Balai Isabel

Great Israeli food at a new restaurant in Manila


Christine Cunanan Publisher Travelife Magazine

Today I had lunch at a small but well-designed new Israeli restaurant called Noor in BGC. I was happy to find this place that serves authentic Israeli food at reasonable prices.

Great Israeli food at a new Israeli restaurant called Noor in BGC in Manila

Noor is run by a young Israeli chef who once worked in top restaurants in Tel Aviv. He came over to say hello so I learned his story, of how he found himself in Manila. One of his friends approached him about “running a hummus place in Manila.” At that time, he did not know anything about the Philippines.

However one thing led to another, and he found himself opening Noor in BGC.

POPULAR ISRAELI DISHES

Great Israeli food at a new Israeli restaurant called Noor in BGC in Manila

A quick glance at the menu revealed many favourite dishes I’d eaten and loved during my many visits to Israel. Israelis are big on salads and vegetables so there are a lot of salads and dishes with vegetables on the menu.

THE SALADS AT NOOR IN BGC

We ordered hummus and a fresh salad of tomatoes, onions and cucumbers to start. It’s hard to get a really fresh salad in Manila, but this salad hit all the right notes. The tomatoes were tasty compared to the rather bland Philippine variety, and the cucumbers were actually crunchy. The salad in particular reminded me of the buffet spreads at luxury hotels in Israel. They have a wide variety of salads for every meal, including breakfast.


“It’s difficult to source really good vegetables in Manila,” the chef of Noor said. “But it’s not impossible. I’ve found some reliable suppliers and I pay up for quality. I use the Japanese variety. They’re more expensive but they’re worth it.”


WHERE TO GET GOOD VEGETABLES IN MANILA

“Where do you get your vegetables?” I asked the chef. “I certainly don’t get vegetables like this at the supermarket.”

The chef scratched his head. “It’s difficult to source really good vegetables in Manila,” he replied. “But it’s not impossible. I’ve found some reliable suppliers and I pay up for quality. For example, Philippine cucumbers are quite soft. So instead I use the Japanese variety. They’re more expensive but they’re worth it.”

MEMORIES OF FRIED CAULIFLOWER

Great Israeli food at a new Israeli restaurant called Noor in BGC in Manila

He also made us try his version of fried cauliflower. This was so tasty that I think I beat my companion to the punch and ate most of it. The chef seasoned these perfectly and then deep-fried these without keeping the oil on the vegetable.

Eating this dish today transported me back to a Syrian restaurant in Jerusalem that also serves deep-fried cauliflower. I liked this dish so much that I ate in this restaurant twice on one trip. So I have such good memories of fried cauliflower because of this.

THE BEST SHAWARMA IN MANILA

Great Israeli food at a new Israeli restaurant called Noor in BGC in Manila

For the main course, we both had the shawarma with rice. Again, I love shawarma when it is done properly without cutting corners on the quality of meat. I also prefer my shawarma with rice rather than in a pita bread. So this combination was perfect. The meat was seasoned well and the chef included a few fresh crunchy vegetables along with it. He also served this with two kinds of sauces.

The gentleman who kindly invited me to lunch was such good company so my attention was completely divided between the wonderful food and the excellent company. But thinking about this shawarma right now actually makes my heart skip a beat.

WHERE TO EAT KUNEFE IN MANILA

Great Israeli food at a new Israeli restaurant called Noor in BGC in Manila

After quite a big meal, we were planning to simply have tea. However, the chef offered us a dessert called kunefe and this is a dessert I can never resist. In fact, it’s my favorite dessert in this world. I usually go to great lengths to find it.

Until I ate the kunefe at Noor, my go-to place was the Saray Muhabellicsi in Istanbul which also serves a perfect kunefe with crunchy pastry, lots of chopped pistachios and a dollop of cream. Sometimes I drop by Istanbul on my way home from Europe just to go into the city and stay overnight and eat this.

The kunefe at Noor is slightly different but equally delicious. The pastry is crunchy but there’s less sugar than the traditional versions, so you can eat it with less guilt. The chef serves this with a yoghurt ice cream that seems to be low on fat.


Until I ate the kunefe at Noor, my go-to place was the Saray Muhabellicsi in Istanbul which also serves a perfect kunefe with crunchy pastry, lots of chopped pistachios and a dollop of cream. Sometimes I drop by Istanbul on my way home from Europe just to go into the city and stay overnight and eat this.


Interestingly, the base of the kunefe at Noor is colored rose petal pink. This which makes for a beautiful picture. In fact, it’s almost to pretty to eat.

“I use rose water,” the chef said, which sounded very innovative to me

I so enjoyed this lunch for many reasons. And how nice to know that we now have a proper Israeli restaurant in Manila. The Israeli food at Noor is so authentic. In fact, that my companion, who knows his Israeli food, said: “I feel like I’m at a restaurant in Tel Aviv.”


My companion, who knows his Israeli food, said: “I feel like I’m at a restaurant in Tel Aviv.”


I went one step further. The whole atmosphere felt like a lunch in Neve Tsedek to me. Neve Tsedek is one of the stylish neighbourhoods in central Tel Aviv, full of indie fashion boutiques and great cafes.

Read more about the best restaurants in Manila in Travelife Magazine.


COLUMNS

GLOBETROTTERS