The best part of any vacation is often discovering a new restaurant that surprises you with really amazing food. These days though, you’d have to travel miles up North for delectable finds.
On family trips to Baguio, the one place worth setting a dinner date for is Vallejo Hotel’s Hill Station. This fine dining resto is also the pre-war hotel’s own café. Hill Station has been reviewed by many food enthusiasts for its impressive attempt to use the best of Baguio’s produce in fusing Mediterranean and Spanish dishes. Their tapas, paella and steaks and are also best savored over white sangria.
But even after a full meal, Hill Station has fine, mouthwatering desserts, such as the chocolate croissant bread pudding and caramel flan. Their trademark homemade ice cream, particularly the dark chocolate with cayenne, is a must-try too. Hill Station even serves their best ice cream flavors on an artist’s palette adding a bit of flair.
As the restaurant tends to get full on holiday weekends, it is suggested that guests make prior reservations. Be ready though to splurge a bit as the menu prices are on the steep end.
Recently, however, we’ve discovered a Spanish-Cuban restaurant, aptly named D’Tapas beside Clark Field on Fields Avenue in Angeles, Pampanga. For those who aren’t so familiar with Clark’s history, Fields Avenue, was popularly known as the city’s red light district, but is now lined with cafes of all sorts.
D’Tapas, tucked in the corner of a nondescript building, is ran by Bob Wagner and executive chef Pedro Carbajal. As our party made its way through the restaurant’s doors, the children hesitated for a bit as they thought the place was a bar with its wine displays and dim lights.
“Are you sure we can go in?” the teens asked. It was then that Bob welcomed the youngsters with a warm smile and reassuringly spoke, “Come in, we’re expecting all of you.” The one reason we had booked at D’Tapas was really for their cochinillo (roasted pig stuffed with Spanish rice). Unfortunately, we didn’t get to order the cochinillo a couple of days ahead and will need to plan another trip to taste it.
As soon as we were seated and had our sangrias served, Pedro approached our table and pointed out the best from the Tapas Calientes menu. As we had only pre-ordered the Marinera Paella and the Paella Negra, we were all intent on adding tapas to our dinner list. Hence, as Pedro suggested, we picked out Gambas Al Ajillo, Croquetas De Jamon, Bombas Vacas (beef croquettes with red spicy sauce and sour cream), Salpicao, Albondigas En Salsa De Azafran (meatballs served with saffron sauce), Calamares Frito, and Brandada De Bacalao (Cod fish Brandade with egg yolk Timbale). And by gosh, how we simply savored every bite! The bacalao though was an appetizer we thoroughly relished as you have to spread the cod fish blended in egg yolk generously over hard crust bread and then top this off with cilantro oil. Absolutely lovely! For pizza lovers, D’Tapas offers sumptuous panizzas too.
Pedro revealed that his cuisine is really traditional home cooking, and relies heavily on his grandmother’s own cooking methods and fresh ingredients. With flavors not overpowering to the palate, the dishes served with an impressive flair, and the prices absolutely reasonable, D’Tapas is absolutely worth a trip to Clark. Our evening at D’Tapas has turned out to be one of the most delectable and authentic Spanish dinners we have had for quite some time. After all, it’s the next closest thing we can get to dining in Madrid.
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