A Scrumptious & Satisfying Lunch at Osaka Takoyaki Davao

Osaka Takoyaki Davao

Breaking away from my default mode of eating at my favorite go-to restaurants, I decided to have lunch at Osaka Takoyaki’s Davao branch located in SM Lanang. I was at the mall to do something I completely forgot to do yesterday when I was there. I wanted to reward myself for what felt like a tedious chore so I thought I’d better check out the new Japanese restaurant and have a bowl of ramen.

I learned about the restaurant opening a branch here in Davao when my former Japanese Kendo teacher posted two photos of the menu on his Facebook timeline last November.

I’m not really a takoyaki fan. The ones I’ve tasted here in Davao, and I had many, were mostly hit-and-miss affairs. I also hate crowded places so I tend to avoid newly-opened restaurants since they always seem to get packed with people eager to try something new. But since it has already been almost two months since it opened, I figured I could finally give it a try.

I know that the restaurant is located on the ground floor of SM Lanang near the fountain area. But since I have a poor sense of direction, I sometimes find it easier to ask for information. I first asked one of the mall’s security guards posted near the supermarket. Unfortunately, she didn’t seem to know it much less point me in the right direction. I headed towards the supermarket exit leading to the fountain area and asked the security guard posted there. He didn’t know either. So I headed to the exit, saw the fountain right across, turned right, walked a few steps, and saw the Osaka Takoyaki on my right.

Osaka Takoyaki Davao
My favorite time in restos — the pre-lunch/dinner rush when it’s still quiet
Osaka Takoyaki Davao
Simple and pretty
Osaka Takoyaki Davao
The menu
Osaka Takoyaki Davao
OkonomiYaki, YakiSoba, and YakiUdon
Osaka Takoyaki Davao
Takoyaki and a la carte options
Osaka Takoyaki Davao
Desserts and Special Menu
Osaka Takoyaki Davao
Set Lunch Menu
Osaka Takoyaki Davao
Ramen

The interior was more spacious than I imagined. My timing was perfect since it was still past 10:00 am. Too early for lunch so I was the only other customer apart from a couple who came before me. I picked a spot right next to the wall at the back. A server approached soon after I sat down and gave me a glass of water. He left and quickly came back with the menu. Since I already know what I want for my super early lunch, I told him I’ll have the Tonkotsu ramen. He asked if I want to have it as a set lunch and explained the options I have, which turned out to be a better one for me. So I said I’ll have it and picked the takoyaki and the orange soda to complete the set meal.

Osaka Takoyaki Davao
I had breakfast so I’m not calling this brunch. It’s more like a super early lunch^^
Osaka Takoyaki Davao
Tonkotsu ramen
Osaka Takoyaki Davao
The takoyaki with toppings of dancing Japanese fish flakes (Katsuobushi)

My Tonkotsu ramen was served after only a few minutes quickly followed by the takoyaki with toppings of dancing Japanese fish flakes (Katsuobushi) that was just so delightful to watch. It was almost too pretty to eat…almost. It tasted so good my tongue got burned as I kept stuffing it in my mouth.

The Tonkotsu ramen was flavorful, but it was the takoyaki that turned out to be the best find for me on this visit. It’s like finding something to finally fall in love with in a food that you have been having countless times but didn’t exactly like enough to keep craving for.

I was hoping to try the dessert but the green tea ice cream I set my heart on was not available. The server said the only desserts they have at that time were the kakigouris. I was tempted to get the Green Tea Milk Beans kakigouri but decided to skip dessert for my next visit.

Overall, it was a scrumptious and satisfying lunch. I love the interior, the details, and the service. I’m not sure how different the vibe will be during peak hours. But I particularly like the peace and quiet of the store’s pre-lunch rush.

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Coffee & Serendipity Photo Journal #4: Habi at Kape, Davao City

It has been a while since I posted about coffee and serendipity here, here, and here. And there have been quite a few memorable coffee shops since the last post. The latest of which I visited for the first time on the last day of the last month of 2017. Located on the 3rd floor of the Abreeza Corporate Center, Habi at Kape is a quaint cafe tucked away from my usual haunts in the adjacent mall which is why it slipped under my radar.

