The Best Food Dumaguete City Has to Offer
August 29, 2018
by Robertson Caderao
Take a leisurely stroll down the Boulevard on any given afternoon, feel the soft sea breeze, and you will realise what it is that makes Dumaguete, a seaside city on the south of Negros Island, Philippines, a place where visitors can’t seem to leave.
Known as a home to universities, a jump-off point for surrounding dive sites, and a popular destination for retirees from all over the world, Dumaguete is a relatively small city with a population that increases drastically during the daytime. However, it offers more than just these three things. In fact, the longer you stay, the more aware and appreciative you become of what exactly it has to offer – and this is what it is like with the food.
Due to the relatively small size of the city and the number of dining options available, I am able to have the following dishes regularly. If, like me, you eat out for every meal, you will definitely benefit from this list which I’ve compiled over the two years I have been living here. This has allowed me to really determine what has been able to consistently keep my palate happy.
The following are my personal recommendations for the best food in the city:
Royal Suite Inn – Sizzling Bulalo
Words cannot describe the impeccable taste of Royal Suite’s house speciality: tender beef shank generously steeped in gravy, mixed with bone marrow and served on a sizzling plate. This absolutely deserves to be considered among the best food in the city. Its generous serving (serves 3-4 persons!) of meat falls off the bone with ease, and when paired with rice or vegetables, it will have you feeling more than satisfied in no time.
The rich sauce has a creamy, buttery texture that demands your full appreciation with every mouthful. You may find yourself feeling a little guilty after eating, but don’t let that put you off of trying the Chocolate Dome cake for dessert, which is equally as rich and satisfying as the bulalo!
Kri – Dabest! Dabest! Tuna Wrapped With Nori
The name of the dish itself had me itching to find out if it could live up to its self-proclamation. Kri has always been among my favourite restaurants in the city, thanks mainly to its excellent customer service as well as the quality and variety of its food.
Dabest! Dabest! Tuna Wrapped With Nori is made of tuna fillet stuffed and wrapped with nori. It is covered in tempura batter and then deep-fried, giving it an extra crispiness and interesting structure to look at and bite into. Pairing it with a wasabi aioli made this dish come alive. It really showcases the chef’s creativity in a city not particularly known for diverging from standard culinary practices.
Adamo – Braised Beef Shank
Amazingly, another beef-based meal has made my list; this is quite an achievement in a country not very well known for the quality of its beef. The braised beef does not disappoint with tender meat, a buttery flavour and delicious marrow, all presented with exceptional attention to detail.
Adamo has relatively fewer options in their menu, but this is not a negative— in fact, this allows for more focus in providing quality meals as well as exceptional and creative dishes. This is something I feel restaurants and chefs here need to be encouraged to do.
Nena’s Rose Inasal – Pecho-Pak
Inasal, a grilled chicken dish commonly found in the Visayas region and a speciality of Bacolod City, divides opinion because of the variety of tastes there are for a relatively simple dish. The largest inasal chain in the Philippines is Mang Inasal, but in my opinion, the Pecho-pak at Nena’s Rose knocks it out of the park.
With just the right amount of oil and a flavoursome marinade, this delicious breast-wing combination is tender and mouth-watering, thanks to the chicken itself. Unlike other restaurants, it doesn’t rely on heaps of chicken oil added afterwards to compensate for overcooked chicken.
Remember to eat this with their garlic rice: where the two simple ingredients have been mixed together, allowing the flavour to attach to every grain. This is in contrast with much of the garlic rice I have eaten in the Philippines that are nothing more than just a few crumbs of fried garlic on top of plain white rice.
Jamrock – Jerk Chicken
Caribbean food is not the easiest to come by in the Philippines, let alone in Dumaguete. Luckily enough, the city is blessed with an authentic Jamaican restaurant (owned and run by a Jamaican) with the closest taste and quality to what I have tasted in London Caribbean restaurants. Not only is the chicken and rice top-notch, but the accompanying vegetable soup and cornbread appetizer also takes it to another level. Just be careful not to over-indulge in these or you will find yourself full before your main course has even arrived!
Chia Eatery – Quinoa Tortilla Bowl
Finding restaurants focused on healthy food are still quite hard to come by in the Philippines, and this was especially true in Dumaguete until Chia Eatery opened in 2018. This restaurant offers healthy dishes (you won’t find any meat here!) made fresh with mainly locally sourced ingredients.
The quinoa tortilla bowl is comprised of a crispy tortilla toasted into the shape of a bowl, and filled with perfectly cooked quinoa and kidney beans. You would be wrong not to include some of the variety of add-ons available too.
Eating healthy doesn’t have to be bland or expensive, and Chia Eatery’s menu is a testament to that.
Dumaguete Public Market – Budbud Tsokolate
Budbud (gelatinous rice) and tsokolate (a Filipino-style hot chocolate drink) is a breakfast essential, best enjoyed with some local peanut butter to give you the sweet awakening that Filipinos love.
Experience your first meal of the day like a local: head downtown to the public market at around 5 to 6 a.m. (the earlier you arrive, the fresher the food!) and you won’t find a shortage of market vendors calling out to you to try their specialties. If you are looking for a cheap, simple, and satisfying breakfast in a very unpretentious location, this is a great option.
The best way to experience a city is through its food, so in this way, Dumaguete City will definitely be an experience to remember.