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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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Saturday, July 30, 2016

entry arrow4:56 PM | Food Roundup Dumaguete 2016: Adamo

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 is finally a restaurant in Dumaguete that has become KRI’s equal, at least in its clearly-wrought striving for fantastic ambience and culinary invention, and it is Adamo. (The thing about Dumaguete food is that for the most part almost every restaurant offers mere variants of the same tired dishes, which may be due to the fact that the cycle of kitchen-staff piracy in the city has become a kind of tradition. Enter some of our name restaurants and you could taste, with every bite you take, the inevitable conclusion that a dish you’re eating has not been made by a culinary artist, but by some highly-effective craftsperson. Truly, if I have to see another lackluster chicken cordon bleu on the menu again, I’d…) It is then with such a relief that we welcome Chef Edison Monte de Ramos Manuel to the local food scene. He has transformed what used to be a carwash at the once sleepy corner of Tindalo and Molave Streets in Daro [such an unlikely venue!] into a restaurant whose aesthetic seems to suggest makeshift industrial space with hip minimalism — the grey concrete box of its interiors softened by carefully placed wooden finish here and there. The result is a shabby lived-in feel that works: it is an austerity that invites concentration on the food. And the food truly is a magnificent surprise. The efficient wait staff wasted no time in giving us the restaurant’s idea of breadsticks, a waferish thing that came complete with a tuna/sesame seed dip. And as we marvelled over the one-sheet menu, she informed us — with such a pleasant authority that’s usually absent in many local wait crew — that the chef plans to change the menu every two weeks or so, and that what we have was actually the dinner menu, and there was in fact a separate lunch menu. The prices, much to our pleased surprise, were not eye-gouging, and we were told that the market they’re targeting are students and young professionals, hence a relative affordability to their selections. There were enough of us in the table to enable us to go for a good sampling of the entire menu, and we were asked if we wanted to have our dishes brought to us by courses. (Another delight! Because when was the last time you were ever asked that question in a Dumaguete restaurant? Most have a tendency to give you your appetiser after the main course has been served, and most serve a large party in a piece-meal manner, so that no one ever truly eats together: one eats his dessert while another one is still waiting for his main course to arrive.) For our starters, we ordered the fish and pork (P125), which was basically smoked fish aioli with shredded adobo, cherry tomatoes, pickled onions, and arugula set on sliced French bread; the goat cheese and grilled apple salad (P150), with candied walnuts, salad greens, and caper raisin dressing; and the coconut and prawn pasta (P150) in crème de tête and with gremulata, which was superb. For the main course, we had the pork belly (P180), the tuna belly (P190), and the braised beef (P260) — the last one absolutely perfection, the fullness of the marrow an enticing buttery goodness that instantly reminded everyone that mealtimes with good friends are always a kind of celebration. Good food does that. The desserts — we had blueberries and cream, and a slice of fudge brownie — left a little to be desired, but it was overall a surprisingly elegant meal, and its preparation almost a performance. The kitchen is open, and it is separated from the main dining room only by a sheet of glass that also served as a board for instruction to the kitchen crew over the intricacies of the meals for the day: you could see the chef and his cooks slave over painstakingly over every dish they were concocting for all the diners. It was a fantastic meal, the best we’ve had in Dumaguete for the longest time. We asked what Adamo meant, and apparently it’s Italian for “to fall in love with, to conceive desire for, to desire eagerly.” An appropriate name. I can’t wait to go back. They serve lunch from 11:30 AM to 2:30 PM and close for the rest of the afternoon. They open for dinner at 5:30 PM and close at 9:30 PM. We ordered at 7:30 PM. Order received at 7:45 PM.


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