I only found out about it while looking for a coffee shop where I could meet my sorority sister who visited Davao last December 29 to January 1.  I was thinking of taking them to Bankerohan public market to try the sikwate (hot chocolate made from tablea)/tsokolate batirol and puto maya like I did with my two other friends who visited the city separately a few months back. But since it was already the 31st I was worried that the market will be even more crowded with last-minute shoppers. So I looked for a cafe serving local dishes and drinks, especially the sikwate or tsokolate batirol which I always recommend to friends when visiting Davao.

My online search led me to some articles about Habi at Kape and its Facebook page. Someone posted photos of the menu and saw that they not only serve sikwate but also coffees from Davao and Bukidnon. They also have a merienda buffet for Php200/person every Friday to Sunday from 2:00 pm to 5:00 pm.

I quickly arrange to meet with them on December 31st and called Habi at Kape to make a reservation for the merienda buffet. But I got a message early morning on the 31st informing me that the merienda buffet was canceled and that they will be open until 5:00 pm only. I was a bit disappointed about missing out on the buffet. But I figured there must be very few reservations as most people are already busy with the New Year’s Eve preparations. I told the staff it was okay and that we are still going.

I found the cafe more quickly than I expected. While I did not see the store’s sign, the decor and shelves displaying local food products from the Davao Region were hard to miss.

My sis and her friends arrived soon after I got there. And her friends were immediately drawn to the wide array of items on the shelves that include different brands of tableas, chocolates, preserves, and more as well as the shops beside it that sell traditional items and souvenirs.

Habi at Kape
At Habi at Kape
Habi at Kape menu
Menu
Habi at Kape menu
Menu
Habi at Kape menu
Menu
sikwate and suman
Sikwate (Tsokolate Batirol) and Nilimbiran Suman at Tsokolate
Done with our delicious and filling merienda
My sorority sister (in blue) with her friends/travel buddies

All of us ordered the Sikwate (Php70), Nilimbiran Suman at Tsokolate (Php80) and initially, two orders of HABI Pancit Luglug each serving of which is already good for two (Php170). My sis and her friends are all from Pampanga — a place that has rightly earned its reputation for its delicious cuisine. I have spent a lot of time in another sorority sister’s home in Angeles City during weekends and school breaks while we were studying in UP in Diliman. The Kapampangans love good food. I was not sure if they will like the food. But I was hoping they will like Davao’s sikwate. So I was surprised and happy when they all said they love not just the sikwate but also the suman and pancit luglug. One of them even ordered another serving of the pancit luglug.

I loved how quiet it was while we were there. But I read that the place is quite busy most days. I can’t wait to try their merienda buffet next time.

Davao Food Finds: Malunggay Pesto and Strawberry Preserve

I have this thing with homegrown foods lately, especially the everything Davao cacao products. I love tablea (pure chocolate made from cacao beans) since I was a kid. And I even know how to make one from tree to table. My grandmother used to make them straight from the cacao trees in her backyard. I used to help her in preparing, drying, roasting, and grinding the seeds and in molding the thick, gooey substance that comes out of the grinder. I spent countless hours enjoying tsokolate batirol and champorado. So I am really happy to see how Davao’s cacao industry is gaining more attention over the years.

The mall is not exactly the best place to find a lot of artisanal food products not just from Davao but from other areas in Mindanao and across the country. But I find that the Kultura store in SM Lanang is a good place to discover some food items I have not seen or tried before. I usually make time to visit and see what new treats I can find.

strawberry preserve and malunggay pesto

So I made a detour to the store on my way to the supermarket the other day. I immediately noticed several unfamiliar items including a wide array of preserves (strawberry, macapuno, mango calamansi, etc), chocolates and chocolate-covered fruits like durian and dried mangoes to name a few.

I picked a bottle of the Island Gem strawberry preserve. While I am not really a fan of strawberries, I am forever in love with the strawberry preserves from Baguio. I am not sure where exactly in the Philippines this particular bottle was made. But I wanted to give it a try. I also picked a bottle of the malunggay (moringa) pesto thinking I can use it to cook some pasta.

