I went to Davao for work and admittedly, I used my free time for “me-time” so I can discover places and food finds. Because my stay was short, I had to create my itinerary that would allow me quick trips within the city for a chance to sample Davao’s growing foodscape. This should include my regular dawn visit to the Bangkerohan (wet market) for my tsokolate eh, my supply of pure tablea and my made-to-order peanut butter.
My first chance was to eat lunch at Café Leticia, serving Ilongo cusine. I went for kadios which is like sinigang with its sour-based soup of pig’s hocks and unripe langka (jackfruit). What I would have loved to try is the version with batuan seeds as the souring agent and not sampaloc (tamarind) which they used. So I wasn’t over-the-moon. However, what made the visit worthwhile is the Durian Pie.
I don’t like durian. There is nothing subtle about this fruit. The smell can knock you out. But ordered I did. When it was served and as it landed in my mouth, I gagged and my brain was screaming, “ oh my God, why am I even trying this ?!?!
When the panic abated, I worked my way with the thin crust and a little durian filling. It grows on you! Durian custard filling, I figured. And with every bite, the flavor somehow began to mellow. Then my mind had a change of opinion and I was telling myself, “in fairness ha—masarap!”
After work, my second stop was in the evening and I decided I ought to treat myself to wine and some fine food. I went to Claudes (Le Café de Ville), whose owners are husband and wife, Chef Claude and Tess Le Neindre. The down side to being alone is you can’t order as much as you want. I settled for appetizers: liver pate and baked mushroom-stuffed imbao clams (they look like big halaan (manila clams). The pate was served with what I’m guessing is onion marmalade, which is a wonderful combination! Imagine the crunch of the crusty roll, the richness of the pate and the cool sweetness of the onions in one epic bite.
Tess is such a gracious host to all that entered her cozy restaurant. It’s as if she had invited the diners to an intimate dinner in her home. With a full belly, I had to skip the main course (but vowed to come back) and finished my evening with mango cheesecake. It was delicious and had a luxurious mouth feel yet not overpowering with sweetness nor cloyingly rich. The mango sauce was not typically yellow but rosy and pretty.
I hear Claude’s is transferring to a bigger place in August, along the same road which is Rizal Street. That’s good news for a growing foodie crowd in search of fine dining. I’m sure to go back for my much desired main course.
Before flying home on Day 2, I decided to take my lunch in this place called Tiny Kitchen at Mabini St cor F.Torres. They weren’t kidding, as the place itself was indeed small. By my estimate they can only fit 10 people, up to 15 if you force it. And because I was stubborn and wanted to eat there, I asked to be seated outside the shop. You can imagine their shock at my request.
Tiny Kitchen seems to be known for their focaccia, ciabatta and desserts. As I watched the lunch “crowd”, I saw that they were a favorite of young, chi-chi type college kids, businessmen and people of leisure. The paella on their table looked interesting…same with the balbacoa de pierna… and caldereta espanol…(Lugi ang solo eater and I’m making a mental note to eat here with my family).
As I waited for my order, the Maya-maya Basque (other variations on the menu are Pobre and Rosemary), I could hear the kitchen frenzy in the next room. 4 more people came in and helped themselves to whatever space was left inside. One businessman peeked into the kitchen and spoke to the owner/chef who I hear is named Vincent Rodriguez.
I loved my open space, kahit pa kaharap ko yung mga kotse! My reward was a bowl hefty with big fish chunks (I’m thinking, 2 people can share this), big clams, mussels, garlic, lots of onions, tomatoes and potatoes. With this is a big block of rosemary focaccia, about 6 in x 2 in by 2 ½ in. Can you imagine it?! Soon enough, I began to understand why— because the bread sops up the flavorful, I-am-rolling-my-eyes sa sarap sauce.
The seafood is fresh, cooked just right, in fact the plump clams burst in my mouth as I chewed with gusto. As much as the servings could be shared, I decided to burst my belly and told myself I’ll just skip dinner altogether. (in short, matakaw lang talaga ako)
Perhaps the owner found my decision to eat outside too unusual that he insisted on treating me to dessert. I asked for his reco and perhaps he was thinking, naku mahilig kumain…babae…can’t go wrong with chocolate—they served me Frozen Indulgence. Thin layers of chocolate, cream and topped with ganache I’m guessing. I also bought tuna in ciabatta and two big focaccia to bring home as pasalubong to my boys back in Manila.
As I was going back to my hotel to get my luggage so I can proceed to the airport, I was thinking of my satisfying 2-day feast. I felt they were my blessings as in between I was braving Davao City’s flash floods. The rains never stopped since I arrived. I was worried that if the cab I was riding in would stall in the middle of the road—I would have to wade my way to my meetings. No exaggeration!
Thankfully none of that happened. And so, I shall come back another day—to take my fill. Other must tries I’ve been told are Harana, Glamor and Aphat. This time with my family so they too can revel in Davao’s delights.
© 2012, Kitchen Kitchie Koo. All rights reserved.