Saturday, May 18, 2013

Paluto 101 at Shylin

Oyster Tempura
As I've said, I planned to celebrate my birthday twice this year. My second birthday dinner was held at my favorite palutuan restaurant in Seaside, Macapagal Boulevard, called Shylin. I have been coming here for years ever since a former boss introduced me to the joy of dining in paluto (palutuan) restaurants in dampa. Dampa literally means a shed or a shack, which normally characterizes the seafood wet markets in the country. But when you talk of dampa in the context of paluto, it is what you call the entire complex where there is a seafood wet market surrounded by many restaurants called paluto restaurants. Paluto in Filipino means "to have someone cook something for you." And these are what paluto restaurants actually are. They are those annexed to a seafood wet market where diners can bring their own fresh seafood for cooking. There are many of these paluto restaurants to choose from and every diner has or develops a favorite, a suki, where they would return to each time. 

There are times when I would stray and try other paluto restaurant in whatever dampa I end up in, but none have bested Shylin in my book. They make the best calamares here and the most amazing buttered shrimps.

My mother, who by the way is the best palengke (wet market) shopper in the world, was the one who made the rounds of the dampa market right outside the restaurant. Borne of over 4 decades of plying our neighborhood wet market every single day, my mother is a pro at haggling with market vendors and can weed out the fresh stuff from the bad in seconds. Without her, I normally do not bother with buying stuff from the market and just order right off the menu.

The Wet Market. My mother got us half a kilo of shrimps (Php380 per kilo), a little over half a kilo of tuna belly (Php300 per kilo), a kilo of squid (Php180 per kilo), a tub of shucked oysters approximately half a kilo's worth (Php150 per tub), and the token non-seafood entree, half a kilo of pork belly already marinated and ready for grilling (Php180 per kilo). Her wet market purchases cost about Php800.

Weighing. Beside the door of the restaurant is a table where the staff receives what you bought from the market. This is where they weigh the goods and list down how you want them cooked, based on their menu. The menu is simply a list of the restaurant's cooking charges. Prices depend on whether the amount of the main ingredient weighs 1/2 kilo or 1 kilo. Below half a kilo up to a little over 1/2 kilo, provided it does not breach the 3/4 kilo line, will be charged under the 1/2 kilo cooking charge bracket. 3/4 kilo worth of seafood will be subject to the 1 kilo cooking charge.

Cooking charge. If buying seafood from the market or haggling is not your thing, you can order straight from the menu and have the palutuan take care of the market shopping. The cost of the seafood bought from the market will simply be added to your bill. Be mindful of the fact that the prices listed in the menu are mere cooking charges. Some diners not used to the palutuan system often lose sight of the fact that the prices on palutuan menus are just cooking charges and get surprised about the bill after their meal. So it helps that you have an idea of how much the seafood cost in mapping out your orders, because this is an important factor in your total food bill.

Oyster Omelet
Ordering. Our main meals, based on what we bought from the market included shrimp tempura, grilled tuna belly, calamares, grilled pork belly (liempo), and oyster omelette. How much to order normally depends on how many you are in a group (it is quite unwise to eat in a palutuan restaurant all by yourself) and how big the appetite of each person in your group is. In my experience, half a kilo of seafood per person is a good guideline. I would order less if my companions say that they are not too hungry and more if they are. But nobody really goes to palutuan restaurants when they are full or on a diet.

In our case, with 3 kilos of wet market purchases and about an additional half a kilo of oysters from the menu, we ordered too much for a group of 5. The left overs, we took home for an extended seafood feast.

Shrimp Tempura
Experiment. Although not in the menu, I have managed to convince Shylin's chef to make some oyster tempura for us. In Shylin's menu, tempura is only reserved for shrimps but I figured, since the chef already has tempura batter going on there, why not toss in a few shucked oysters? I have tried doing this with other palutuan restaurants but they are a quite set on what are on offer in their menu. Still, it doesn't hurt to ask the chef to experiment a bit, especially when you have special needs in your diet.

