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New Food Finds in Davao

By Gene Gonzalez



A few months back I featured Hungry Ape on Gov. Duterte Street, Davao City in the old quarter of Davao where the chef- owner Morris Uy had masterfully studied beef aging for three years with his homemade aging freezer. Because the restaurant has become a regular haunt of steak lovers, Morris has purchased a professional dry ager that gives him more leeway with consistency and savings.

Dry aged steaks are expensive due to the losses incurred in the process, which includes dehydration and trimming of inedible surfaces of the aged meat. Now his restaurant gives one a choice of aged rib eye, New York cut, tomahawk, and most recently butter-aged wagyu, which we were going to sample for dinner.

BEAUTIFULLY CRUSTED AND SEARED BUTTER AGED WAGYU 1 HUNGRY APEHungry Ape’s beautifully crusted and seared butter aged wagyu 

I called this dinner “a Man’s Dinner,” which I shared with two good eaters, Chef Paul Tee and car expert Mark Luy Tan. Unfortunately, Morris could not make it, due to some unforeseen emergency, but we were in good hands with his second in command Chef Judak, with whom I had worked for a long time in the past.

We started this “Man’s Dinner” with a no-holds-barred attitude… so a plate of beer eats arrived at our table consisting of French fries, Kropek, lumpiang shanghai, and, to our surprises, two bar chow items I would gladly go back for. This is Chef Moe’s version of dinamitas, where long green chili and cheese are wrapped in spring roll wrapper with a built-in salsa. Also, the finest homemade chicharon (I don’t like my cracklings airy and light) in Davao city, crisp, crunchy, and no puffing like the Visayan pinakapsan. Absolutely tasty with a crackle you can hear inside your head!


We requested for our steaks to be served one after the other at a time, so we could share each without one or the other meat cooling down on us and drying up. As we dug in and sliced the succulent meat, the juices oozed out. The meatiness lingered on our palates with a rich, buttery, and beefy goodness. For steak worshippers, this is a religion. It touched our souls.


BAKED MACARONI CAFE JILLIANCafe Jillian’s Baked Macaroni

Cafe Jillian on Sobrecarrey Street is a new dessert find introduced to me by the tireless Mindanao food blogger Dianne Sia-Luceñara. This pristine café is a great place to chill at and have a great coffee or tea concoction like white chocolate mocha, matcha frappe, or a cafe latte and some wonderful straightforward desserts. One can come after dinner and have a sweet nightcap after trying out Davao’s selection of newly opened restaurants. Jillian or Jill runs the place. She is very hands on while Helen, Jillian’s mom, churns out delicious and high quality desserts.

I had the chocolate truffle cake that I brought up to room temperature, enjoying the velvety goodness of the chocolate ganache. Her other chocolate cake is her moist chocolate cake, a deep fudge type of icing that can be enjoyed also at room temperature. The banana pudding made of world-class cavendish bananas and done fresh daily is a must try. It is absolute silk and richness on one’s palate. Helen whips up other goodies such as an old-fashioned durian pie, moist red velvet, and the featured cheesecakes. The home style baked macaroni is pure comfort and nostalgia for me.



Ice Tag, in front of North Zen Hotel on Sobrecarrey Street, is one of the very few places in Davao City that serves an authentic selection of Taiwanese fruit teas and milk teas. One of the better creations is the brown sugar bubble tea, which is as good as one can get in Taiwan as its milk comes from Bukidnon and the bobba has just the right type of chewiness.

On a second visit I did try the classic milk tea. I was fairly pleased with this version. The tea was fresh and again the bobbas were just right.

I had the Taiwan chicken, which was cooked just right, crispy on the outside, though I would have prefered a more intense spice powder.

I’ll try the dumplings and Taiwan sausage on my next visit. The staff is commendably accommodating and knowledgeable.


BURGER STEAK 2 KAYLE_T KUSINAKalye’t Kusina Burger Steak

At Kalye’t Kusina on J. Camus extension corner J. Abad Santos, the chef is car buff, racer, and restorer Stephen Pelayo, who has very supportive parents who send him spices and condiments from Australia. He personally brines his pork chops and pumps his chickens for that added flavor dimension.

His tagline, which boasts of “The Cheesiest Chicken in Davao City,” assures the client of his daily presence and his serving of hearty diner-type dishes. Three of my favorites that are also his bestsellers are his Korean mozzarella chicken or breaded and fried chicken tenders given a lacing of cheese sauce and mozzarella before he personally torches the topping on your table. If you like glazed chicken, then try his Malaysian honey chicken, where you get real honey glaze that is lipsmackingly tasty. Another item I feel should be a variant and maybe a regular listing on his menu should be a burger since his burger steak with gravy is mighty flavorful.

One menu item that I feel people should try is the Taiwan chicken made with authentic spices. I can safely call it the most authentictasting in Davao City.


ROSE TEA IN TRADITIONAL GLASSES 1Rose Tea in traditional glasses

We had a great lunch at Turkish Coffee Shop, a quaint little cafe on Aurora Quezon Street with wrought iron chairs and a lounge sofa. The menu offers a variety of dishes quite new in the Davao scene. The staff is helpful with their explanations so lunch got underway quick.

We started off with freshly baked breads such as the Karisik pita, a version of the Turkish pizza, which is boat-shaped for more crust and served with homemade yogurt and tomato peppers puree.

We also ordered the crisp thin Lamacun pita topped with herbs and freshly chopped vegetables. Both were topped with aromatic wood spices and had good flavor and texture.

Next came our hummus served with a pile of bubbly crisp pita chips for picking up the bean puree.

For our meat courses we tried the Adana kebab, which is very finely minced beef kebab, Tavuk Sis, which was pieces of grilled marinated chicken, and Iskender kebab, the king of Turkish kebabs, comprised of whole cubes of beef.

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Source: Manila Bulletin

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