I finally used the pesto last night to make my homecooked spinach fettuccini with malunggay pesto. I totally loved it! I can’t wait to try the other items I was tempted to buy that day.

spinach fetuccini malunggay pesto

What’s in My Bag 2017

whats in my bag 2017

It’s rare for me to leave home without my blue tote bag, that I sometimes switch with my backpack, which I use to haul just about everything I think I need with me all the time. I’ve been using it for years. Frankly, I’m surprised that it lasted this long given all the heavier items that I put in it more times than I could count.

The I-Can’t-Leave-Home-Without-This Stuff
  1. Folding umbrella
  2. Small pouch that contains 2 lip balms, 2 lipsticks, 1 small container of liquid hand soap, 1 hand sanitizer, 1 dental floss, and a small round mirror
  3. Wallet
  4. My Totoro coin purse
  5. Reusable water bottle
  6. Reusable chopsticks
  7. Spoon and fork
  8. Foldable reusable shopping bag
  9. Handkerchief
The I-Want-To-Bring-Just-in-Case-I-Need-It Stuff
  1. Book
  2. Tenugui
The It’s-That-Kind-of-Weather Stuff
  1. Water-resistant jacket with hood
The Overnight/Weekend Stuff
  1. Clothes
  2. Toiletries
  3. Slipper
Thinking Out Loud

Just recently, my friend gave me two reusable straws with their own cleaning brushes. She knew I’ve stopped using straws this year. One was a regular-sized straw while the other one I can use for drinks like the milk teas with sinkers at Serenitea which I really like.

Making the choice to limit my use of plastic has its share of cringe-worthy moments and challenges since I started doing it in 2002. I thought I’d be used to the different reactions by now when I tell the cashiers or the salespersons not to put the items in plastic bags. I prefer to put whatever item I buy in my bag or use the foldable reusable bag I carry with me. But in the past months, I’ve had some strange encounters with cashiers. One of them adamantly refused and told me that it’s against their store’s policy. She then added that I could just remove the item from the plastic after I leave the store — totally missing out the point.

I also find that most stores and restaurants don’t make it easy for people who want to reduce their trash. And that it’s really easier and extremely more convenient to just use whatever’s handed to you. It gets tempting sometimes to just go back to old habits, especially when you’re dealing with salespeople who think you’re just being “difficult”. Still, I think it’s worth doing. And that’s that.

Here’s me looking forward to more adventures with my bag(s) — and everything in it.

Experiencing Davao

Spending time with friends who are visiting Davao, either for work or leisure, is a great time for me not just to touch base but also see the city with fresh eyes. The lure of reconnecting with friends I have not seen for some time overcomes my usual desire to avoid going out and being caught in the city’s increasingly worsening traffic problem.

So it was welcome news when a longtime friend told me she will be in Davao for two days to do some research work. She arrived just before midnight on the 30th of November and left early evening on the 2nd of December. It was her third visit, but she spent most of her time in her previous visits outside the city exploring Samal Island and climbing Mount Apo. The short visit was a good time to stay at the heart of the city and experience it. It also allowed me to see what has changed, what remained the same, and what I call the in-betweens — the subtle things that are easy to miss out when you are too busy looking and paying attention.

The Traffic Problem

What used to be a roughly 20-minute trip from home to Abreeza or Gaisano Mall on a weekday now stretches to at least 45 minutes. Weekends can be just as bad except early in the morning when it is much lighter. And it is even worse when I try to venture farther to Ecoland or Matina. I thought I have escaped the nightmarish traffic woes of Manila when I decided to go back home to Davao in 2009. I may have enjoyed a few years respite from it. But those restful days are over and I have to deal with living with heavy traffic again. This makes walking a much better option. But Davao City is not really what I would call a “walkable” city. It may be safer to walk here than in Manila. But walking here can be a far from pleasant experience when it is too hot or raining heavily.

Bankerohan Public Market

The perpetually busy and crowded Bankerohan Public Market can be overwhelming. And it has evolved into a tourist attraction in its own right. Known for its overabundance of cheap produce from across the Davao Region, it is a great place to find a wide array of fruits and food products. A lot of tourists go there to buy pasalubongs and/or try its famous tsokolate de batirol (sikwate) and puto maya.

