Smacked right at the heart of Emerald Avenue is Banchetto. Banchetto is Italian for “the feast.” And boy, I thought the term was an overstatement until I’ve seen the site myself. It would drive a foodie (like me) into food shopping madness. The stretch of tents along Emerald Avenue would seem endless and every aroma is just as great.
Banchetto is a night food market event held three times a week at three different locations: Emerald Avenue (Ortigas), Libis, and Pioneer. Banchetto only opens every Fridays at Emerald Avenue. Food hopping begins by midnight and lasts until eleven o’clock in the morning (or at least until you had your hearty fill) of the following day. I thought the set up is reminiscent of the Jordan Night Market in Hong Kong, except that this one revolves around food. One side of the Avenue (the Post Office side) is blocked to make way for the stretch of tents offering different delicacies that appeal to every palate.
Initially, I thought the concept was a bit bizarre, to think that it would not be much of a fanfare because of the time but it came as a surprise that at the strike of midnight, people from everywhere—especially from the BPOs surrounding the area flocked and filed themselves into a single lane right at the center of the market. I found myself being squished and directed forward involuntarily (while protecting my Mango Crepe Samurai—which I bought for a measly P45—later for that) by the huge crowd trying to make their way to the different stalls inside Banchetto. It, too, was reminiscent, but of something horrid: like shopping in Divisoria during Christmas season. It was THAT crowded.
Every kind of dish—popular and otherwise—is there. You feed your eyes first because everything I saw, particularly the pastries and the pasta, looked scrumptious. I was surprised to see in one stall a P50-worth of Blueberry Cheesecake bar and a P45-worth of Mango Crepe Samurai. I settled to try out the pastries from two more stalls and shared it with our company. So we ended up trying two cheesecakes, one mango cake square, and the crepe. To me, the taste was not outstanding; pretty much what I would expect for the price. Despite the big serving of the Mango cake, the margarine on the frosting was quite dominant while the crepe, although it tasted good, was tough and hard to chew. My friends and boyfriend did not like it much either and agreed with me. So we weren’t crazy about the desserts there.
But the lasagna we tried was really good. For P80, the hefty serving of lasagna shared to us by our housemate was impeccable and generous. We also got a dory with toasted garlic and oil meal for P90 and it was delicious. My friends gorged on two big chunky skewered Isaw and hotdogs. We also sighted some delectable-looking huge skewered kebabs on the grill which the vendor sells for only P55 per stick. Perhaps, on our next visit, we would focus on the entrées instead. Who knows? Maybe we would even get ourselves our very own stall.
If you plan to visit, observe precaution. The police officer on duty advised us to keep watch over our belongings because of rampant pickpocket incidents in the area. If you have time to spare, it’s more advisable to go there around two in the morning and onwards. By then, the crowd would have thinned and you can enjoy your savory treats with more sanity.