The great thing about doing the reverse commute from El Nido to Puerto Princesa, other than avoiding a repeat of that god-awful van ride? Everyone else had already been to Puerto, so we reaped the benefits of their experience: Within minutes of meeting new people, we were scribbling down restaurant recommendations for the next leg of our trip. Forthwith, five dishes we enjoyed in Palawan’s capital.
When our new British friends mentioned the set menu at the self-described “most famous restaurant in Palawan,” we called to make a reservation that same afternoon; less than a week later, we were in situ.
The courses rolled out so quickly it was tough to keep up: Clam soup, fish roll with coconut cream, grilled head-on prawns, deep-fried eggplant spears with a ratatouille-esque sauce, grilled tuna steak with rice, and fruit salad for dessert. My favorite, though, was this lato salad. A variety of seaweed native to the Philippines, these little guys are like the vegetarian version of salmon roe: each little ball offered a pop of briny flavor. I couldn’t stop marveling at how cool this dish was. Or eating it, for that matter.
2. KaLui. Again.
Since the prix fixe menu only fed two people, we augmented that with a few a la carte picks; the best was this seafood sisig. Miles above the traditional preparation, in which bits of hog cheek, nose, ears, and sometimes brains are topped with a raw egg and served in a piping-hot cast-iron dish (the egg cooks when you stir the whole thing), this interpretation was chock-full of shellfish. Crunchy cartilage versus seafood-stuffed sausage? Hmm. Tough call.
3. Ima’s Vegetarian Restaurant.
Beth dealt admirably well with our food-oriented traveling style, so when she discovered a listing for this vegetarian spot in her guidebook, we couldn’t in good conscience deny her a visit. She was positively giddy at the extensive menu, especially the “Mexican treat” section—after months of Filipino food, guacamole and an enchilada really hit the spot. I ordered the Thai tofu salad, which was fine, but helped myself to plenty of Jill’s Chinese leaves with ginger and mushrooms, which was much better.
4. Kamarikutan Kafé and Galeri.
We stopped here for a quick lunch before I was due at the airport for the first leg of my journey home and, once again, were treated to something completely unique. This may look like your average fried fish, but oh, no: Beneath that battered exterior lay smoked fish. Dipped in the accompanying mustard sauce, it was revelatory and—it should go without saying—unbelievably good.
5. Jill’s Pick.
Jill and Beth had an extra day in Puerto, and, somehow, they managed to eat without me. I was particularly jealous of this meal; I’ll let her tell you about it in her own words: “I learned the hard way that when you order pig’s face in the Philippines, you actually get a pig’s face. This is extraordinarily cumbersome when your dining partner is a vegetarian. Verdict? Delicious, but it’s the equivalent of a party sub.”
And that, folks, should finally wrap up our coverage of the Philippines trip—only a year later, too. Where should we go next? Hit us with any and all suggestions in the comments, and we’ll take ’em under advisement.