It’s bathing suit season once again!
That can mean two things: It’s time to not eat so you don’t pass off as a beached whale, OR if you did your homework and dieted ahead, you can now eat like a normal person again and appreciate food glorious food!
Fortunately, summer destinations these days are no longer just about the escape—the beach, the mountains, the cold weather, the golf course—they are now also about dining. Name the destination and there’s bound to be some offering for the foodie in all of us.
I remember way back in ’89 when I first had the opportunity to visit Boracay with some high school friends. You had to bring your own food!
Today, Boracay can be a destination not just for the beach but for its restaurants. From Aria, where you can have brick-oven pizza and their signature pastas, to Dos Mestizos that lives up to the Spanish spirit and flavors, to Real Coffee where Americans Nadine (or her lovely mom) may just brew the coffee and cook a good ol’ American omelet or sandwich for you, foodie finds are in abundance.
If you are lucky enough to check into the island within the island, the Shangri-la Hotel Boracay brings fine dining to beach living. Now I must warn you, Shang Bora is surreal. SURREAL. From the minute you step inside the hotel and are greeted by the Rajo Laurel-clad staff in their island-inspired uniforms, the experience just takes your breath away. The best way to dine here is to hit Cielo because it is right by the private beach and pools. Here, catch Bora’s famous sunset and enjoy it with a mojito and an oven-baked pizza or oysters or sashimi. Just make sure you don’t drink and drown!
For a more cozy, romantic atmosphere, the masters of indulgence at Shangri-La created Rima. This restaurant reminds me of Farang Ses in Chiang Mai with its enchanting interiors and dim lights. It’s perfect for watching the fireworks that are becoming a signature Boracay treat. It’s like dining on a very fancy treetop or looking down on the beach lovers from a secret cove on a mountaintop.
But the food is not high-brow at all but hearty Tuscan cooking! Rolled Parma ham and ricotta, seared pistachio-crusted tuna, oven-baked lamb rack with red wine, baked lobster… Of course, like most fine dining Filipino restaurants, it’s not entirely on-theme. There is the restaurant’s version of foie gras, steak and sea bass that you could order at any other Shangri-la dining outlet.
Vintana is Shang Bora’s Circles but in the setting of a luxury resort. You can have your usual buffet selection of around the world offerings from cheeses to sushi to Indian, Italian and Asian cuisine.
Outside the Shangri-La, Seawind also offers its sunset buffet right by the beach, with oysters and fresh seafood. Discovery’s Indigo offers wine, lobster and ginger ice cream as you face the white sands. And the latest addition, Alchemy, offers creative concoctions by Joshua Sacapano Boutwood, a Fil-Brit. The menu changes a lot, proof of the chef’s creativity, but you can expect: (1) a long wait while the chef whips up the evening’s special feast in the kitchen-so don’t come too hungry! and (2) the use of techniques like sous vide. Boutwood should have a showdown with Pinoy sous vide master Carlo Miguel.
If Boracay is too far for you, there is good ol’ Baguio. At Camp John Hay, Le Manor still offers the most reliable breakfast buffet and a la carte dinner menu. Chef Billy King remains consistent in his fine dining recipes. There’s no souffle on the menu here but do try the sea bass in filo pastry—a beautiful play on textures that reminded me of how I fell in love with his cooking the first time I tried it at French Corner at Westgate.
But the recent foodie favorite is Hill Station at Casa Vallejo.
Then there’s Mario’s Mitos Yniquez who is the queen of savory food. She offers baby back ribs whose flavors are deep and sink into your tongue. My personal favorite is her Cambodia Coriander and Garlic Chicken. And my love at first bite moment was when I dipped bread into dukka. You know the staple of olive oil and balsamic vinegar at restaurants? Mitos trades the vinegar for dukka—dinikdik na cashew nuts, coriander, salt, pepper, cumin. The restaurant also offers homemade sausages which are excellent. Her cooking is like a dark-skinned Asian woman whose beauty grows on you the more you look at her, and whose intellect draws you in just as much as her looks. Mitos’ cooking ain’t no bimbo dishes, to be sure.
If you happen to crave a steak, visit Dinelli at Le Monet. The range of steaks they offer goes from Angus to Batangus, or rather, Wagyu from Australia to Bukidnon. Aside from the steaks, with New Yorker Jayme Natividad in the kitchen, you can ask for a heaping serving of arroz caldo in the morning or Vigan longganisa pasta; and with Robbie Goco also behind the grill, you can have your fill of the Goco-style burgers!
But the best discovery of Baguio is a Malaysian chef named Alvin. His restaurant is not for the faint of heart. If you are maselan (snobbish) about your surroundings, stick with the Manor. The creations are literally served in front of a sari-sari store. As in you can grab a Choc-Nut while eating. The menu is on a white board from National Bookstore on the wall. The utensils are the kind that are so thin you can bend the spoon and use it also as a knife. But the cooking is EXCELLENT. Alvin is the next big thing. I would keep this secret to myself if I could but he is so good he must be shared with the rest of the country. Called Chef’s Home—wife Gina takes orders and busses plates—the “resto” offers the best tom yum soup in the country, a beef rendang whose flavors latch onto your tongue like a leech, nasi goreng that you could have with any ulam for days, and the best chili crab ever. I missed out on the Rotti during Holy Week but that should be a testament as well to how good it is. They plan to move to a bigger location soon.
With all these choices, please forget your diet. Summer is all about fun after all! •
Rima at Shangrila Boracay http://www.shangri-la.com/boracay/boracayresort/dining/restaurants/rima/
Indigo at Discovery Shores http://www.discovery-shores-boracay.com/ppc/
Restaurant Alchemy Boracay https://www.facebook.com/pages/RestaurantAlchemy-Boracay/186607554703199
Le Chef at Camp John Hay http://www.campjohnhay.ph/dining-and-entertainment.php
Hill Station at Casa Vallejo http://hillstationbagu