Monday, June 21, 2010

Claude Tayag's Bale Dutung

Compared to other cities like Hong Kong, Madrid, Tokyo, and even Manhattan and San Francisco, Manila's food scene hasn't really blown me away. These cities are my top five food cities because of the quality of the food through the freshness of the ingredients and the consistency of the creations. The food here is great, but it isn't as stimulating and trendsetting. There is great potential, though! I knew it existed somewhere. And, boy, did we find it! I fell in love with eating in the Philippines at Claude Tayag's Bale Dutung (Kapampangan for "Wood House"). Claude and Bale Dutung was featured in Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations. He took Bourdain around Pampanga and also treated him to see and taste his masterpieces. He's an artist and a chef, and he excels in both crafts. This place and this afternoon food feast are definitely a destination if you love food!

Claude only serves his food for lunch about once a week or so (so call ahead to find out the schedule and to reserve!). Also, the meal itself is paced so you can eat more and more - so prepare for a four hour food marathon. We chose to go on a day when he was serving his "Lechon Five Ways" Menu. Amazing. I cannot wait to go back for more afternoons like this one.

The Introduction to Bale Dutung
These are pictures taken of his property and of his art. Adding to the pleasure of eating his cuisine, the atmosphere which is filled with his art adds a classic native Filipino feel. It's like a getaway food retreat. His wife, Mary Ann, was the perfect hostess, too! She was so friendly to every guest. Claude and Mary Ann make a great team!
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The Table Setting and Condiments
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The Amuse Bouches
We were served pre-Lechon Five Ways courses. In other words, to get our stomachs ready to eat, we ate. Check out the "Notes" for more descriptions and comments on each of the pictures.
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The Lechon Preparations
When we first arrived, we walked around and found the kitchen and prep area. They were already getting the lechon ready! And, after our Amuse Bouches/Appetizers, Claude wheeled out the lechon. We were all totally ready for the main event!
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Lechon: The First Way
Balat ng Lechon at Liver Sauce. The classic lechon skin with lechon sauce. What a great way to start! Thin and crispy with a great tasting sauce. We asked for seconds and thirds.
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Lechon: The Second Way
Fried Lechon Flakes Binalot sa Tortilla. Lechon flakes with a variety of toppings (tomatoes, onions, kimchii, cilantro, and pesto sauce) wrapped in a tortilla. This reminded me of being back in California with the love of Asian inspired tacos. So much fun! Lechon flakes and kimchii - yum!
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Lechon: The Third Way
Sinigang na Lechon. Filipino soup with lechon, the hind, leg, and skin cuts. I've had some great homemade sinigangs, and some mediocre sinigangs outside of the house. This dish was soo good! Definitely the best I've had outside of the house, and even rivals the ones made at home. The rich broth tasted so delicious from the cuts of the lechon and the sour kamias, which cut the fat of the pork. And because he used the roasted pig for the sinigang, there was no pork smell when we were eating our bowls. I could've had a couple more bowls of this!
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Lechon: The Fourth Way
Inihaw na Tadyang na Lechon at Ensalandang Talong. Grilled Lechon Ribs with Eggplant. The eggplant was dressed with a salted egg and some salsa. Such a great smoky, grilled taste! The ribs are so thin that you can eat a few of them. Nice simple plating, too.
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Lechon: The Fifth Way
Inasadong Pata ng Lechon. Braised Leg of Lechon. Tasty, but for the last course it didn't "wow" me. It was a bit too Westernized especially with the garnishes of green beans, carrots, and potatoes, so I was kind of disappointed. It's the kind of dish that you'd find during an American holiday. But the tenderness was definitely nice. I guess I was hoping for that consistency of Filipino and Asian dishes.
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The Dessert
Kapeng Sinaunang Panahon. First Pressed Coffee. I actually found my cup of coffee to be pretty weak and watery for my palate. I like my coffee strong, and I mean, Peet's Major Dickason's strong.
Pastillas de Leche. Candied Carabao's Milk. Topped with Yema, Ube, and Macapuno...Just when I thought I couldn't have any more food in my stomach...I was even thinking, "I'll just have a couple bits." I had a couple servings. Wow, what a way to finish the afternoon! The taste of the sweetened carabao's milk is amazing, and the smooth creamy texture melts your insides. I scraped each serving clean.
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Arlene said...

This has to be one of the best reviews I have ever read. Your comments along with the captioned photos, which were amazing and educational, made this a memorable "visit". Too bad I couldn't sample the dishes. Well done.

Angela said...

Thank you so much for your kind words, Arlene! I'm truly flattered!

Alvin said...

This has better be on our itinerary. I will remember to pack another stomach. Great job!!