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June 2004 Manila Cafe

There are hints of the Caribbean and Southeast Asia in this appealing cuisine, but the cooking of the Philippines is distinctive.

There are hints of the Caribbean and Southeast Asia in this appealing cuisine, but the cooking of the Philippines is distinctive. Manila Cafe is a good place to sample it. The decor is simple and the prices reasonable—main courses range from $7.25 to $12.50 for a shrimp stew with mixed vegetables in a tamarind broth.

A good introduction is the restaurant's weekend buffet, which for $12.50 offers a wide range of dishes, including whole suckling pig with crisp skin protecting tender pork; adobo, pieces of chicken and pork braised in vinegar and soy sauce; menudo, stewed pork with potatoes and bell peppers in a tomato sauce; ampalaya con carne, bitter melon sautéed with beef and black-bean sauce; afritada, chicken with potato and bell pepper in a tomato sauce; sautéed noodles; and fried and steamed rice.

These dishes and more are available on the regular menu, too. Good appetizers are the crisp rolls of ground pork and onions and steamed buns stuffed with pork or chicken filling. A refreshing dessert is the halo-halo, sweet Philippine fruits topped with crushed ice and milk.

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