Martial Law be damned. There’s no better way to spend the weekend than to go on a froad (food road) trip to Buda in Marilog District to cool off and escape the city noise.
Unlike a few years back when you can’t find a decent place to eat, Buda (Bukidnon-Davao boundary) on the highlands of Davao City, is slowly transforming into a foodie destination. There are now quite a number of quaint restos that serve good food. Plus, the view each resto offers is nothing short of amazing.
Here are three of our favorite eat digs in Marilog:
They serve some of the best pasta and pizza in Davao City. Their fresh noodle seafood pasta alone is worth the more than an hour drive. They also have a branch in Tionko Avenue in Downtown Davao, but their pizza tastes much better at their Buda branch. Both branches use the same recipe, but the long travel to get there makes the food taste much better.
This roadside restaurant has become the unofficial pitstop of motorists traveling to and from Bukidnon to Davao City. What made them famous is their delicious suman and sikwati combo. Your travel to Buda will not be complete if you don’t try this.
Wild Berry Resto
This rustic restaurant just before the quarantine stop in Lorega, Buda serves the most mouthwatering pork tenderloin steak in that part of the map. They also make a mean four berries shake with wild berry, that grows in their nearby farm, as their main ingredient.
Public advisories keep telling people to keep off crowded places, so what better place to go to than Buda. Tara na, adto ‘ta sa Buda.
The venue was Lugang Café –a three-story restaurant on Connecticut Avenue in Greenhills serving Taiwanese and Cantonese cuisine.
The ambiance is perfect. The interiors are posh and opulent in a modern oriental design. The owners have taken every effort to make sure the overall look, feel and appearance of the restaurant would justify the price range of the food, which is a little bit on the high side.
Level of service is excellent and consistent throughout the whole visit – from the time we arrived and looked for parking space, to when we waited to be seated up to the time we were served our food.
We arrived at the place a few minutes past 6pm. It was early enough to be able to get a slot at the resto’s parking lot across the street assisted by very able parking attendants. However, we were already number 3 in the waiting list and had to wait for almost thirty minutes before we got seated.
Considering that the place was full of customers all the way to the third floor, the staff were trying their best to be on top of the situation.We got seated in the dining area on the third floor. We pre-selected our orders while waiting for our seats, but they did not start cooking the food until we were seated.
And probably in their desire to provide quick service, at one instance even the janitor served a plate of food when the waiters were busy getting the other viand from the kitchen in the lower floors.
And now for the food.
Putting Lugang Café’s Oyster Omelette to Test
Somebody from Chinatown told one of my sons that a good barometer of how well a chef cooks Chinese food is via the taste of his oyster omelette in sweet spicy sauce. We always thought the better test was via pork or fish in sweet and sour sauce. But since we all agree that we may be biased for our own kitchen’s version of sweet and sour sauce, we decided to check the correlation between the oyster omelet on one hand and the other Chinese food that we will order that evening on the other hand. So that was the first dish we ordered and tasted for the night.
The verdict: 8 on a scale of 1 to 10 for the dish. After the dinner, we agreed that this rating has a strong correlation with the way overall rating we gave to the dinner — majority of the food were very good but one or two may stand some improvement.
Xiao Long Bao and Steamed Vegetable and Pork Dumplings
These are soup-filled dimsums which have become popular offerings in the past year by new Chinese restaurants. Lugang Cafe has one of the better versions.
The pork xiao long bao is good. The skin was thin but the soup is contained. As you bite into it the juice oozes and you enjoy the taste of the filling that’s you should into the soy vinegar with ginger slices.
The steamed vegetable and pork dumplings is delicate and delectable. We had to make a slurping sound as we put the dumplings into our mouth or else we may have burned our tongues with its broth.
Stir-Fried Beef with Chilli Peppers
Served on a hot pot, a fair amount of dried chilies accompany the dish. It has the heat spunk but is totally tolerable unless you eat the actual chili or chili seeds. The very thin slices of beef has splinters of fat on the side. These absorbed the flavor of the sauce, resulting in a tender and flavorful bite.
Kung Pao Prawns (650)
The kung pao prawns was cooked in sweet and spicy sauce with rings of red pepper and lots of cashew nuts. It tasted sweet, spicy and tart. It was good enough but not great. This may have been due to a high expectation we had of Chinese restaurants as regards to the way they cook prawns and crabs. Moreover, we thought that for the size of the serving , it is a bit overpriced.