Looking for Durian

I was honestly surprised by some of the videos I have seen showing people’s reaction when they try to eat durian. I did not realize a lot of people hate it so much. The smell can be nasty but I thought that they would learn to appreciate it once they get to taste the fruit. I was wrong. I felt bad thinking about the people who received durian candies from me as pasalubong and promised to avoid doing that unless I am sure the recipient eats durian.

My friend’s visit sparked a question in my mind about how the city’s famous fruits seem to be in short supply lately. I  know it is not in season, but I find it unusual not to see a lot of them out there. Even during the last Kadayawan, durians were unusually expensive. The many small trucks and makeshift stalls selling them at roadsides that were familiar sights during the Kadayawan month were also conspicuously absent.

As my friend and I explored the fruit market in Bankerohan, we only saw a handful of stalls selling unripe ones. The famous durian restaurant just across the Fruitasan do not have them either. I was used to eating fresh durian all-year round and this was the first time I had trouble finding one. So my friend and I settled for the frozen D101 variety that one of the vendors in the fruit market was selling.

Trying out the beer and frozen D101 durian combo

My friend told me that eating durian in the hotel room is not allowed so we have to finish it off before she turns in for the night. We tried asking the hotel staff at the restaurant if we can it eat there but were told we have to take it outside the premises. Who would have thought that finding a place to eat [frozen] durian in a city famous for it can be so troublesome? Thankfully, there was a 7-11 nearby with an outside seating. I grabbed a beer and settled in to enjoy my first taste of the D101 variety which tasted amazing.

Davao’s Cacao in the Spotlight

Davao has long been known as one of the countries best places to find abundant and different varieties of durians. Not to mention the best and cheapest mangosteens when in season. It is also home to top quality bananas and mangoes. And in recent years, a new addition to the list has been stealing the spotlight — the region’s cacao which produces the finest tableas that a growing number of Dabawenyos are beginning to enjoy.

I was actually surprised that it took this long for it to get noticed. Cacao and tableas are part of my childhood. I remember learning how to make pure and rich tableas from the seeds of cacao fruits harvested from the trees in my grandparents’ backyard at their home in Davao del Norte. My grandmother makes enough to last for months and even send some for us living in the city and to my uncle who was based in Manila.

Some of the goodies at the Cacao de Davao stall at the ground floor of the SM Lanang Premier

 

More Cacao de Davao products
Cacao de Davao Tablea

I love cacao so it is great to see so many good quality products now being sold in stalls and supermarkets in malls here. I brought my friend to Cacao City which opened last month. I first heard of the store from my sister who gave me the deliciously divine Wit’s Sweets and Savouries’ Durian Granola which she bought from there.

Cacao City at Palma Gil

The everything-Davao cacao products store is located beside the Pasalubong Center at Palma Gil just beside People’s Park. It showcases local brands like Malagos Chocolate, Cacao de Davao, Cacao Culture Farms, Rosario’s Delicacies, Wit’s Sweets and Savouries, and more.

An Exhausting Trip to Singapore

My travel misadventures this year seem to share a common woe — airport pickup fails. The first one was in July at the Kaunas airport where a mix of a flight delay, miscommunication, and whatever fateful reason left me stranded there alone waiting for the transportation that unbeknownst to me has already left with the Greek team that was on the same flight as me. I had no idea that I was supposed to leave with them. I must have missed seeing the person holding the sign in the midst of all the noise and excitement from the crowd waiting at the airport for the Lithuanian gold medal-winning team coming home straight from a successful stint at the 2017 Summer Deaflympics.

After almost an hour of waiting, I finally managed to locate the volunteer tasked to pick up delegates from the airport. She told me I was not on her list of arrival schedules so she thought she got everyone on board the bus that already left. She made some calls and later told me to take the bus plying the Kaunas airport-Vilnius route then just take a cab to the hotel from where it will make its final stop.

Solo trips are not new to me. But there is something about being unprepared that unsettles me. I berated myself for not thinking of a contingency plan trusting that all arrangements have already been taken cared of. Thankfully, the over one hour trip to Vilnius and the few minutes taxi ride to the hotel went smoothly.

