Sunday, January 16, 2011

Bale Dutung

This post is late but better late than never which might have happened had I not been given a book about Ferran Adria, the Catalan chef who is on the helm of El Bulli restaurant in Spain's Costa Brava which held the distinction of being the "Best Restaurant" in the world by Restaurant Magazine for the years 2002, 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009 and #2 for 2010! He has been credited with putting Spanish cuisine on the forefront of the culinary world.

And this had me thinking about our own Filipino cuisine and where it's at, how the dining scene in the Philippines has become much more vibrant with the injection of new talents (recent graduates of the booming culinary school industry, graduates of the great culinary institutions abroad etc., and home-grown talents with passion for Filipino food) one culinary genius that I particularly admire is, Claude Tayag...not only is he a chef, but a writer (newspaper column, cookbooks) painter, sculptor and furniture designer! So when I saw him at Mercato Centrale where I had a stall, I grabbed the opportunity to say hello, talk to him and have my picture taken with him (okay, that makes me a real fan). After that I really wanted to go and experience dining at Bale Dutung, the Tayag's house and where they accept appointments for dining, I can't really call it a restaurant, because it's more than that.

First of all, we had to drive all the way to Pampanga. I was glad we stopped at Starbucks for coffee because the trip which was supposed to be short (around an hour and a half) turned out to be double than that. We made a wrong turn, got lost and had to stop every so often to ask where Villa Gloria was. Finally we arrived at 1:00 in the afternoon for our 11:30 appointment. By this time, I was hungry and a little bit irritated but as we entered the gate , this was what greeted us...a lush verdant garden with a wooden totem pole and a tikbalang (a Philippine mythical creature half man-half horse). I knew then this was going to be a unique luncheon.

Ensaladang Pako (Fiddlehead Fern Salad)

After the garden, you look to your right, the house comes into view covered with lush foliage...I felt like I was in a secret garden except that there were a lot of people having lunch, the clink of glasses and laughter drifting out to where we were standing. Mary Ann, Claude's wife welcomed us and brought us to our table where our group of 16 grown-ups plus 1 9-month old baby settled down for the long (it says at least 3 hours on their website) lunch. We were given frozen towels to freshen up and cool ourselves because it was open-air dining, I hardly noticed if it was uncomfortably warm because all I could think about was the food.

We chose the Kapampangan menu because we wanted to try the region's specialties and it was really a unique dining experience. Some of the food we were served were quite familiar to me but as each course was served, Mary Ann stood by our table and talked about the significance of the dish to their region. You can tell by the way she talked that she was proud of their food, and that made me understand why they were featured by Anthony Bourdain when he visited the Philippines. Everyone was having a grand time with their food but I was savoring each bite, and watching. There were about 2 more big groups like us and 2 tables which had about 4-5 people each. Then the lechon (roasted pig) arrived and Claude himself carved the lechon, some of the people had their pictures taken with him, I held back for a while. But when he went back to his kitchen and we lined up for the Bulanglang Kapampangan which was like our siningang na bangus with spareribs and prawns cooked in guava broth, we saw him chopping up the lechon in the corner of his kitchen. So we went and had our pictures taken with him.

5 year old naturally aged sugar cane vinegar

What I noticed about the Tayags was that when they entertain in their house, you really feel like you are in your friends' place. They talked to us and regaled us with their foodie adventures around the Philippines where they are seeking out the best of the region they are visiting. It was also fun listening to him recount his conversations with Anthony Bourdain.

Tortillang Lechon (Crispy Roast Pork Flakes on a Tortilla)

Kare-kareng Lamang Dagat (Seafood Cooked in Peanut Sauce)

We left Bale Dutung almost 7 at night. The 3-hour luncheon became 6 hours and we hardly noticed the time. Claude and Mary Ann said they will be offering the Anthony Bourdain menu this January and I am most definitely going back to Pampanga for that!

Paradiso (Dessert of Yam and Coconut, Eggyolk in Water Buffalo Milk)

Bale Dutung
Villa Gloria Subdivision
Angeles City Pampanga
mobile :09175359198


Smarla said...

i really want to go here! you went here as a group? :)

chef_d said...

Yeah we went there with my Mom and her friends. You should go there!

Annie said...

I've heard so much about Claude Tayag's meals! Will put that on my to do list next time I'm in the Philippines. Thanks for your review Dahlia!

Tangled Noodle said...

I am so ready to go! Thanks for this great write-up about your experience and the link to Bale Datung - I am drooling over the menu. My fingers are crossed that I'll have the same opportunity in the near future. In the meantime, I may just have to re-read this post...! 8-)

cusinera said...

wow...I have to copy the address and include it to my "must visit" scribble note for my next trip back home=)

Indie.Tea said...

That salad looks amazing. Claude Tayag sounds like a talent to watch :)

Simona said...

What a beautiful place! I am intrigued by the fiddlehead fern salad and also the seafood dish. The dessert also looks very interesting. Very nice post!

TaGa_Luto said...

Dahlia! I'm dining and visiting this place vicariously through you. Wow the platting presentation is so beautiful. Can't wait to see this place. Thanks for the share.