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Little Manila: A Taste of Home in Dubai

I know I have mentioned countless of times already that although I have been calling Dubai my second home for two years now, my heart still definitely belongs to my original home and my love for Filipino food will never be replaced. And that is also the reason why I feel very proud knowing how the number of Pinoy restaurants have grown in the emirate, Little Manila, being one of the many options.

Mark and I were actually invited when Little Manila was launched late last year. I was personally not impressed which brought about my personal choice not to write about it. I was meaning to give the restaurant a second chance, however, I was taken aback by the number of negative reviews which stormed online.

And admittedly, when I got an invite from the brand manager just this July to try out their new and improved offerings, aside from the fact that my schedule won't always permit, I was very much hesitant because of my personal experience.

I checked for reviews online and saw more positive ones, especially from bloggers whom I have personally known, so there, along with my gym buddies, I finally went back to reconsider and give Little Manila a second chance.

Located Deira, which we can literally call "Little Manila" as this is where most Filipinos reside, Little Manila is not an ordinary restaurant. It's more of a mini food court with eight brands under one roof, offering appetizers (Kwekie Bites - street food), breads (Bread Shop - freshly-baked pandesal and ensaymada), mains (Jay-j's - grilled dishes and Binalot - Pinoy faves wrapped in banana leaves), desserts (Mochi Creme - Japanese mochi ice cream), and beverages (Zagu - pearl shakes, Fruitas - fresh fruit shakes, and Fiftea - milk teas), making it a one-stop haven for Filipino favorites.

Kwekie Bites and Zagu Fiftea and Fruitas

Jay-j's Binalot

Bread Shop Mochi Creme

Apart from the diners which are mostly Filipinos, the ambience exudes the Filipino vibe starting off with a jeepney which will welcome you when you enter the restaurant. The walls are embellished with graffiti showcasing Filipino culture and bamboo poles and lamps also adorn the ceilings.

Little Manila Little Manila

Little Manila

Little Manila Little Manila

Just as how the never-say-die spirit is inculcated in every Filipinos, Little Manila took the negative reviews as an inspiration to get back up and bring satisfaction to their diners. They enhanced the recipes, improved their customer service, offered more quality dishes, and introduced boodle fights which are currently their best-sellers!

Being with three men with huge appetites, Ken, the brand manager, challenged us to win a fight like no other, the Kalayaan Boodle Fight from Jay-j's, that is. :p

Little Manila
With my Gym Buddies :D
A feast that is already good for 4-6 persons, it is a complete meal with chicken, beef, seafood, soup, stew, veggies, fruits, rice, and red tea. Michael, the staff who attended to us, prepared the table for our boodle fight by covering the table with cling wrap before laying two banana leaves. We were provided with plastic gloves, but we didn't mind eating with bare hands. :D

The Beef Barbecue, Chicken Barbecue, and Crispy Shrimps are my top picks from the Kalayaan Boodle Fight. The beef belly was so tender we all mistaken it for pork. The Chicken Barbecue was cooked just right and I love the charred flavor of it. The shrimps were so crunchy you can eat everything, yup, even the shell and head. I loved dipping them all in the spiced soy-vinegar. Yum!

Kalayaan Boodle Fight
Kalayaan Boodle Fight - AED 199
There's also Grilled Tilapia and Grilled Squid which are perfect with the Blanched Kangkong and Fried Eggplant, plus some Ensaladang Mangga and Bagoong to complete the authentic Pinoy feast. The eggplant would have been okay, and it's just a personal preference, but I would have loved if it was cut a bit thinner and was fried until crisp. The squid, although cooked just right, was a little bland. I think a little flavor would do the trick. A hefty serving of Fried Chicken was also present, which I kinda thought was off, but I guess Little Manila added it to cater to the little ones.

Bulalo is also included which is a good jump-start for our dinner with its hot savory soup and generous serving of tender beef, bone marrow, and veggies. The Kare-kare seems out of place when you're eating with bare hands but Mark, who's a Kare-kare lover, enjoyed this one, so I guess it's not bad at all.

Kare-kare, Bulalo, and Fruits
Kare-kare, Bulalo, and Melons
We all helped ourselves to a yummy feast, but were still left with a lot more food on the table. Priced at AED 199, the Kalayaan Boodle Fight is a steal!

Zagu Chocolate, Cookies and Cream, and Ube
We also had some pearl shakes from Zagu, and some Macaroons and Ensaymada from Bread Shop. I wasn't able to try the macaroons, but the Ensaymada was a revelation. The soft, fluffy bread was mildly sweet and I love the generous cheese on top of the mildly sweet butter. Now I know what the raves were all about.

Macaroons Ensaymada

This was actually my first cheat meal, after three weeks of strict low-carb-high-protein diet. So was it worth it? A big fat yes! Suffice to say, I must give it up for the whole Little Manila team for doing such a good job. My friends and I may have lost the boodle fight, but Little Manila definitely won our hearts and tummies back. :)

Little Manila

There's no place like home. Glad that we can now enjoy a taste of the Philippines here in Dubai! 

Be sure not to miss their boodle fight offerings. And oh, the Ensaymada from Bread Shop is love!!!  

LITTLE MANILALittle Manila Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
K6 Building, Next To West Zone Supermarket
Al Muraqqabat, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
+971 (0)4 2999315
*Table booking recommended.

We were guests at Little Manila and our meal was complimentary, but as always, this post is sincerely written and all views and opinions are my own.

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