In an online event on Thursday, March 25, Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list was just revealed and only one restaurant from the Philippines landed on the prestigious list — Toyo Eatery.
The Makati- based restaurant earned the 49th spot on the 50 best restaurants list for the region.
The spirit of collaboration and that feeling of deep respect for the roots of Filipino cooking couldn’t be better encapsulated than at Toyo Eatery, a contemporary restaurant helmed by Chef Jordy Navarra. Opened in 2016, Toyo Eatery is founded on the philosophy of rediscovering national identity through the Philippines’ products, cuisine and culture.
Often using traditional cooking methods, Chef Jordy Navarra has created tasting menus ranging from three to 11 dishes, and the restaurant also offers à la carte options. Taking inspiration from various facets of Philippine culture, the Bahay Kubo is a play on a local kid’s song that enumerates 18 different vegetables — all of which are prepared and cooked in various ways, then assembled into one dish. Toyo also created a dish called Banana Catsup, named after this surprisingly popular local condiment. Made from fermented bananas and banana vinegar, the catsup is served alongside an eggplant omelette with alternating layers of shrimp and crab meat.
Toyo is the Filipino word for soy sauce, a simple condiment created through a complex production system. The name also references a saying in the Philippines, “May toyo sa ulo”, which translates as “Soy sauce in the brain”, an idiom use to call out crazy people. The restaurant plays with elements of Philippine language and heritage, resulting in dishes that are steeped in the country’s identity, marrying familiar local flavours with modern presentations.
You can enjoy their dishes in a dining room that features a large open kitchen and wooden tables, some of which are communal. The furnishings are set on a polished grey background, with subtle elements of old Manila seen through details like woven basket lampshades and a large wooden fork and spoon on the wall. Creations made by local artists are present in the dinnerware, the paintings and the photographs on the restaurant’s walls.
Before the restaurant was conceptualized, Navarra first dabbled in sports, business and music, before finally landing on food as a profession. He worked in kitchens in London and Hong Kong, then set his sights on going back to the Philippines to create food that resonated with the flavours he grew up with. This resulted in opening Toyo Eatery with his wife, May.
In the last 3 years, Toyo Eatery has been a consistent part of the list. It debuted in Asia’s 50 Best Restaurant list in 2019 at No. 43. It was ranked at No. 44 in 2020.
Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants has also revealed the restaurants that ranked from 51st to 100th last Tuesday, March 23. Two Filipino restaurants made it to the list: Antonio’s (No. 84) Gallery by Chele (No. 90).