We just came from doing a special TV feature, “Foodprints Pampanga.” I felt like a cow being fattened for slaughter. As soon as I got back to Manila, I shifted to diet mode. Zero regrets, though.
My all-time favorite place for Kapampangan food is Poch Jorolan’s Everybody’s Café. Poch has become a friend and a source of unique food discoveries in Pampanga. His kare-kare has become my yardstick for this Pinoy specialty. I also love his longganisa, morcon, palabok and tidtad.
Everybody’s and I are now neighbors at the Salcedo weekend market in Makati.
And then there’s Denlim’s Kitchen. Owner Dennis Lim is a Kapampangan and foodie at heart. I met him through Boy Ongpauco of Barrio Fiesta.
The Lim family also owns LA Bakery in San Fernando. So, before the first dish, we already had a freshly baked cornmeal baguette.
I watched how Dennis made a simple dish of garlic mussels with an olive oil and white wine sauce. Beside it was a bangus and capers paté. Both were yummy, but my eating buddy Poch warned me to pace myself because there would be more food.
The summer salad was also very good with its different flavors and textures.
Next was the broiled sugar-glazed salmon with asparagus and sliced stuffed olives. The crust was crispy, a bit sweet, and with a slice of those olives, perfection.
Bunny’s Shrimps were plump shrimps with a truffle cream sauce and topped with crispy garlic. Pasta Perlita were mami-like noodles topped with delicious sisig.
Caveman’s Shank was a huge chunk of super-tender beef shank with a delicious brown mushroom gravy. I found melt-in-your-mouth marrow within the bone!
Next was the Pugon Liempo wrap. This is Kapampangan balo-balo or fermented rice, usually made with shrimp or fish, but this version was made with pork. You get a lettuce, wipe some balo-balo on it, then a slice of pork belly, and a slice of fresh bitter melon (not so bitter when fresh because water is still present). Seal and bite!
To end the meal, we had garlic pepper crabs. They were not large crabs, but were full of fat and meat.
What a superb experience, every single one of those dishes unique and delicious.
Behind the scenes helping and encouraging Dennis is the love of his life, Yeyet. What an inspiration a woman can bring to one’s talent.
Dennis is fully booked all weekends this year, but weekdays are still open.
Denlim’s Kitchen, Maharlika St. San Fernando, Pampanga. By reservation only. Minimum of 12, maximum of 36 persons; facebook.com/denlimskitchen
My Japan food tour: Hokkaido, April 7-12; Fukuoka/Hiroshima/Osaka, May 26-31. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.