Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Seaside Tayo!

[Grilled Norwegian salmon steaks brushed with a little butter]

Avoiding meat because of the Lenten season (yeah, blame it on Lent, hehe), and because of my balikbayan aunt, the Lola Taba and Lolo Pato Seaside Palutuan has been a favorite haunt these last few weeks. Actually, it is the best alternative to the tired, usual eating places at the Mall of Asia. Nothing new there, if you ask me, not one exciting thing, even the Taste Asia, which is a palutuan wannabe but with sad and overpriced offerings. Maybe except for the Haagen Dazs Cafe.

The palutuan concept, or "seaside" as we call it, has been around for ages, and has been a hit, spawning branches in Cubao and Ortigas. The "originals" at Dampa in Paranaque and Baclaran are still around, and that's where I first discovered this eating adventure. In the office an entire unit, nay, an entire department, would troop to Dampa, a good one hour traffic-laden drive from Makati, for lunch during birthday celebrations. Or phone in our orders the day before in Baclaran to Aling Letty, who would do the marketing for us and prepare our feast on the appointed date, ready for pick-up.

But Paranaque is too far away, and Baclaran is still far, and we were not too happy then with the eating stalls and the lack of parking space (same with Dampa in the evenings).

[Salmon steak hunks and tuna bellies]

The seaside at Diosdado Macapagal Avenue at the reclamation area in Pasay City is nearer, the wet market cleaner, you are assured of parking space even on Friday nights, and our favorites from Dampa and Baclaran have set up shop there.

And it is on my way home, so I can drop by to buy premium seafood to cook home every night.

The offerings are fresh - of course, you have to know how to buy fresh seafood, for you have to buy your own then give them to the cook of the palutuan restaurant of your choice, with instructions on how to cook them. The restaurants have menus of their cooking methods and styles, with the corresponding cost depending on the weight of the seafood (usually by the 1/4-1/2kg, 3/4-1kg, minimum 1/4kg).

We buy at the wet market in the center of the complex, not by the alleyways between the cooking establishments. The seafood at the market is cheaper and there is more variety. But by the alleyways there are some stalls with tanks full of live seafood.

[Sinigang na salmon sa miso]

Our favorite at Dampa was Trinity's, and I've mentioned Aling Letty at Baclaran, but at Diosdado Macapagal we go to Aling Tonya's (with two branches - we prefer Branch 2). It seems a lot of people share our partiality to Aling Tonya's - there are those who rave about the main outlet in Baclaran, and during a late lunch on a Sunday, we had to wait for an hour for a table while all the other palutuan are empty. We were early one Friday night, but at 6PM it was already full-packed while the nearby establishments were still waiting for diners.

The service is fine, the presentation basic. Dishes with sauce are served in small kawalis (thick frying pans), soups in small kalderos, while dry dishes and rice are served on banana leaf-lined platters, making them aromatic.

The cooked food do not disappoint. Again, this is all highly dependent on the freshness of the seafood. At Diosdado Macapagal the sellers issue a guarantee - they will reimburse the cost and pay for the cooking charge if the seafood they sold you disappoint, in one way or another.

Of course the cooking techniques also play a major role. That's why we go to Aling Tonya's. We bought a kilo of salmon steaks (Php400/kilo) and had half of them grilled. Even though the surface looked a bit charred, it was not overdone and still succulent to the bite.

The other half we had in a sinigang sa miso - it was properly sour, and the cooking charge at P130 already included lots of fresh vegetables - mustasa (mustard leaves), okra, labanos (white radish), tomatoes.

[foreground, l-r: Tiger prawns, suahe; background, r-l: lumot, squid]

A kilo of suahe (Pacific or western white shrimps, Penaeus vannamei) was quoted at Php450, but with some haggling was given at Php420. They were not live as in swimming live (the live ones in tanks sell for about Php780), but still fresh (white, all appendages intact, the heads transluscent and colorless).

[Halabos na suahe]

The best way to eat fresh suahe is just halabos, or steamed, because they are the sweetest thing to come from the sea. Ours was so sweet I could swear they were cooked in sugar!

[Baked oysters with cheese and garlic]

These oysters were also sweet. The shells were opened just before baking them, having bought them in shells at the market for Php50 per kilo.

[Freshly shucked succulent oysters]

[Live crabs]

One main reason one goes to eat at seaside, at any seaside palutuan outlet in any branch around the metropolis, is the crabs. They are sold live, with the claws bound for easier handling. Female crabs are sold for a premium (about Php400) because of their hard, thick aligue (fat), but the male ones are fleshy, as well (Php250-300). All-claws sell for about Php700.

[Crabs in special sauce]

We love the special sauce (oyster sauce, leeks, onions, garlic, bell pepper, ginger, listed in no particular order) in these palutuans so we always order one kind of seafood cooked in special sauce. It is either crabs or steamed fish (pompano, talakitok, lapu-lapu, samaral).

With crabs it is so lip-smackin'ly satisfying and oh so finger-lickin' good!

Also great with sweet chili sauce.

[Live halaan spouting water at buyers]

Love these in soup with ginger, sliced onions and dahon ng sili (young leaves of finger chiles).

By the way, Aling Tonya's claims 100% MSG-free cooking.
Also delivers and caters.

Aling Tonyas's
  • Branch 2: 105 Seaside
    Macapagal Avenue, Pasay City
    Tel. No. 5561781
  • Branch 1, Tel. No. 5561782
  • Main Office: Seaside Mart
    Baclaran, Pasay City
    Tel. No. 8544564, 8523792
  • Dampa, Paranaque
    Tel. No. 8256951
  • Ortigas Town Center
    J. Vargas Avenue, Pasig City
    Tel. No. 9140269


Shalimar said...

kai you are making me drool and missing both phils and greece, wala dito yan.. nasa USA pala ako

Marianne said...


Love your blog, am adding you to my blogroll. OK, I wasn't sure where you expected contributors to post their pieces on "coconuts." I was going to post last night. Do we just post on our own blogs? Or is there a central place where people post? Sorry, I am a bit "technologically challenged" -- !

Marianne/ aka "Kanlaon"