Tuesday, August 14, 2018

First Bite: JT's Manukan Grille

Bacolod is one of my favorite cities in the Philippines. It is a foodie paradise with its practically overflowing great restaurants offering superb food at pocket friendly prices. However, I couldn't visit this city of smiles as often as I could or would want to given the demand of what we call "reality" and "adulthood". Thankfully, I found a place that would quickly transport me to my happy place without having to board a plane (or roro). 

Hello, JT's Manukan Grille!
I've always loved chicken inasal even before visiting Bacolod. I enjoy its slightly tangy taste enveloped by this smoked flavor from the grill. But trying the ones from Bacolod made me realize that I was actually missing a lot. The ones I've had before couldn't even compare to the ones from Manukan Country or classics like Aida's or Chicken House. 

Though we also have pretty good restaurants in Manila, it frustrates me how we couldn't enjoy the dishes we love from the provinces in town. Or so I thought. 

I've heard of JT's Manukan Grille way back but it never got me interested knowing that it didn't start in Bacolod. Founded by actor Joel Torre and his wife Cristy, they opened JT's Manukan Grille with the famous grilled chicken marinated the Ilonggo way as its star dish. 

I finally gave it a try a few weekends ago and was surprised to see its Libis branch packed with guests!
For this visit, I got to try its Dinuguan (PHP100), Adobong Kangkong (PHP100), Boneless Bangus (PHP150), Chicken Inasal (PHP125, Pecho | PHP115, Paa | PHP85, Pakpak | PHP70, Isol | PHP65, Atay | PHP60, Baticulon | PHP35, Corazon), Porbidang Kangkong (PHP100), Kansi (PHP195), Pork Sisig (PHP190, with egg | PHP180, without egg), Salted Egg Salad (PHP60), Leche Flan (PHP120), and Caramel Tarts (PHP120).
I usually get pecho (chicken breast) whenever I go for chicken inasal as I love white meat. Though considered to be the drier part of the chicken, JT's version was juicy and flavorful all throughout. It had that delightful tangy and salty flavors inasal is known for and you didn't even have to add the soy sauce and vinegar combo to make it great. Its inasal was the closest to the ones I've had in Bacolod, if not the same.
I also had some isol or chicken butt which, as always, was delightful with its soft texture. And for some reason, it reminds me of my favorite karioka, only, this one's savory.  
I was surprised with the generous serving of dinuguan. Taste-wise, it was your straightforward dinuguan with the lovely thick sauce and slight tangy flavor. 

If you prefer greens, Porbidang Kangkong and Adobong Kangkong are the perfect dishes for you. 
I first thought Porbidang Kangkong was laing. But instead of using gabi leaves, this dish, as you can derive from its name, uses kangkong. Also cooked with coconut milk and spices, this dish gives a slight sweet and spicy flavors that would make you hooked and want more. It's best eaten with rice.
Adobong Kangkong on the other hand is its saltier and more garlicky counterpart. 
JT's Manukan Grille also offers boneless bangus topped with garlic bits. It's a perfect alternative for those who want something lighter than indulging in chicken or pork.
And speaking of pork, JT's pork sisig is a great dish to have with a cold bottle of beer. Though it would have been nicer if there's more complexity in terms of texture as it lacked the crunch I love from this sizzling plate, it was spot on in terms of flavor. Just add calamansi if you want it with a burst of citrus flavor!
I have high expectations for kansi given that JT's Manukan Grille positions itself as a restaurant that brings Bacolod favorites. However, it fell short of what I define as good kansi. The broth itself was light and not thick enough to make it a hearty dish. The batwan taste was also weak. I have to give it to JT's though, the meat chunks were unbelievably tender. 
The salted egg salad was pretty straightforward and a nice side dish with inasal. 

To cap our meal, we tried leche flan and caramel tarts. 
I loved both but some of my companions found the leche flan to have a burnt taste. It was perfectly fine for me though as it gave the dish a deeper caramel flavor. Though I wish it was more custard-y as the flan was on the firm side. 
The caramel tarts received more love from my friends compared to the flan. It's actually good too and since it is served in a plastic tub, it's an easy pasalubong! 

Overall, it was a great lunch. Visit JT's Manukan Grille for its inasal. The greens were good too and perfect to have with your grilled chicken. 

JT's Manukan Grille is located at Ground Floor, JW Plaza Building, E. Rodriguez Jr. Avenue, Libis, Quezon City. 

JT's Manukan Grille Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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