Grilled Tuna Belly
Add ons. You can order steamed rice from the restaurant. As we normally come here in a group of at least four people, we always order a bowl of rice (Php120) to go with out seafood feast. There are some vegetables and salads, too which you can order on the side. We like the ensaladang talong. They do it so well here. For drinks, we always get a 1.5 liter bottle of Mountain Dew (Php100) which for the price comes with glasses and a bucket of ice.

Grilled Liempo
Our bill amounted to Php1,400. This covers the cooking charge for about 3 kilos worth of seafood and pork and includes a bowl of rice, a bottle of mountain dew, an off the menu order of half a kilo of oyster tempura and ensaladang talong.

And lest I forget, we got a hundred peso token discount from our bill. Not bad all in all considering seafood fetches a premium price in other restaurants, which by the way sometimes are not even fresh, and as I've said, we brought home quite a lot of left-overs.

Shylin is located in Seaside dampa, Macapagal Boulevard, Pasay City.

Friday, May 3, 2013

A Birthday Lunch at Toll House

Seafood Thai Rice
A week ago, it was my turn to celebrate my birthday. I called up some friends and we hied off to Subic to have dinner and some drinks at Camayan Beach. But before Subic, we stopped over at Angeles City to pick up my birthday cakes. Yes, plural, because I planned to have two birthday dinners. One with friends, another with family. And, no, they're not really cakes. They were pies.

Apple Pie
I have been having this fixation for apple pies lately and I have been hearing many good things about an anonymous apple pie from Angeles City, for four years now. The trouble was, all that the proponent of those claims had to go on was a memory of it and it was not until last month did he finally remember/find out what the name of the restaurant that sold it was. It was Toll House. And on April 27 this year, not only did I get my wonderful albeit infamous apple pie, I got to meet Josie, the equally wonderful lady who makes them.

We reached Toll House late lunch time so we were quite hungry by the time we got there. It is actually hard to miss, with its picket fence-white facade and pastel colored 3D sign perched right on the edge of the buildings twin roofs. The interiors reflected the same homey vibe, offering diners comfortable nooks with couches right beside faux windows. Shelves are adorned with pottery and whatnots reminiscent of western country homes and the walls with posters of food and other images that remind you of home.

Pork Ribs
Roast Beef
Tropical Chicken
As soon as we were done drinking up the surroundings, we ordered Combination BBQ, Roast Beef, Pork Ribs, and Thai Fried Rice. And our gracious hosts, Josie and her husband, Rene, (Thank you, Josie and Rene!) added some more items from the menu for us to try-- the Chili Peppers & Cheese Sticks and Tropical Chicken.

Combination BBQ
There was a long discussion on how  getting a not too spicy siling pansigang, the chili used in the Chili Peppers & Cheese Sticks, is a hit or miss proposition, because in a bunch, there are some that will be easy on the palate while some will burn the bejeezus out of your tongue the minute you bite into it. True enough, there are some treacherous chili peppers in our bunch. The solution? Down a spoonful of the Tropical Chicken. The creamy mashed potatoes topping smothers the heat right off the tongue.

Chili Peppers & Cheese Sticks
It was a very good meal and the most memorable of them, which I found delightfully surprising, was the Seafood Thai Rice. Despite the fact that I have already finished the plain rice that came with my roast beef, I ate a big portion of the Seafood Thai Rice, especially when Rene suggested having it with a seasoning made of fish sauce, calamansi, and chili. I thought the taste of the seafood from the rice with the added fish sauce would be overwhelming but they complemented well, and the calamansi helped cut through and temper the stronger flavors. So so good.

After our lunch, we meandered over to the cake display and ogled at the variety of sweets chilling out in there. It was a battle of wits not to order any dessert because I did have a "birthday pie" waiting to be enjoyed later when we join the rest of our party at the beach. What really amazed me was how affordable the cakes at Toll House are. The chocolate mousse, sansrival, and apple pie for instance only costs Php350 each and the blueberry cheesecake only ten bucks more. No wonder Toll House has become an institution in Angeles City. Food here is not only yummy, they are easy on the budget, too. And I can have a birthday cake (or pie) here every week! Yay!

Toll House is located at Sto. Rosario Street, Angeles City.
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