Little did I know that two months after I would find myself in the same predicament. What happened in Kaunas was still fresh in my mind so I made sure to confirm the arrangements with the event organizers in Singapore at least twice.

The October 9 Davao to Singapore flight was scheduled to depart at 7:20 pm but got delayed for almost 30 minutes. To quote the pilot who told us the reason when we were finally on board, “A bird was ingested by the engine” (I assumed during landing on arrival from SG) and they had to make the necessary safety checks. It is one of those things that are guaranteed to stress out a nervous flyer like me. It was far from a relaxing flight with several instances of turbulence throughout. We were scheduled to arrive a little over 11:00 pm. But the arrival was further delayed by thunderstorms over Singapore. The aircraft spent over 20 minutes just circling around unable to land.

The plane touched down past midnight and it was almost 1:00 am when I finally came out of the arrival hall to look for the person who was supposed to pick me up. I had this bad feeling that no one will be there so I was not really surprised when I could not find anyone there to meet me. I did not get any response to my messages to my contact so I had to make my own arrangements. I looked for an ATM to withdraw money for cab fare. Because there was no way I am going to wait there for hours when we have an early start the same morning. I was so tired and needed a few hours of sleep before our work there start.

The only good thing I remembered thinking while I was dealing with all of it was that I was in Singapore so I felt safe with the idea of leaving the airport at past 1:00 am to go to the hotel on my own. Finding a taxi was easy because Changi has an excellent airport transportation service.

The taxi rates are not cheap though. But they at least have options so passengers can take the least expensive ones. I found out that taxi rates are higher past midnight. The elderly driver was nice but he could not speak much English.

A few minutes out of the airport, the rain poured heavily. I could not see anything in front of us and I figured the driver must be having a hard time as well despite the windshield wiper doing a good job of clearing the waters cascading down the glass. The trip took over thirty minutes and as we reached the deserted roads going to the hotel, the driver asked me why I chose to stay somewhere so far and without access to public transportation. He told me that the I will have to take a taxi every time I have to leave if I want to go sightseeing. I told him that I have no choice since the organizers booked me and my colleagues from other countries there.

Frankly, at that moment when the taxi stopped in front of the hotel entrance, I was just happy to finally arrive, get my key from the front desk, and get some much-needed sleep.

Saturday Morning at Bankerohan Market: Of Walking and Enjoying Davao’s Sikwate and Puto Maya

When I’m in a city that’s new to me, I try to go to the central market very early in my trip. I’ll go at 6 a.m., when people are shopping for businesses. You get to see what people buy and really eat. There are usually food stands and trucks geared exclusively to locals. You get an idea of what a city or country is good at, because they’re catering to local tastes. ~ Anthony Bourdain

Food markets and cemeteries. Two of the fascinations I acquired in recent years when traveling. One offers a glimpse into the daily life of the locals and the other about stillness and death.

While I have been to Bankerohan market a few times, I mostly do not frequent it since it is in the opposite and far side of the area where I live. So when a high school classmate/close friend came for a visit I thought it would be nice to do what many locals and tourists do when in Davao — have some sikwate and puto maya at the city’s largest public market.

My friend and I decided to take an early morning walk from the hotel where she was staying to Bankerohan. We set out about a quarter to six in the morning for the roughly 2.5-km walk, which was much later than planned. We got sidetracked a bit by the fascinating sculptures outside the hotel. It was a pleasant walk along neighborhood streets, main thoroughfares, and alleys with plenty of reminiscing along the way as we saw familiar landmarks that reminded us of our high school days.

The entrance to Ponce Suites Gallery Hotel, Davao City
One of the many sculptures outside the hotel
More sculptures
The sculpture of the boy at the right side reminds me of the University of the Philippines’ (UP) Oblation
Full circle
Almost done
Meditation
Storytelling time
Some of the stalls at the fruit stand building in Bankerohan market

 

Fruits and treats
Mangosteen
Durian
The batirol used to prepare the tsokolate (sikwate). The chocolate drink is prepared using tablea made from cacao from Davao
Waiting for our tsokolate batirol (sikwate)
A hot cup of sikwate with milk
Puto maya that pairs deliciously with the hot chocolate drink.

