Friday, April 17, 2009

Big Fish in a Small Pond

Vacations in Quezon province has always been some sort of food fest. Passing through the towns on our way to and coming from Mauban entailed countless pitstops picking-up local delicacies and pasalubong. What would be meals at our lola’s house without crisp-fried longganisang Lucban and tortilyang Macao? At the beach house in Cagbalete Island, no afternoon is complete without steaming-hot pancit habhab and my dad’s favorite fried saba. To bring home, nothing satisfies more than a can of broas (lady fingers) from the old Pavinos store in Lucban, a regular request from a dear uncle where it always has a special spot beside his Planter’s peanuts and Poppycock caramel popcorn.

With Quezon quickly becoming a food destination, restaurants offering local dishes are popping-up all over the province. Although there have always been those quaint hole-in-the-walls serving grilled fish and jardinera or the ubiquitous habhab panciterias, recent years have seen the emergence of the ihaw-ihaw (grill) destination restaurants.

Banking on fresh ingredients and serene backdrops, Kamayan sa Palaisdaan is the Parthenon of these native restaurants and grills in Quezon province. Covering close to a hectare of land in the outskirts of Tayabas township, Palaisdaan (as we commonly call it) is best known for its fresh Tilapia raised in the sprawling pond within the restaurant’s property. Floating atop this pond are bamboo huts with tables that seat ten to twelve adults comfortably. Larger groups can be accommodated in their main hall or in various “tree houses” or pavilions spread out all over the restaurant. This establishment has already grown to include a bar, a hotel and a mini-zoo of sorts.

Having made several visits to Palaisdaan over the years (even to its earlier incarnation across the road), my family already has our favorite dishes that we cannot help but order again and again. To start, a pleasant discovery was the sisig, which is mixed tableside on a sizzling plate. The smell is truly captivating, with the pungent aromas of onion, soy sauce, butter and seared pork flesh filling the air. The chopped pieces of pork face are both crispy and gelatinous, with a generous addition of what seems to be shredded pieces of pork meat.

Of course, no meal is complete here without Tilapia. Although grilled fish is always good, we have always favored ours deep-fried. With a dipping sauce of vinegar, soy sauce and red chili, the fried tilapia in Palaisdaan is crisp on the outside while hot and flaky on the inside.

Another favorite is the Grilled Porkchop. Grilled to moist and meaty perfection, dipped in the same sauce as the tilapia, it is pure heaven with steaming white rice.

For the kids and anti-pork Matt, we always order the fried chicken. The pieces of chicken are dipped in batter and deep-fried. It’s actually quite good.

To accompany these dishes, we always order the Ensaladang Mangga and Laing (gabi leaves cooked in coconut milk). There was a time when the laing was very limited and we would always try to come early so we could order it. But now it seems they have a steady supply.

Now, let us talk about service. Let me begin by saying that on normal days the service is quite good. The nature of grilling food makes preparation time a bit longer than usual, so a thirty minute wait has come to be expected. During long weekends and holidays, though, it’s a completely different story. When they are at their maximum capacity, waiting time for your food could reach up to one hour and a half. Their waiters, which are normally pleasant and accommodating, become cranky and unfriendly. If you cannot enjoy your meals under these circumstances, I suggest you avoid coming here during these times.

The food in Palaisdaan is not only outstanding but is great value for money. No wonder people drive in from the city or make an inconvenient detour just to dip their fingers into their succulent tilapias and grilled meats. Despite the problem of being understaffed during peaks season, some still choose to endure their hunger pangs while they wait for their food to arrive. I, on the other hand, will probably schedule my next visit when everyone else is back slaving away on their office desks, far away from my favorite fish pond.

Kamayan sa Palaisdaan
Barangay Dapdap
Tayabas, Quezon
Tel no. +639282845369


Frances said...

Did you bring us here? Parang meron akong vague memory of eating here...15 years ago!

Chinkee said...

Hey Frances! I think so... with Yoro and Donny pa. But that might have been at the old one which was a few meters down the road.:-)