One of the foremost restaurants in the category of “Extra Crispy Fried Chicken” is Bon Chon Chicken, which has been popping up like chicken pox around the country, even in the University Mall. However, one of their rising competitors has also found its way to Taft, and is conveniently located (for its residents) on the second floor of the One Archer’s Place Condominium. Manang’s Chicken is the flavor of today, let’s see if it’s a worthy opponent to overthrow the leader and become the Chicken King of DLSU.
- 2 Piece Fried Chicken Meal – P149
- 4 Piece Chicken Wings Meal – P129
- Garlic Pork Liempo – P109
- Crispy Chicken Sandwich – P49
With a panoramic view of the DLSU side of Taft Ave., Manang’s Chicken has the privilege of being a new establishment in one of the newest condominiums along Taft. As a result, they became one of the first occupants of a great opportunity space, and they didn’t waste the chance.
My only issue with the restaurant was if I would actually be able to find a seat. The medium-sized area held about 15-20 tables and would seat 40-50 students comfortably, and it looked like it had reached its maximum population as we had entered. I also noticed something: most of these restaurants seat around 40-50 at a time. Could this be because they want to accomodate an entire class section exactly? Think about it.
Although Manang’s possessed about the same amount of space as some of the restaurants in my previous reviews, they did a much better job of spacing and maintaining the area. When we had found ourselves a booth, we were not lacking for personal space, and the space between tables was also more than satisfactory. In fact, even the bar stools located in the area provided enough space to nom comfortably.
The atmosphere that Manang’s gave off was a pleasant cross between a coffee shop and a diner. The ambience was similar to one you might find at a Starbuck’s, while the seats and moderate music made the restaurant feel like an 50’s style American eatery. A little ironic, since Manang’s Chicken is a Filipino name, and their recipes are Chinese in nature. Despite all that, though, I loved the experience that I got from the area.
Although the main event of Manang’s is their extra crispy fried chicken, we also decided to experiment with the garlic liempo, one of their popular sides, as well as their crispy chicken sandwich.
The liempo was a slightly less than moderate serving of crispy pork, made more substantial with the addition of a double helping of fried minced garlic. When I tasted the liempo, I was instantly reminded of the kind of grilled pork dishes you would find hanging in the windows of most restaurants in your average Chinatown. It was pleasantly crispy on the outside, with just a little chew to it. The black Chinese vinegar sauce that came with it wasn’t bad either, as it rounded the strong pork flavor of the liempo. What truly made the dish, however, was the fried garlic that came with it. While it’s usually expected of garlic chips, the ones you usually find in your mixed nuts, to be bitter and unappetizing, these golden treasures were just the opposite. They possessed an incredibly mild flavor, and were crispy, but still gave a meaty feel in the mouth. One of my companions even went so far as to suggest that they sell the garlic as a side, delicious as it was.
The crispy chicken sandwich, priced at P49, was anything but crispy, and slightly mispriced. It was a chicken breast sandwich served with a small amount of coleslaw and Manang’s sauce inside. Though I can’t complain about the flavor, in which it certainly was not lacking, I would have liked to raise a complaint regarding the size and slightly false advertising of the food. It was a small burger, as it seemed to be served inside of a pan de sal on steroids, rather than an actual bun. And crispy, it was not, tasting like a tender grilled chicken breast. However, it did manage to salvage itself in flavor. I guess P39 would make me more than happy to take back any negatives I brought up. I’m easily bribed.
Another side to my chicken was Manang’s potato chips, a generous helping of freshly cut potatoes, deep fried and served with salt. The chips were a little unbalanced in terms of seasoning; the first chip I tasted was bland and seems more like kamote. When I got to the very end, though, the chips were too salty to eat alone. However, everything in between was crispy and tender at the same time, and just what you expect in a good chip.
After we had seen the results of the opening bouts, it was time to move on to the main event, the flagship of the Manang’s establishment: the signature soy glazed, double deep fried, sesame seed encrusted, extra crispy, fully flavored chicken. We ordered two types: a two-piece meal that included the drumstick and the thigh, and a four-piece set of wings. Although the two-piece was a sizeable serving for almost anybody, the wings were a bit of a downer. Apparently, in the world of chicken math, when you cut a wing into two parts, it becomes two wings. The four-piece meal was actually two full chicken wings that were cut at one end to separate them into “two wings”, allowing them to claim that they gave you 4 pieces while you cry silently looking at your companion with his larger servings. If you want the chicken, I highly recommend the 2 over the 4. The logic might seem wrong, but so does their chicken math.
The first thing that you notice when you pick up a piece of Manang’s Chicken is how hard it is. With a layer of skin as crispy and firm as theirs, I felt like I could actually use the chicken drumsticks as real drimsticks (ba-dum-tsss). As you bite into it, though, it’s like eating butter. In a good way. The skin breaks away to reveal a soft, meaty inside, with almost as much flavor as the outside. The entire chicken tastes of their signature soy glaze, a dark, teriyaki-like sauce that may taste a bit cloying, but goes down perfectly with a helping of rice. The sesame seeds stick to lips, leaving flavorful saucy morsels to lick away after swallowing. At the end of the last wing, I couldn’t even remember that I had eaten the previous three. One of the crispiest, deepest fried chicken experiences I’ve ever had. Because their fried chicken is not just a meal; its an experience.
To top off my satisfying foodgasm, the meals arrived within a span of 3-5 minutes only, giving me a top option of where to eat when I need a quick fix of double deep-fried goodness.
Manang’s staff was heavily armed when I visited, and rightly so. Each member of their workforce was continually bustling about, making sure that tables were cleaned, orders were taken, customers were served, and nobody complained. They performed very efficiently, without a wasted movement, only stopping occasionally to give me a slightly perturbed look as I took pictures of everything I saw.
My only complaint could be the contrived pleasantries of the staff. When they had given me my order, they accidentally served rice instead of chips. I asked for it to be changed, and it was then that I could see that their manners were quite forced. Though they did manage to put on a happy face in front of the customers, they stumbled a bit when faced with adversity. However, service with a smile, albeit a fake smile, should be good enough for me. I mean, I am complaining over good food, right?
Restaurant: By combining the atmosphere of both a coffee shop and a diner, Manang’s Chicken takes a great location and turns it into a very comfortable dining experience. It is by far the most spacious restaurant I have reviewed as of yet, in terms of both personal space and movement around the area. Although the floor is probably the only part of the establishment that’s a bit messy, that’s only from the multitude of footprints left by the masses who go there to eat. Rating for the restaurant: 9/10.
Food: Although I had mixed results with some of the dishes, which may have affected the overall score more than I would have liked, I never had a problem with a dish overall. Each dish had its small shortcoming, but it didn’t tarnish the experience entirely. I was just a little depressed that I had to have a bad moment with my wings and Manang’s poor chicken logic. Otherwise, their chicken would have been almost godly. Nothing can truly be perfect, but Manang’s Chicken makes a pretty good run. Rating for the food: 8.5/10.
Staff: The staff was a well-oiled machine for such a new establishment, as each memeber knew his or her role, and performed it diligently. I had a few qualms about mixing up my order and getting a bit of sass about their mistake, but aside from that, I have nothing to complain about at all. Rating for the staff: 8/10.
Manang’s Chicken is the kind of restaurant that makes you wish you had a unit in One Archer’s. If I could eat there everyday, I would certainly try. It may not have the best value when compared to nearby restaurants in Castro, but the ambience, speed, and comfort more than make up for it. And remember: double deep fried.