String Beans with Salted Egg (220)
This is the dish that impressed us the most. The vegetable was cooked just right and has retained its crunchiness. The addition of salted egg brought out just the right amount fo saltiness to the dish. While eating we made some effort at trying to identify what other ingredients may have been included in the dish — with the intent of cooking one in our kitchen.
Dong Bo Pork with Gua Bao
The Dong Bo Pork is best eaten tucked in-between a sliced Gua Bao.The pork is very fatty, with a soft-stewed skin still on the cube. The meat breaks apart easily and is tender. The fatty layers between the meat is soft and juicy.
This dessert was the big come on of the evening. It is a a tower of shaved ice, with all sorts of beans, tubers, sago mixed. We had a great time sharing and enjoying the dessert.
There are still a lot of items in the menu that are worth trying. I am sure that we will go back to Lugang Cafe some other time to try its other dishes and desserts.
Small handful of fresh Italian parsley, roughly chopped
Freshly ground black pepper
Few slices of lemons
Over medium heat, sauté garlic and anchovies together in the oil and butter. Let anchovies melt into the oil but do not allow garlic to brown. Add chopped tomatoes and capers and cook for 2 minutes. Next add your tuna and juice of capers and allow to cook for about 2-3 minutes more. Toss in your pasta and mix together. Should the mixture look too dry, you may sprinkle some water from your cooked pasta. Season with ground black pepper and lastly sprinkle with parsley. Transfer to serving plate and garnish with lemon slices.
About Myra Portillo:
Myra was a top-notch key accounts specialist at ABS-CBN Integrated Sales and Marketing until her early retirement in 2001. During our days at ABS-CBN, we look forward to lunches and small parties where we get to taste some of her recipes. After her retirement, she re-“discovered” her love for paintings and the crafts. Her watercolor artworks are so nice that a lot of her friends have encouraged her to put a one-woman exhibit. But to date, we haven’t been able to convince her. In fact, when I encouraged her to contribute to this blogsite, I mentioned her paintings, but instead she opted to share with us one of her cooking secrets — her yummy pasta with tuna and capers.
Two tries before I finally got a table at this resto. My first try was to get a table for two for a dinner meeting with a technical person who will give me pointers for this new hobby called blogging. I got into the place at 6:30pm, and the tables inside and outside the restaurant were all taken. I was number 7 in the waiting list. I waited for an hour, but no luck.
The second time I went there was for a Sunday lunch with my family. We were there at 11:15am and got our desired table for five. A few minutes later, the place was already full.
I tried Kanin Club because of word of mouth. A number of friends said the restaurant offers a different take on some of the familiar pinoy fare, although I was warned that it is not for those who are seriously watching their cholesterol levels. Live a little, I told myself.
So how do I rate the place?
On the whether the restaurant served great food: I give it a rating of 3 out of 5. At Kanin club we tried out the following:
Kinilaw na Blue Marlin – ceviche in a refreshing salad bed of radish and cucumber, with bits of deep-fried pork bits
Itsi Bitsi – sitaw, bitsuelas and sigarilyas sauteed with beef.
Crispy Dinuguan— allegedly, their most copied signature dish. Its pork deep-fried to a crisp then set in a semi stew of pork blood.
Crispy Tadyang –crispy and lightly seasoned beef spare ribs
We liked the Kinilaw na Blue Marlin, although we would have preferred to have grilled bits of pork rather that the deep-fried pork bits. The Itsi Bitsi was a bit overcooked. The crispy dinuguan and tadyang, lived up to their promise. We suspected that the kitchen was using MSG, as one of us got dizzy after the lunch – something that normally happens when she eats food with MSG*.
On service, my score is 4 out of 5. I can forgive bad food but I cannot forgive bad service. Kanin Club @UP-Ayaland Technohub, obviously has trained persons for the job. They were polite and welcoming, and knowledgeable about the menu. I particularly like that we barely noticed the waiters as they put down the plates and refilled our water glasses. They seemed to anticipate what we need next. Moreover, this is one of those restaurants where getting the bill and having our credit card swiped and charged is the fastest, at less than ten minutes.
On other things such cleanliness, ambiance and the price, the score is 4 out of 5.
*Apparently MSG was the culprit. She came back a few weeks later and had lunch with friends. She did experience dizziness.