Black Saturday was a quiet time with most people either staying at home or out traveling somewhere to take advantage of the long Holy Week break. I was chatting with my aunt a few days before that and ended up planning to meet up for lunch. She later told me that my cousins wanted to tag along so we agreed to have lunch at The Vegan Dinosaur.
My aunt’s family also used to live in Manila like me. But they relocated back to Davao about a little over a year before I did. She still works in Manila, but the rest of her family is here. She comes home as often as she can, especially on long weekends. We live on the opposite sides of the city though so we don’t often see each other when she’s home.
TVD was my top-of-mind choice since its halfway from where we both will be coming from. There are also not many places for me to choose from where I can enjoy a purely plant-based diet.
So we were at TVD on Black Saturday. They were already there when I arrived. We spent the time catching up and enjoying the food. The best thing about dining with them, apart from the company and the stories, is that I get to try a lot more food than my previous visits when I was alone.
It was a fun and satisfying lunch. And it is one of the reasons why I love TVD. You don’t have to be vegan to enjoy their scrumptious dishes and treats.
My hunt for veg-friendly dining options in Davao continues. Yesterday, my search brought me to Veggie Vegz Davao in Ilustre Extension street. It was about 40 minutes away from my home with light traffic.
The cafe is located on the second floor of the Esmar Plaza Building. I was there a little before 11:00 am so the place was still quiet. They were still not finished setting up the food but their bestselling kilawin, as well as the sisig, spicy tofu, and calderata, were already available. I asked if they have the oil-free, air-fried lumpia. The owner said they will still have to air-fry it and asked me if I was willing to wait for it. I said yes and added it to my order of kilawin, sisig, rice, and the camote tops juice with calamansi.
The kilawin was really good. The sauce seems to be a mix of soy sauce, sesame seeds, and some other ingredients that made the dish even more flavorful. The lumpia was crunchy and the camote tops juice was sweet and refreshing. I just had a few bites of the sisig though. It was spicy and delicious but I was already full after eating all the kilawin. So I just had the leftover sisig wrapped to take home with me along with additional orders of the kilawin.
I really enjoyed dining here and would like to visit again to try the kilawin again. I just wish that they have more oil-free options as well. Still, I was happy to get a taste of meatless versions of some of my favorite dishes that I thought I would have to give up for good.
Location: Door 13, Level 2 Esmar Plaza Building, Magallanes and Ilustre Extension Streets, Davao City
It has been almost seven weeks since I made the transition to a more plant-based diet. In that time, I have not eaten beef and pork, have slowly weaned myself from eating chicken, and now working towards cutting down on the occasional fish or seafood that I still eat. Making the switch was not as hard as I imagined it would be. Although it has its moments like when I have to eat out and struggle with the limited dining options available. This happened to me again recently when I met up with two former workmates — Mai who was visiting from Japan and Arlady who also lives in Davao. It was Arlady who suggested that we have dinner at Apo Andoy’s Filipino Heritage Cuisine which is near where Mai was staying.
It was the first time that I heard about Apo Andoy’s. Not surprising, really, since I do not go out much. I quickly agreed to meet there because I thought it best to have dinner with Mai in a place where she can enjoy Filipino food. But at the back of my mind, I was wondering if there is something oil-free, and plant-based I could eat there. Davao is mostly a meat-centric city, at least from my point of view, with so many grill restaurants. And most vegetable dishes are mixed with beef, pork, chicken, fish, and other seafood or flavored with fish sauce. Still, I was excited to visit the place primarily to see Mai and Arlady again and also to try whatever plant-based dish I can find there.
A Homey Feeling
I arrived at Apo Andoy’s around past 6:00 pm. The restaurant is in Balai Belen Travellers Lodge located inside a village in Dacudao. It was still fairly early for dinner so there was only a couple of guests when I came in. The place was quiet but I noticed that a long table has already been reserved. It seemed like it was going to be a busy evening for the restaurant.
The couple left and I waited alone in the empty room enjoying the quiet and homey feeling. A large group came in after a few minutes. There were only two empty tables left (each table seats 4). The restaurant staff quickly connected both remaining tables and approached me to ask if they can get one of the chairs since I told them earlier that there are only three of us. I said yes and the new group was seated and immediately placed their orders. I was still alone at that time so I could not order yet, something that I would regret later in the evening.
