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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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Monday, April 11, 2016

entry arrow10:00 AM | Food Roundup Dumaguete 2016: Y'a d'la Joie

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.

There has been of late, an explosion (of sorts) of fusion cuisine in Dumaguete -- although one is very much tempted to roll one's eyes over the word "fusion." (It's a culinary buzzword that deserves death.) In Dumaguete, it feels more like a "tandem": two national cuisines, not quite mixing, but sitting pretty side-by-side each other in another one of those bistros being set up by the city's growing number of expatriates. There's 2 Story (Korean + Filipino), of course -- the oldest among them, and still the prettiest. Then there's La Fusion (Italian + Indonesian), and Rollin' Pin (French + everything else), among others in a growing list. The latest is Y'a d'la Joie -- quite a mouthful for a name -- and it promises to be a restaurant with a rotating menu of French and Italian dishes. (As such, they don't have a menu -- only a blackboard near the entrance that details the specials of the day. "We change it every week, depending on what's available in the market, on what's fresh," we are quickly told as we scanned the letters inscribed in chalk.) Truth to tell, we didn't know what to expect: the restaurant, situated along E.J. Blanco Drive right across the Hall of Justice, is one of those old split-level Dumaguete residences that has been converted into eating places with workable DIY charm. There are checkered tables on the lawn, and a platform has been raised to accommodate a lanai that invites a more casual gathering around uncomfortable-looking divans. (We chose the divans.) Above the grass, upturned colored umbrellas give the place a touch of whimsy -- and truth to tell, these umbrellas were what lured us to try the place. They looked definitely Instagrammable. The hostess prodded us to try the tenderloin steak -- but we opted for the pan-seared marlin, and an item they called "pasta of the chef." The dinner came reasonably quick, and the marlin steak, which came with blue cheese sauce, proved exceedingly well-made, although our expectations were low. The pasta turned out to be rotini drenched with assorted bits of seafood that made my mouth water — another surprise. Overall, it was a satisfying experience, even with the pricey tags and the unpronounceable restaurant name. The place, above all else, seemed designed to fairly accommodate even the solitary wanderer looking to curl up with a book or a laptop (the wifi is fast). Burger's on the menu, and I'd like to try that next. The marlin steak is P285. The pasta of the chef is P250. Placed our order at 7:00 PM. Order received at 7:15 PM.


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