Al Ain Palace Hotel, Corniche.
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I heard a lot of this place but haven't really been there til last week when a friend brought us in. For a restaurant in a hotel, the interior fell short, nonetheless, a home-y atmosphere is in the air(well must be because I know it s going to be Filipino food i'll be eating). Tight and close arrangement of wooden tables and chairs, wall papers resembling brick walls trick the eyes, mother of pearl lamps dimly lit the whole place give a cozy and warm feeling. Imagine Frodo Baggins went to Spain.
My friend told us to try the Pinakbet and Bagnet. Both dishes originated from the northern Philippines. Pinakbet(or Pakbet)is a vegetable dish of okra, squash, eggplant, bitter gourd sauteed in garlic, onions and seasoned with shrimp or fish paste. I loved it. It didn't taste as authentic but was adjusted to suit an international palate. Perfect with rice, wait, unlimited rice. :D
Now the Bagnet and this is where the real business begins. Bagnet is a method of preserving food in the region. The pork belly is cooked without salt in pork fat and water for 3 hours then deep fried in pork fat. Result? Meat was so tender, fat melts like butter, skin as crunchy as Lay's Potato chips. It being free of salt tastes bland so dipping it in its soy based sauce or a liver-based gravy add another dimension to its flavor. Dayummm! The serving was humungous it could feed 4-5.(we ordered the upsized version)
We had the Sago't Gulaman for drinks. It is a popular street drink with tapioca pearls and gelatin served cold. Don't know how to describe its taste but it was good and refreshing.
For unlimited rice, bagnet, 2 servings of pinakbet(did i mention it was topped with bagnet?)2 sago't gulaman and a 1.5 liter water, we ended up paying just 217 and still took home left overs.
On a tight budget with friends? Kuya Juan, like its name, is your Filipino big brother you can always count on.