This is Part 2 of my recap of the sights, scenes (and flavors) of Davao from my stay during the 2011 Christmas holidays.
I have written about Abreeza and the current “mall building spree” in Davao City after my last visit in August, but this December was the first time I really got to around the city’s newest and fanciest so far. We only stayed for a couple of days back in August 2011, and only spent time there for coffee and dinner. This time around I was able to roam around inside and get more snapshots of the interior.
Typical of Ayala Malls, the Abreeza has a concept inspired by lush greenery – a bamboo forest in this case, to be exact. The exterior is nicely landscaped, using lots of bamboo, and the mall also features an open air deck on a portion of its 3rd level – the first and only in the city, until the Gaisano Mall opened the much larger “The Peak”.
Another remarkable thing about the mall is the new business it’s bringing – I would say more than half of the shops in the mall are “new comers” into the city. Indeed, some locals find the mall intimidating, while to some it is “the place to be”. Regardless of how you look at it though, the mall is shaking the market in no small way. It’s brought more than just a dearth of additional retail space – it’s redefining what the locals think about “shopping”.
Davao City itself is undergoing quite a change in the commercial scene. Once the new SM Mall at the Lanang district opens in a few months, with it’s adjoining SMX convention center (It will be the city’s second SM Mall, and the first SMX outside Manila), the city will probably have more malls than most of the individual cities comprising Metropolitan Manila (though the story would, of course, be different if you pool the entire Metro Manila together). This, coupled with the expansion of other malls (even the first SM City Davao at the Matina district is adding an annex), leaves the “Dabawenyo” with plenty to look forward to.
Ranchero – they’re one of those local restaurants that have already made a name for themselves in Davao, and they recently opened a store at the open air garden deck of Abreeza. Their menu is a blend of familiar Filipino and Western (American) dishes, and they are known for their baby back ribs, which truly deserves its good reputation. We also tried their “native” chicken tinola, which was probably the best tinola I’ve had anywhere. My favorite though was their own version of kinilaw (“kilawin” in tagalog). Their version has the raw fish blended with vinegar, coconut milk and ripe mangoes, which added interesting sweetness not usually associated with the dish. I never imagined mango and raw fish would go together, but hey, it worked!
If there’s one that we could call a “box-office-hit” in Abreeza though, it would have to be “Hukad”, an offshoot of Cebu‘s famous Golden Cowrie. It seems their wait list never goes blank, and there’s never enough tables. Everytime I passed by the place, there were always people outside waiting patiently (and eagerly) to be seated. Like Golden Cowrie, they serve a wide variety of Filipino cuisine, topped by the magic word – “unlimited rice”. Their food is real good (everything we ordered was good), with prices that would be “insanely low” by Manila standards – a perfect formula to get people flocking to their doorstep.
For those who are curious, “hukad” is a Visayan word which means “to serve food”.
One surprise we recently found was a hole-in-the-wall place called Gervacio’s bakery in Damosa, a once sleepy intersection in the northern suburbs that now bristles with activity round the clock. They call themselves a bakery, and their store is so unassuming that’s it’s very easy to miss, but wait until you see their pasta menu. They have the same variety as what you would find in upscale restaurants, with quality, quantity and prices that would shock you – in a good way. Imagine pasta that comes close to Italianni’s, at a price somewhere close to a Jolly Spaghetti – and you get it in one heaping mound on a big plate. Heavenly.
They also serve pizza, though I haven’t been able to try any yet.
This simple restaurant in the middle of downtown Davao has become such an institution that I wouldn’t mind if they build their own monument somewhere in the city. They started out as a small Chinese-Filipino restaurant at the corner of Legazpi and Duterte streets, near the upper end of downtown Davao, more than two decades ago. They grew bigger and bigger until they were eventually able to put up their own building at Gen. Luna street, not far from their original location.
Our family has been fans – no, addicts – of their “Pancit Canton”, “Torta de Congrejo”, “Lugaw Goto” and “Tokwa’t Baboy” since time immemorial, and up to now, I haven’t found a place, anywhere, that can do them better.
* All photos taken last December 2011 and January 2012, with a Panasonic Lumix LX-5 (photos from Dencias taken with Olympus E-420).