A Meat-Lover’s Paradise
I would have probably enjoyed the food at Apo Andoy’s if I had not gone plant-based. Mai and Arlady ordered the beef tapa (which was purportedly President Duterte’s favorite food to eat there), lengua which was served with mashed potatoes, and the Vigan longganisa. Sadly, most of the dishes were meat-based and cooked in oil. There was only one salad option for me — and even that had salted egg and dilis (anchovies).
The Long Wait
It took almost an hour before our orders got served. I think this was because the first big group to arrive immediately placed theirs as soon as they were seated. And the largest group that made the reservation already started trickling in by the time we started ordering. So we waited a long time for our food. My salad came last — right after all of Mai and Arlady’s orders were served. And it was nothing like I expected it would be. It consisted mostly of cucumbers, small cubes of salted egg whites (where was the yolk?), lots of anchovies, and very small amount of one type of lettuce which I hardly noticed. It was really salty. To be fair, the rest of the food on the table looked scrumptious. And both of my friends seemed to have enjoyed them. Mai said the lengua was really good.
I was still hungry by the time I finished what for me has been a disappointing meal. But I did not have much expectation going in because I knew from the getgo that it was not a veg-friendly restaurant in the first place. The goal was to let Mai enjoy some Filipino dishes for dinner. And the food looked delicious even if I did not get to taste them except for that salad that I swear I will not eat again.
I learned about The Vegan Dinosaur when I was looking for veg-friendly dining options in Davao on HappyCow. This was soon after I made the transition to a more plant-based diet. I have been thinking of visiting the place for some time now. But it was far from where I live and I do not frequent the area where it was located. So it took me a while to visit it. Yesterday’s errand was relatively near the cafe, which gave me a chance to finally check it out.
It has an intimate, cozy, and welcoming feel to it. For a first visit, the place felt curiously familiar and welcoming. I was there around 11:00 am so it was still pretty quiet. There was only one customer at the counter who looked like a regular to me. I picked the table beside the glass wall at the left side of the cafe and enjoyed reading the menu. There were so many options including oil-free dishes and treats that I could not wait to try.
I initially wanted to try the Quinoa & Tofu BBQ (nut-free and gluten-free). The description on the menu listed turmeric quinoa, grilled tofu with BBQ sauce, spirulina gomashio, sprouts, and ranch dressing as ingredients. But I do not like BBQ sauce that much so I just ordered it for take-out for my dad. I ordered the Tofu Buddha Bowl (oil-free, nut-free, and gluten-free) instead made with grilled tofu with teriyaki sauce, greens, carrots, red cabbage, sprouts, corn, cucumber, and tomato. But when one of the servers asked me a few minutes later if it was okay for them to substitute the BBQ sauce with teriyaki sauce for the Quinoa & Tofu BBQ because the original sauce was not available, I decided to cancel my Buddha bowl and ordered the Quinoa & Tofu for myself as well. I have developed a fondness for turmeric in the past weeks so I was eager to try the turmeric quinoa.
But what excited me most about dining at The Vegan Dinosaur were the treats and desserts available. I have a sweet tooth. Giving up sugary, creamy, and dairy-laden sweets and treats is probably the hardest part of switching to a low-fat and plant-based diet for me. Snacks, desserts, and treats for the past weeks consisted mainly of fruits, Graham crackers, and Mentos candies. I was happy to see some oil-free and dairy-free options on the menu. I ordered the Cashew Caramel Bliss Balls (oil-free, gluten-free, and soy-free) made with ingredients that include cashews, dates, and desiccated coconut. But the server said it as not available so I ordered the Cacao Crunch Bliss Balls (also OF GF SF) made with cashews, dates, cacao powder, and cacao nibs. It was the first time that I had anything that has chocolate in it in a long while. And it was so delicious.
The Vegan Dinosaur has become one of my happy places where I can be sure to find all-vegan meals and treats that would satisfy me.
Location: Door A, Values School Building, Ruby Street, Marfori Heights, 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 last December 31. 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 arranged 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.
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 as a foodie haven and home to delicious Kapampangan 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.
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:
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 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
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
It has been over a year or more since I last had kinilaw. I usually eat the dish when we prepare one at home. I tend to avoid ordering it in restaurants. In my almost 20 years living in Manila, I do not recall having kinilaw there. I just waited for the holidays or Christmas breaks I spent here at home to enjoy it.
