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Jan 3, 2013 07:14 PM

Puerto Princesa, Palawan [Philippines]

I'm headed to the Philippines in a month, including 3 1/2 days in Puerto Princesa. I have to see the underground river, doncha know!

Does anyone have any firsthand experience eating in Puerto Princesa? We're looking primarily for seafood, but will eat anything, including non-Filipino food (if it's good). I've done some googling already, and have found suggestions for KaLui, Badjao Seafood Restaurant, Kinabuchs, Balinsasayaw ... But if anyone has any suggestions for undiscovered eateries, I'd love to hear about them!

I'm also very interested in bakeries! I'd love to include some Puerto Princesa ensaimada in my taste tests :-)

And breakfast places! I love breakfast, and our hotel rate does not include breakfast, so we will need to find sustenance elsewhere.

And any suggestions for food-related souvenirs that are specialties of the area?

Oh, we're staying at Hotel Centro, so nearby recs are appreciated, but we will travel for food. I should also mention that my traveling companion is a serious germaphobe, so dive-like restaurants need not apply.

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  1. In case anyone else goes to Puerto Princesa, the only strong recommendation I have is not to bother was KaLui, at least not if you're interested in food. We ordered the set (appetizer, soup, three seafood dishes, dessert for two) and almost everything we had was flavourless, and the grilled (on a cast iron pan--not on a real grill) fish steak was so dry I couldn't eat more than a couple of bites. After our dinner, we spoke with some locals and they told us KaLui is known for not using a lot of flavourings in order to focus on the natural flavours of the foods. I think that's a fine philosophy, but a little salt, at the very least, would have been appreciated.

    Aside from that, we really only ate at Hotel Centro. Breakfast buffet was pretty great--different main dishes every day (the first day had bacon, sausage, and something else I don't remember; second day was eggplant parmigiana, hungarian sausage, and something else I don't remember; third day was some other sausage, tocino, and dried fish), plus fruit, breads, and a congee or soup. Eggs were also cooked to order. Dinners were a little pricier (as with most hotels), but their version of bagnet was pretty incredible. Not too fatty, but the skin was very light and airy. Not a traditional bagnet, but very tasty nonetheless. I noticed some other guests had ordered burgers, and they looked like really good burgers--topped with huge onion rings, large patties, and substantial-looking buns that did not melt under the weight of the meat. More than P400 each, though.

    Lunches were included in the tours we did (Underground River, Island Hopping), so I don't remember many details about them.

    I would recommend Puerto Princesa for a few days, at least to see the Underground River (which was interesting, but not necessarily the most spectacular bit of nature you'll ever see). But keep your expectations regarding food in check.

    9 Replies
    1. re: prasantrin

      Hi, prasantrin! I'm glad to see you've been back to the Philippines since we first met there a few years ago. I'm even gladder to see you're still looking for enseimada :-)

      I've spent quite a bit of time in the motherland in the past couple of years, and I really should post an updated restaurant list. But I haven't been to Palawan in almost 15 years, though a number of restaurants you mention were already in existence at that time. I remember the food being decent and pretty basic, i.e., not anything to look forward to. I'm glad that there are now hotels with a greater range of food offerings. (Then again, I was there to dive Tubataha, which was stunning! Had Tubataha been a restaurant, it would have rated 3 Michelin stars, no question.)

      If we're in Manila at the same time (I'm usually there until well after the New Year), we should consider organizing a chowdown, or a grazing expedition at one of the weekly markets. Who knows--there may be more of us chowhounds in the vicinity!

      1. re: pilinut

        pilinut - I may be in Manila this Christmas: maybe we can organize a Chowdown.

        1. re: klyeoh

          Yaaaaaay! With an opportunity like that, we definitely must organize a chowdown--even if there are only 2 of us! Hounds in Manila for the holidays can e-mail me at plramos1at(whoop of joy)dotcom. I'm looking forward to hearing what a world traveller like you likes to eat in Manila and elsewhere.

          We just have remember to save some stomach space for the chowdown, tough as it will be with all the parties and food gifts tempting us. One of my friends says tummy capacity is the most valuable real estate in the world :-)

          1. re: pilinut

            I'm invited by a Singaporean cousin (with her Filipino hubby) to go to Manila this Christmas for a change. I think the only "catch" is: the Salcedo Saturday Market, which I'd heard so much about and *really* wanted to visit, might not open during the Christmas/New Year season as many stall-owners may not be around.

            But I may want to explore the city's oldest restaurants. Amazing how many of them are Chinoy spots:

            Let's stay in touch.

            1. re: klyeoh

              Since Christmas and New Year fall in the middle of the week this year, the odds of Salcedo or Legaspi being open are not too bad. I'll be back in Manila in a few weeks and will check on the market schedule. Actually, there are now several similar markets in various parts of MetroManila, and I hear there's one in Quezon City that is even better than Salcedo.

              My own favorite, though I go to the Salcedo one as well, is the Sunday market in nearby Legaspi Village. (IIRC, I met prasantrin there a few years ago.) Around 25% of the vendors are the same as Salcedo, and Legaspi is less of a scene.

        2. re: pilinut

          Hi pilinut! I was thinking about you during my last visit. The email address I had when we were in touch got hijacked, and I lost all my contacts (they not only deleted my entire address book, but also all the saved emails), so I couldn't get in touch to see if you were around.

          Oh no! I'm not planning on being there till February if I even go! I'm thinking Thailand instead, but would also like to go to Manila (if for nothing else than to find that stupid pineapple eye-remover thing!).

          I tried to go to a market in Quezon (the one sponsored by Anton? The guy who has a popular website...can't remember his name...) but we couldn't find it. Finding up to date info on any of the newer markets was actually near impossible, and very frustrating!

          I will keep up with chow to see what's going on with the meet up. Maybe I can rearrange things. I love meet ups!

          1. re: prasantrin

            Hi, prasantrin! I love meet ups, too, and I will probably be in Manila in February, but I do hope that we can coordinate a meet up with klyeoh and any other hounds in Manila during the holidays. December/January is the height of the enseimada season, after all :-)!

            Check my profile for one of my e-mail addresses--the other one is the same, but at yahoo. And let's see what we can do about scheduling--so many things to eat, so little time, but the presence of kindred chowhounds multiplies the enjoyment.

            1. re: pilinut

              btw, I think I found my favourite ensaimada--Addie's Ensaymada. I have the contact info if you want it--by order only. Not old-style ensaimada, but very delicious and very very buttery. In fact, I brought some back for some coworkers to try, and one of them opened up the parchment and said, "Oh my god, this smells just like the butter my grandmother used to make!" (he grew up on a farm).

              I will keep you up-to-date on my travel plans!

              1. re: prasantrin

                Yes, please! I'd like to try Addie's. Have never heard of them before.

                Perhaps we should start an ensaymada/enseimada thread on the SE Asia Board. (And a lechon thread, too!)

      2. Hotel Centro has good food! Badjao is on the ocean and food is good also. Kinabuch is ok but lots of flying things! Asturias has a buffet P299 all you can eat. Have not tried the other places you list here. We now live here x 3 months! Rico

        1 Reply
        1. re: drrico

          Lucky! I'd love to go back, but I want to go to El Nido and Coron which are supposed to be even better than PP.

          Let us know about other restaurants (and bakeries!)! Palawan will become even busier with tourists in the next few years, so I think there will be more inquiries!