2 tsokolate de batirol (sikwate) with milk + 2 puto maya = Php56.00

Bonus find: 1 lapad bottle of honey = Php100

Food, Comfort, and Conversation: A Taste of Sea Green Part 2

It has been years since my last visit at Sea Green Cafe, which seems to be turning out as a place to meet with high school classmates I rarely see. It was one of the top places that came to mind when I was thinking about where to have dinner with another classmate and close friend from high school who is visiting from Cebu. I know she would be happy to eat at any of the restaurants in the mall where she was hanging out after her appointment with a client. But I wanted to bring her somewhere else for a change. Luckily, Sea Green was only a few minutes away so we agreed to go there.

The cafe has undergone a lot of upgrades and changes that I could hardly recognize it. I like the new look and feel much better than the old. And I love the timing of the visit because there were only a handful of other guests apart from us which added to the feeling of homey comfort and coziness that matched its ambiance.

Having tried some of the cafe’s bests on my previous visit, I was determined to try something new this time around. But I simply could not pass up on the Tablea Cheesecake, which turned out to be more delicious than before.

At Sea Green Cafe
My friend Leonor taking a look around the place
My friend checking out the items at the counter
Fried Quesong Puti
Baked Organic Chicken with Pan Roasted Vegetables
I love this dish!
Brown rice
Tablea Cheesecake
The Tablea Cheesecake up close. The bitter & sweet taste of the tablea balanced by the natural sweetness of the ripe mango toppings ❤

One More Reason to Love Etihad Airways

Almost two years after the Manila to Geneva and return flights from Brussels, Etihad Airways gave me another reason to be impressed with its customer service. My choosing the airline at that time was unplanned. I was looking for the cheapest flights that will get me to Geneva, which is the nearest airport of entry for me to Aix-les-Bains in the Savoie region of France where I was headed. Etihad had the best price then so I picked it not knowing much about it.

The flight to Geneva was a pleasant experience. I was happy with the food and the in-flight services so I thought I got a good deal out of it. And it was the same on my return flight from Brussels. I cannot remember when they gave all the passengers the Etihad Guest miles programme form to fill up. But I recall filling it up not really thinking that I would be able to use it since I do not travel often.

Over the months following that trip, I have been getting regular email updates on flight deals and other information. I think I received emails every month or just often enough not to be annoying so I did not unsubscribe from the mailing list like I tend to do with other merchant newsletters and notifications I get.

Some of the most recent emails I got from them was to inform me that my miles were about to expire. I did not open the first three emails related to that and finally got around to checking the fourth one when I received it. I was clueless about what I was supposed to do with those expiring miles. But I was impressed by how they made it easy for me to figure out my options.

I started checking out the items in the Etihad Guest Reward Shop to see what I can get so I could use the expiring miles. I opted for a backpack since it is something I could always use, especially on future trips. As I was exploring my options, I was still half-expecting that getting whatever reward I choose will not be as easy as it seems to be. I was also expecting that I will end up paying something for it like maybe the shipping cost or whatever. So I was really surprised when the transaction was smooth and seamless. I also did not have to pay for the shipping. So I got a nice backpack for free all thanks to the frequent reminders that got me using my miles before they expired.

I was also happy with the reward merchant’s service. I had a change of mind about the backpack’s color I initially picked after I finished ordering it. I read from the confirmation of the order email I got from Etihad that I will have to contact the merchant directly for any changes. I sent an email the next day asking if they can change the color from black to navy. But I was not optimistic that it will be changed since a day has already passed and they might not be able to read my email in time. But a few days after, I got an email from the merchant that my request has been applied to the item and it has already been shipped via UPS. They also sent a tracking number that provided up-to-date information about the current location of the package.

Less than a week after I placed the order, I got my new Fjallraven backpack and in the color I requested.

package arrived
The packaged from the Etihad Guest reward merchant in Latvia arrived
My new navy Fjallraven backpack
The reward from the miles that almost expired ^^ Thanks for the constant reminders about it, Etihad!

I have been impressed by Etihad’s service during that trip in 2015. And I even wanted to travel with them again when I was booking my flight for the trip a month ago. But the airline was not among the options available. So I booked with another airline. I may not have traveled with them again this time. But I hope to do that again in the future.