I finally had kinilaw again last night at a restaurant near us. I once wrote something about how there seems to be grilled restaurants everywhere here in Davao. And that you have not truly experienced the city if you have not dined in one of them. The fact that there is now a Penong’s branch within walking distance from our village goes to show that their business just keeps growing.
Penong’s is one of my favorite value-for-money restaurants in Davao. It has been a while since I visited the place. Some of the selections on the menu were new to me. I quickly ordered the kinilaw and tried some of the new dishes they have.
My sister also ordered the i4 (2 pcs pork belly strips with unlimited rice) which tasted a lot like bacon. We also ordered the ice cream shakes. My sister picked durian while I opted for ube. The durian shake was good although she said she will ask them not to add condensed milk the next time she orders it. As for my ube shake, I was perfectly happy with it.
It was a good dinner. I was happy with the ambiance and service. I am looking forward to dining there again.
Lunch with friends a couple of weeks back was at a new place (at least to me). One of the said friends who had been there several times before recommended it. It was near Abreeza Mall so she told us to meet her there so we could all go together to the restaurant.
Wynward Valley Organic Vegetables Garden is only a few meters away from the exit near Italianni’s and TGI Friday’s in Abreeza. A friend and I arrived decided to walk there instead of taking her car. We went ahead because our other friends said they will be coming late.
I like the place though it was a bit hot. But there were wall fans near each table. I did not like my food getting cooled by the fan’s breeze so I chose to sit away from it. But since it was a humid day, it got a bit uncomfortable at some point. Still, it was not that bad. I think the interior and overall set-up matched what the garden bistro is about so I had no complaints. I just wished that the hot food was served much warmer. I do not know why they were already a tad cold when they reached our table.
Two cities and not many photos to show for it. It was a hectic time in Belgium. All I could do was soak up every moment and try to remember what I have seen and experienced in Antwerp and Brussels. It was a lot like that trip to The Netherlands where not a single image on the old-school camera film survived the airport’s x-ray machine.
Davao City may be my hometown, but it is still mostly unexplored territory to me. I spent most of my childhood days in my grandparents’ home in Davao del Norte. I only stayed in our home in the city when I started high school. Then I left for college in Manila soon after I graduated. In the four years I was studying in Davao, it was basically home-school-home for me. I did not really like going out for as long as I can remember. So I do not know much about our city.
I have been rediscovering Davao since I came back from Manila in 2009. I am still far from learning as much as I should by this time. But it is fun for me to discover new things about it as they come. Just this Friday night, I had a chance to experience the nightlife at Roxas avenue. I am familiar with the place since it is along the area where the college campus of my high school alma mater is located. From what I understood before, the street comes to life at night. And I finally got the chance to see it for myself.
I was expecting a place bustling with activity given all the things I have heard about it. But nothing prepared me for the huge crowd and traffic. It was because of all the days my friends and I could meet there, it had to be on a Friday night during the week of Kadayawan Festival. It was also a holiday and the day before the Indak-Indak sa Kadalanan event. I imagine that most of the people I saw there were local tourists from different parts of the country. My friend told me that he had a hard time booking an accommodation since all the hotels and inns were fully booked.
The whole stretch of Roxas street was teeming with people and vehicles. Traffic was crawling. It took me some time to reach our meeting place. It was a lot like being in Myeong-dong sans all the awesome shops that draw people there. But what gave me the same vibe were the makeshift stalls selling clothes, food, trinkets, and a wide array of souvenirs. There was also that sea of people walking along the street. It was fun and overwhelming at the same time.
One of my friends led us to Lyndon’s World’s Worst Ribs and Awful Chicken. It was one of the many commercial and food establishments there. We arrived during dinner rush so I was not expecting much from our dining experience. The three of us met while working for a chain of a well-known group of restaurants. So we understand how crazy it gets once the rush begins.
Surprisingly, everything went smoothly. The service may not be at par with the standards in the restaurant we worked for before. But it was not bad either. It was several notches better than some I have experienced in the many restaurants I have been to here in Davao. The names on the menu were a misnomer. There was nothing bad about the ribs which the three of us had. It was tasty and tender. The shrimps we ordered tasted fresh.
I now understand why some people say it is one of the local restaurants to visit when in Davao. I was happy with the food we had and it was worth what we paid for. It is one of the places in the city where you can find good food at great value for your money.