A 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 while 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.

The restaurant is located on the ground floor of SM Lanang near the fountain area. So I headed to the exit near the supermarket, saw the fountain right across, turned right, walked a few steps, and saw the Osaka Takoyaki.

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. And 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

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.

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 ❤

A Matcha Mille Crepe Kind of Day

I have been craving for Milky Cakes and Sweets’ matcha mille crepe as soon as I saw some photos of it on their Facebook page. So I finally headed out to their stall at the ground floor of SM Lanang this morning after I finished with my errands. I bought a slice for take out and had it after lunch.

Exactly my plan
Matcha Mille Crepe to go
Milky Cakes and Sweets’ matcha mille crepe

There are three things in matcha mille crepe that I love — matcha, crepes, and layers. But there is something about all of them together that did not quite work for me. I could taste the matcha and the crepe which is good. And yet there is something that I seem to be missing. Maybe it is all about the layers. My choices in cakes have always been simple. Maybe all that layering made it complicated for me. It got me thinking why I like layers in the first place.

Sweet Sensations: My Favorite Davao Treats

When it comes to sweet treats, Davao has its share of the best ones in my book. I’m a bit picky with desserts and sweets. Anything that doesn’t have chocolate or green tea in it isn’t high on my list. But I’ve tasted a lot of Davao’s delicious durian everything – candies, coffees, cheesecakes, jams, pastillas, pies, and yema among others. I think that anyone who visits this place or knows anyone from here should give them a try. Here are some of what I usually give or recommend to friends:

Malagos Chocolates

I like everything from this brand. But it’s the 65% Dark Chocolate that really got me hooked. My first taste of it was a pleasant surprise. The quality was better than some of the artisanal local brands of chocolates I’ve tried in the past. The more recent ones I’ve tasted though are even better. I don’t know if they improved on it or not. All I know is that there’s something about its texture now that I really love.

Where to buy: Visit their website for a list of retailers or shop at their online store.

Cacao Davao Durian Filled Dark Chocolate

Cacao Davao's unsweetened chocolate callets and durian filled dark chocolate
Cacao Davao’s unsweetened chocolate callets and durian filled dark chocolate

Cacao Davao has a wide range of products that include unsweetened 100% chocolate callets, cocoa powder, cocoa nibs, and cocoa butter to name a few. But it’s their durian filled dark chocolate that makes me go the extra miles, literally. The store where they sell them is not along the usual routes I take or pass through when I’m downtown. But I find myself making the effort to go there, especially before I travel. It’s usually one of the pasalubongs or gifts I give to friends I’ll be meeting in my travels.

Where to buy: Cacao Davao, San Pedro Extension, Davao City (in front of Phoenix Gas Station)

Apo ni Lola Assorted Durian Candies

Durian caramel bars and durian coffee bars
Durian caramel bars and durian coffee bars
Creamy durian bars and langka (jackfruit) yema bars
Creamy durian bars and langka (jackfruit) yema bars
Yema durian sandwich spread and durian hopia
Yema durian sandwich spread and durian hopia
Assorted durian candies/pastillas
Assorted durian candies/pastillas

Apo ni Lola is one of my most recent discoveries. I didn’t even know that there was such a brand. I haven’t come across it before in my visits at the fruits stands in Magsaysay. I’m not sure if I just didn’t notice them or the fruit stalls I’ve been to don’t sell them. Apparently, this brand is an offshoot of the popular Lola Abon’s brand and is owned by a third generation member of the family. It was when I spent a night with my aunt and cousin at the Royal Mandaya Hotel that I found out about this. There was this small souvenir shop at the mezzanine that sells them at factory prices. I like their assorted durian candies, durian piayaya, and yema durian sandwich spread. I haven’t tried the durian hopia, but if it’s as good as the piayaya then I’ll probably love it as well.

Where to buy: Apo ni Lola, #28 San Miguel Village, Matina, Davao City; Souvenir shop at the Mezzanine of the Royal Mandaya Hotel, Palma Gil St., Davao City

Davao’s Finest Fruits Fresh From Farms

The naive sixteen-year old probinsyana in me was shocked the first time I went to the market with my aunt the first few days after arriving in Manila several years ago. I was surprised at the prices of bananas and calamansi among others. Spending most of my early years in my grandparents’ home in the province made me clueless to the workings of a highly-urbanized city life.

