Happy New Year, from Anglaagan! May we enjoy more food and more travels this year, and in the years to come 🙂
This is my first post for the year, and for this, I’m going close to home.
By and large, the Davaoeno palette is still rather…traditional. If you chose to eat out, chances are you would be on one of the many restaurants serving Filipino or Chinese food, or on one of the “barbekyuhans” (quaint restaurants serving mainly grilled chicken, meat and sea food), that have proliferated at a surprising rate recently. Not that there’s anything wrong with it, the best of the local Filipino and Chinese restaurants can match anything on any part of the country, but it does mean there’s a limited range of choices for those with adventurous appetites.
Probably due to the fact that intra-city travel is still relatively quick, by big city standards, dining out for no occasion has not become a habit among locals (some even go home for lunch!). Lunches and dinners out are reserved for events such as birthdays, or when entertaining visitors from far away. Due to this, probably, the culinary “adventurousness” of their peers in Manila or maybe even Cebu, is not yet prevalent among Davao folk. Exotic restaurants that serve Japanese, Thai, Vietnamese, Italian, French and other foreign cuisine are present, but serve only a niche market.
That does not mean though that you can’t find good international cuisine if you go looking for it. There are a few places where you can get very good teppanyaki, or fresh Vietnamese spring rolls, or perfect thin crust pizzas baked the traditional way – on a wood fired oven, and not overloaded with toppings ala-Pizza Hut. And the good thing about these few exotic restos is that they charge probably half of what their food would have cost had it been plated and served in Manila…a definite treat for us prodigal sons who are used to seeing and avoiding Greenbelt-5-high prices.
One of these few “trend-setting” ones is a newly opened place called Alor’s, which sits right in the middle of the city’s “food street”, Torres St. The name may sound like one of the many eateries in city, but don’t be fooled. It’s far from your regular run-off-the-mill food outlet. The restaurant has an inviting facade, though the signage is a bit discreet, so you might find yourself going past it, inadvertently, while driving (yes, I did). Inside, the place is bright, clean, spacious and a touch minimalist (which I like).
Their menu has just enough variety to make going through each item interesting, but not overly long to make going through it arduous and confusing. You get around 3 to 5 dishes for each type (chicken, pork, beef, seafood, etc.), plus an ample selection of appetizers and desserts. Just enough to make you go ini-mini-miny-moe while choosing, but not give you a headache trying to remember what was the first dish you had in mind 5 minutes ago.
We were started with the complimentary pika-pika cum “amuse-bouche” of toasted bread with a tasty cheese pimiento spread. The spread was so good that one of our group had to ask the waiter if they have it for sale. Well…they don’t.
Next came the hors d’oeuvre, Garlic Parmesan Scallops and the Golden Rolls – pork and vegetables wrapped in bacon, sort of “embotido” style.
Scallops is still such an exotic fare here, that for most of our group, it was the first introduction. The scallops were baked perfectly, with garlic, cheese and a generous amount of herbed butter.
The golden rolls was no slouch either, the group couldn’t have enough of the slices.
Next came the entree. We had the Pork Chop Steak, Braised Beef, Garlic Herb Fish Steak (which came with pasta), and my personal favorite, the Forty-Clove Chicken.
Pork chop may sound like the usual slab of pork grilled over charcoal or over a pan, but theirs is not your everyday slice of meat. The meat was infused with the delicious taste of herbs, and cooked just well enough to not be bloody, yet not dry. It was one dish that tasted better than it looked (and it didn’t look bad either).
The braised beef, served with rice, was another good number. The savory beef was cooked to a delightful tenderness. We also enjoyed the fish, and the pasta that came with it. In all the dishes we had that day, I really liked how the taste of herbs managed to enhance the flavor, in subtle way, yet not get overpowering.
My favorite though was the forty clove chicken. It was the last dish that came out of the kitchen, and we were forewarned that cooking it takes a bit more time than rest. The wait though, in this case, was well worth it. The chicken was cooked how I like my chicken to be…not bloody on the parts where meat meets bone, and the herbs left a delightful taste on the nicely browned surfaces.
We finished the meal with dessert, and we had the cheesecake sampler, a trio of cheesecakes with different toppings. The cheesecakes were as good as any we’ve had, but I was disappointed that they had no coffee to go with it that time (coffee was in the menu, but not available that day). It was a let down for me who likes coffee on a full stomach. With the meal that we had though, it was easy to forgive and let go.
Locals and visitors alike deserve a visit to this place, and once you’ve made the first, I doubt it will be your last.
* all photos taken with Olympus E-420 and Zuiko 14-54mm F2.8-3.5. This lunch was made January, 2011