Being a peninsula, Bataan is surrounded by Manila Bay, Bagac Bay and Subic Bay. The neighboring province of Pampanga is known to be the Culinary Capital of the Philippines so I was expecting good food finds. Surprisingly, Bataan didn’t fail me. From Filipino dishes to Japanese food to Italian gelato to Vietnamese favorites, almost everything can be found in this seemingly quiet gastronomic center in Central Luzon.
We had three days to tour around Bataan and with the help of Bataan Tourism, we found comfort on the great selection of food finds that the province has to offer.
Plaza Mayor de Ciudad de Balanga,
Contact Number: (+63) 47.237.2003
Open Hours: 11:00 am to 10:00 pm | Everyday
First stop was a café and gelateria that serves gourmet dishes in the heart of Balanga City. Located at Plaza Mayor de Ciudad de Balanga, Stregato Gelateria is a unique restaurant that features good tasting and yummy dishes without hurting your budget. The funky interior welcomed us as we escaped from the extreme heat outside.
I ordered Crispy Potato Skins (P68) for entrée which I know is sinful but it’s so seldom that I see it on menus so I grabbed one right away, ok stop justifying it Carla. Haha. It was perfectly fried into its crispy state with sour cream and cheese dips. You really can never go wrong with fried potato, or its skin.
The Chicken Valdostana (P190) with rice (P40) was overloading with creaminess. The pan-seared chicken fillet was cooked perfectly with the smoked ham, mozzarella cheese, spinach and potato pancake carefully assembled, the cream sauce integrating all the flavors.
|Chicken Valdostana (P190 w/rice P40)|
Pan-seared chicken fillet, smoked ham, mozzarella cheese, served with
spinach, potato pancake in cream sauce
I finished it with a luscious single scoop of some good old Pistachio Gelato (P70) on a waffle cone. I don’t usually dig ice creams but this one’s really enjoyable.
Alauli, Pilar, Bataan
Contact Number: (+63) 917.572.4703
Open Hours: 7:00 am to 10:00 pm | Everyday
We were brought to a Kapampangan Restaurant at the town of Pilar right after our Mt.Samat visit. We're really famished so we dashed into the restaurant as we arrived and checked out the food options. I was drooling as I got to see all of the dishes presented at the counter. It’s like an upscale carinderia where you need not to wait long for your food to be served. It’s all there, lechon and all those delectable sauce-smothering dishes.
We had steamed okra with bagoong and lechon kawali, fried daing na bangus with salted egg and tomatoes, lechon kawali, beef bulalo, lechon, pako salad and so much more. For a group of 12, it was definitely a feast!
I instantly loved the steamed okra with the super scrumptious shrimp paste and crunchy lechon kawali. It was a meal in itself. I so loved it that I ordered another plate right after I finished the one for sharing. Sometimes, you just have to indulge.
Another favorite was the daing na bangus with happy toppings of salted egg and sliced tomatoes. The fried boneless fish in itself was tasty but the toppings made all the difference. It pumped up the level of satisfaction and set the standards high for my next daing na bangus dish.
I was happy after that meal. Like really happy. It was my favorite amongst all our food adventures in Bataan. I would definitely come back here.
Mayor Street, Binaritan,
Contact Number: (+63) 949.565.7466
Open Hours: 7:00 am to 9:00 pm | Everyday
Finding a Vietnamese Restaurant is not unusual in Morong, Bataan. The town had been used as a refugee camp for Indochinese people during the 70’s and 80’s.
Locals who were having their afternoon merienda filled this unassuming eatery. We found a long table and settled as we gazed on the huge tarp that featured Vietnamese dishes they offer. The 15-year old eatery is owned by a Filipina named Loleng who used to work in the refugee camp where, I guess, she learned how to prepare Vietnamese food.
As the name implied, I wanted to try out the house’s specialty so I grabbed a bowl of Hu Tieu Special (P50) which was served in no time with the famed Vietnamese bread Banh Mi (P50).
Vietnamese Pho has been adapted in Puerto Princesa with its version of Chao Long and I’m pretty sure that Hu Tieu is another localized version of the famous noodle soup dish. The rice noodles dunked into a rich meat broth came to life with toasted garlic, onion leeks and bean sprouts with some greens. The taste may not be as clean and smooth as the original version but at its price, it’s ok.
The Banh Mi on the other hand was nothing compared to the original one. The margarine-infused bread stuffed with the works (meat, greens and cheese) was a fail. Just try to forget its attempt on becoming a Vietnamese bun and you’d appreciate it more.
The Plaza Hotel
Plaza Mayor de Ciudad de Balanga
Balanga City, Bataan
Contact Number: (+63) 42.800.9888
It was our last day in Bataan and before we head back home we had a feast at Café Kyoto in Balanga City. The in-house restaurant of The Plaza Hotel features authentic Japanese food from no less than a Japanese chef. So expect to wait a little while as the food is prepared and cooked after you order it.
We asked for the house specialties and were given a great mix of Japanese favorites; Mixed Tempura (P490), Spicy Tuna Maki (P240), Kani and Tobiko Salad (P265), Big Sashimi Platter (P760), Tonkatsu (P440), Tonkotsu Ramen (P290) and Tempura Ice Cream (P140).
The Big Sashimi Platter was an instant favorite. The oozingly fresh seafood were impeccably cut into thin pieces. My concoction of soy sauce with a hint of lime and loads of wasabi paste brought out the raw flavors into life.
The Kani and Tobiko Salad with its Roasted Sesame Dressing was refreshing from the very first bite. The nuttiness from the dressing complemented the greens, crab meat and fish roe.
My favorite from the bunch was the Spicy Tuna Maki. One of the best sellers at the restaurant, the crunchy tuna leaves a tangy mild heat that balanced out the rolled Japanese rice and creamy dressing. It was superb! Like I could finish the whole thing and be satiated afterwards.
The Tonkotsu Ramen was just ok, well, I’m no ramen person so I couldn’t vouch for the taste and all. I just tried a spoonful and went back to the Spicy Tuna Maki right away.
Everything fried is appetizing so the Tonkatsu with its hearty breaded chunk of pork cutlet with the distinct Japanese-style barbecue sauce was good especially as we matched it with a bowl of Japanese rice.
We capped it off with Tempura Ice Cream which was gone in seconds. Need I say more?
Bataan is surprisingly a gastronomic spot that you shouldn’t miss. It offers a wide variety of great local and international fares that would leave you asking for more. I heard that a homegrown local coffee shop (The Beanery) has entered the seriously competitive café scene in the province and I have to try it out next time. Like this weekend perhaps?