I grew up in a place where a lot of things I wanted or needed were found and picked in my grandparents’ backyard. I lived in the midst of fruit-bearing trees like avocado, banana, cacao, guava, mango, pomelo, santol, and star fruit to name a few. I learned about drying and roasting coffee beans and cacao seeds after watching and helping my grandmother. My first taste of tablea and hot chocolate prepared in batirol was at my grandparents’ home.

Fast-forward to that day in a market somewhere in Manila, I stood there processing what I saw as my aunt paid for the things she bought. I think it was then that I realized that I was truly far from home and from everything that comfort represented. That moment gave me a glimpse of what my life would be in college and the years following that as I stayed in the big city.

Seven years after coming back to Davao for good, I still marvel at a lot of things that I used to take for granted — especially the fruits. Davao City may be urbanized, but it is not hard to find the finest fruits fresh from farms. And if you are lucky to find yourself in the city in August, you can have your fill of a wide array of fruits for cheap.

Fruits are among Davao’s treasures. This is why I was excited like many other Davaoenos when I heard about the Asian Fruit Market project. But I forgot about it until recently when I noticed that they have already initiated it. I passed by the area earlier but did not have time to explore the stalls. I noticed that at 11:00AM many of the booths were still empty. But I expect that things will be livelier later in the day. I think AFM is still at its initial phase. I cannot wait to see how it will look and feel like several weeks or months from now.

Taken from the covered area where some fruit stands were located.
Taken from the covered area where some fruit stands were located.
At the covered area near Seda Hotel in Abreeza
At the covered area near Seda Hotel in Abreeza
Some of the structures in front of Abreeza Mall
Some of the structures in front of Abreeza Mall

The Hague Supermarket Items That I Miss

I love going to supermarkets when traveling. They are easily the best places to find necessities that I opt not to pack when I want to travel light. I also find it comforting to find familiar items which remind me of home.

Staying for three months at The Hague entailed a lot of cooking and grocery shopping. This meant frequent trips to the nearest supermarkets like Albert Heijn, Aldi, and Konmar. There were also visits to the open-air markets that I always enjoyed.

It has been years since that short stay but I still miss some of the items that have special spots on my list of favorite things:

1. Stroopwafels

stroopwafelNothing prepared me for my first taste of these delicious treats. And they quickly became part of my daily life while I was there. The chewy confections were the only snacks I made sure I had in stock. I took a particular liking to one brand that has the finest (at least in my limited experience) small-sized and scrumptious stroopwafels. I found them at the first supermarket I visited. Thankfully, they were also available in the other supermarkets and small grocer stores so it was easy for me to get them. Unfortunately, I cannot recall the name of the brand. But I still have a picture of the packaging in my head.

2. Cheese

cheese-shopI was not a cheese person before that trip. But I became a convert during my time at The Hague. Not only because Holland/The Netherlands is the home to the famous Goudse kaas. It was also because it was the first place where I found a wide array of cheeses almost everywhere. The supermarkets and open markets were veritable treasure troves of so many cheeses in all shapes and sizes. I could not even pronounce or read the names on the labels of some of the cheeses I found at the supermarkets. I just grabbed whatever looked good to me. Later on, I decided to sample as many kinds and that has been one of the best things that I did in my brief stay there.

3. Rookworst

This sausage is not only tasty. The cooked variety is also the most convenient and easiest to prepare. It is excellent for meals any time of the day. And I even loved making sandwiches out of them — with whatever cheese I had on hand.

4. Chocolates

The supermarkets’ chocolates aisles are little slices of heaven on earth. The Hague’s close proximity to Belgium and its other European neighbors famous for their chocolates meant there was no shortage of delightful treats to try. I opted for brands that were unfamiliar to me. And I was never disappointed with my picks.

5. Ice cream

I am ambivalent about ice cream. I could probably live without it. But I developed an appreciation for it in my sojourn at The Hague. It was probably because of the many Ben & Jerry’s and Häagen-Dazs selections for me to choose from.

There is more to the city than these items that makes me yearn to go back.  I may not have been to many places yet. But The Hague will always have a special place in my heart.