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This is the blog of Ian Rosales Casocot. Filipino writer. Sometime academic. Former backpacker. Twink bait. Hamster lover.

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Sunday, April 17, 2016

entry arrow7:40 PM | Food Roundup Dumaguete 2016: 2 Story Kitchen

I am an accidental foodie: I used to write a food column for a local paper and have written extensively about the Dumaguete food scene for national magazines and newspapers -- until I decided to discontinue the enterprise about four years ago. Still, people I know who visit Dumaguete keep asking me about the best places to go to eat, and I've found I no longer quite know the scene. A lot can change in half a decade. So I've decided to try a new approach this year and go about sampling the local food culture once more and document everything online in the course of twelve months. The city has grown and expanded enough in the years since 2011, and a significant part of what's happening food-wise has become unfamiliar to me. Consider this a personal adventure.

If you’ve been around Dumaguete long enough and are privy to some of the twists and turns of its culinary culture, you’d know that 2 Story Kitchen — that delightful Korean restaurant near the corner of San Jose St. and Avenida Sta. Catalina — is more or less the amalgam of two restaurants that came before it. First, there was Noriter, a playground of Korean whimsy that charmed much of Dumaguete through most of the 2000s and threatened to bedevil our calorie counting with its mishmash of uncanny desserts, including an evil concoction they called Honey Bread. Second, there was Boston Cafe (itself becoming Jutz Cafe before eventually closing down), which sampled a startling menu of old Filipino fusion favorites done in a style its former chef called “masabor.” Both were gustatory landmarks a stone’s throw away from each other along Sta. Catalina, and both are gone of course — but by interesting twists of fate, fortune, and friendship, the signature dishes of these two restaurants have been mixed up in a delightful way in 2 Story. I cannot complain. I like knowing that some of the dishes I loved from Noriter and Boston Cafe are still around, providing creature comfort. I have a story for example of beginning and ending one year of being vegetarian with Boston’s herbed pork chop, a lovely piece of meat heaven that’s drenched in an alchemy of herbs and spices — and it’s still around, in basically the same form, tantalising still. Most people go to 2 Story Kitchen these days not for the food nostalgia but because they enjoy the “adventure” of squatting around the low platforms doubling as tables in the second storey, ensconced in cubicles stacked upon each other that reminds the casual customer of childhood slumber parties. I prefer the no-nonsense tables of the first floor, where the counter is also located and I can order to my leisure without having to buzz for waitresses to take my order. Truth to tell, it took me a while to warm up to 2 Story. In the very beginning of its existence, the staff annoyed me with their bewildering uncouthness totally opposite the perceived brightness of the place. I came around three years later, happier with a more well-trained staff, and a menu that has things just right for whatever budget you might have — from the pricier pan steak menu, which includes the grilled chicken pan steak (P280), the shrimp burger (P190), the tuna bimbap (P159), the teriyaki chicken steak (P270), the grilled chicken pan steak (P280), the kimchi pilaf (P250), and the shrimp-bacon pilaf (P260), to the more affordable regular entrées like the chicken milanese (P155), the chicken cordon bleu (P185), and the herbed pork chop (P175). The Korean menu ironically almost feels like an add-on, offering just the basic jin noodle soup to the bulgogi, from the deokboki to the bibimbap. (They also have burgers.) But I go home to one dish every single time: the garlic fish filet (P195), a chunk of tuna that’s seasoned in garlic, and comes with tomato, lettuce, cucumber, and olive. It does not always come out of the kitchen perfect, but in its best incarnations, it is a guilt-free wonder that’s addictive. Ordered at 6:00 PM. Order received at 6:15 PM.


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