Last night our group celebrated our recent win in the Division’s annual pageant. My own staffer won the crown for the female category and we also bagged first runner-up for the male. A lot of the North people made the trip to the South office for the event and we relied on the South people to decide on the place. Since we had a lot of people and didn’t have that much to spend, they decided that we try the Seaside Dampa. We got confused. The nearest major body of water was the Laguna de Bay and that’s not even the sea. To make a long story short, we did go to the seaside dampa (just along daang hari, miles away from the sea). I have recently rediscovered archived photos in my phone about our team’s Christmas dinner in Market Basket Modern Dampa and since we’re on the subject of the dampa, allow me to share our Market Basket experience with you.
Most dampa restaurants (including the one we visited last night) looks dreary. They focus more on the experience of letting you choose your ingredients, fresh from the market nearby, and then offering to cook them immediately in ways that you can choose yourself as well. Attention to the restaurant interior comes secondary (if any at all). Market Basket has put a lot of thought on the look and feel of the restaurant which makes it different from most other dampa restaurants.
There’s the casual dining area downstairs, the al fresco area that’s ride beside the man-made river of the festival mall river park, and the upstairs area that’s perfect for functions. Warm lighting, pastel colors, little notes on the stairs and chairs, it’s such a cute place that has this little area where fish and other seafood are kept. This area is not pretty. The fish is displayed on a cooler that has a large clear plastic sheet as a cover. There’s a price for wanting fresh seafood ingredients, you get to smell the fresh seafood smell as well. Being that this was already 7 in the evening, it was not a good smell at all.
But seriously, barring the not so attractive stand of “fresh ingredients”, the place is quite beautiful with an excellent location. The lyrics of “What a Wonderful World” on the staircase is a nice touch. The little lamps adorning the tables are adorable and I wanted to take one home.
They put together several tables into a long line and the team settled down for dinner and to hand out our secret santa gifts. This was one of those rare moments during 2015 where the team from both sites are able to be together in just one place.
Enough about the place and the team! This is FoodMetroManila and we need to get to the discussion of the food. They have an ala-carte menu and we ordered some off that, but we also made sure to pick some dishes from the paluto menu. The prices from this menu are based mostly on the weight of the ingredients you pick. It’s actually a tough decision to make for a big group.
If you think this little plate will not be enough for about 15 people, you are correct. I was not able to try this but the ones that did get to try it attest that this was amazing. How can you go wrong with butter and shrimp?
Not enough for 15 people? I know. It wasn’t. This is another dish I did not get to try and again one they liked. My issue is that the batter looks soggy and that the shrimps were not coated properly.
Inihaw na Pusit
Separating the tentacles from the body was a nice touch. However, the squid itself was rubbery and still had that fishy aftertaste.
Warning: This will cause your mouth, teeth, and tongue to turn black. Stewing the squid in its own ink with coconut cream is something of a delicacy here in the Philippines. Market Basket was able to do this classic dish justice. The squid on this one (a different variety from the inihaw na pusit) was tender and overall the dish was very tasty.
We need to have our veg and we went with another classic in the chopsuey. The veg in the dish were crisp and tasted slightly sweet that goes well with the savory sauce. The addition of liver may not be received well by some but this adds another layer of flavor in any chopsuey dish that amplifies everything else.
Inihaw na Liempo
The meat was frozen, the waiter pulled it out of the freezer when we were picking out ingredients. Nevertheless, they were able to keep it tender during the cooking process. The pork was grilled perfectly and seasoned well. It is quite thin, however, and have a lot of fat on them.
Chicken in Oriental Sauce
The chicken was a tad dry and the skin not that crisp. The Oriental sauce I can’t quite figure out. The waiter described it as spicy but I didn’t get that. A little confusing and not executed that well.
Their sisig is interesting. It’s not the normal one full of little pieces of fat. It’s meaty and it looks like shredded pork. Where most will plop a fresh egg on top, this does not come with it. It’s not as crispy as the others though, but I can live with that.
It’s interesting to have a quaint restaurant offer the chance for diners to pick their ingredients “fresh” and have their way on how they want it to be cooked. I just wish they can hide that ugly cooler full of fishy smelling ingredients away from the diners better.
The food, overall, was great. The team had a good time right before Christmas. The Cubao team had a horrendous trip out of the South but at least we don’t need to endure that everyday. The place is perfect for group activities or just a simple get-together with friends be it a small circle.
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