly, as they silky and al dente, and there only remains a trace of oil to keep the individual ingredients separate, and not make the whole thing a mushy, clumpy mess. the curries are good, too, with generous portions of meat and vegetable against a good not-too-soupy ratio of curry and splash of cooling coconut milk. i am a person who usually only orders fried rice if it's pretty much the entree, and not as an accompanying starch; the pineapple seafood fried rice is something you can definitely order without anything else as it is filled with a bounty of squid, prawns, pineapple, peas, onions and tomatoes--just a very nice, natural mix of sweet and sour flavours in a surprisingly light, fluffy rice base, served with fresh lime, and a soy sauce, fish sauce, and hot chili pepper sauce. easily addictive.

people's palace ginger-infused pannacotta

nowhere does people's palace showcase its fusion techniques more than in its desserts; although there are typical fried bananas available (with a coconut milk ice cream) and also a sticky rice dessert, the stars to me are the ones that use eastern ingredients in standard western desserts. the panna cotta with cardamom and apricots infused in a ginger syrup is a greedily gorgeous combo of almost cheese-like richness in the quivering cream with a hint of incense, complemented by the plumped, boldly flavoured fruit; it feels like it was a treasure brought back to the orient from italy in a velvet-lined, jewel-encrusted box.

people's palace coconut and ginger ice cream

for those too full to contemplate the panna cotta, the house-made lemongrass ice cream with coconut biscuits and fresh fruit is a marked contrast to its opulent yet compact sister; there are two generous scoops of a velvety smooth and lightly scented ice cream, with tuile-thin coconut biscuits and a porcupine half ripe manila mango. so much more in quantity, yet somehow a much lighter dessert.

people's palace

i do love the space that people's palace occupies--it's all whites, beiges, and dark woods, with punctuations of orange from the servers' distinctive form-fitting t-shirts (certainly stylish in the space, but i wonder if they get odd looks on the bus), high, high ceilings, and warm accent lighting--if there's a compact fluorescent in the lot, they disguise it well. it's both calm and buzzy, if you can imagine that. it also has a distinct added bonus of having a fantastic outdoor space for dining and lounging in the cool of night, gardenside in its prime greenbelt location. an oasis within an oasis, maybe.

people's palace
gardenside greenbelt 3, ayala center, makati, manila.

part 1 of 3 for '007

part 3 of 3 for '007



Those drinks look delicious:)

I always wonder why pad thai was red in so many restaurants. The first pad thai i ate was not red and the recipe that was in the paper here was also not red, yet so many places I have gone to make it red and I don't like it as much.
Great looking pictures again, makes me hungry;)

preya, they have some interesting non-dairy smoothies, too. one day i'll get to them :)

acornbud, yeah, what is that and why is that? i just figure it's cheap. it tastes cheap. bleah :P

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I might be going to Makati on business (highly unlikely, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed). If I do, I'll be sure to let you know. :)

Mmm, cardamom panacotta. Now that sounds like a fabulous idea. I love cardamom - made a (somewhat under-caramelized!) pear and cardamom tarte tatin on Sunday. Bliss.

I'm going to have to check this out if we make it to the Philippines this summer.

reid, wahoo, could it be? fingers crossed--let me know! i'm trying to get out to honolulu during easter, hopefully you'll be around.

jean, ah, under-caramelized or not, pear and cardamom sounds like a delicious combination. mmmm, bliss is right.

la vie joie, please do! it's expensive by philippine standards, but most of the dishes run about 250-500pesos which is still somewhere in the US$5-$10 range. not horrible.

hi santos,

you're making me hungry and lunch is 1.5 hours away... :)

i'm definitely having thai food for lunch.

shukumei, my lunch hour is NOW, i've just made myself hungry :)

This is one of my favorite restaurants as well! We like to try different things on the menu each time but will never be without the prawn and pomelo salad, catfish salad and son-in-laws eggs. In fact, I would probably be happy with just those dishes! :)

hi christine! those are some of my favourites, too; i would order them all the time, but i try to just order one favourite then get something i haven't eaten before. but yes, give me the pomelo salad and son-in-law eggs, and i'm good :)

In case you are interested in the opposite cost spectrum of People's Palace, along Thai cuisine lines, look for Soms the next time you're in Manila. They now have two branches, both in Makati. Inexpensive, hole in the wall (like a canteen) but good value.

ooh yes i'm all for cheap and tasty. thanks for the tip!