From El Nido, let’s travel to Pampanga where my friends and I had a leisurely three hour lunch at Bale Dutung.
Bale Dutung (Old House) is the private residence of popular chef/writer/artist Claude Tayag and his wife Mary Ann. On weekends, they open their doors to the public who are eager to sample the best of Filipino and Kapampangan cuisine.
The open area of Bale Dutung highlights the charm of provincial living. Life is more laidback in the province and the calming and peaceful scenery certainly encouraged guests to leave all worries behind while partaking in the Bale Dutung experience.
|A Perfect Place for A Massage|
|The Charm of Provincial Living|
|Awards and Articles|
There are three menu options (Kapampangan, 5 Ways Lechon, and Anthony Bourdain) at Bale Dutung and we, of course, couldn’t resist the sinful lechon spread.
Ideally, lunch starts at 12 noon but Mary Ann was gracious enough to wait for latecomers. The meal was conducted at the couple's shed so wearing light, comfortable clothing is advised.
|Everyone Settling In|
Lunch started with Mary Ann asking everyone to gather at the center table where fresh dalandan juice with muscovado was served. She then explained that Bale Dutung, more than a buffet experience, is actually a degustation in 10 parts. 10 being an overwhelming number, she promised to pace everyone so that we will be able to try all the courses. She also requested guests to first try the food served as it is, without any condiments, because it is how the chef wanted us to taste the food.
After Mary Ann's brief introduction, we headed back to our table to eat!
|Salabat and Water for Drinks|
|Frozen Towel for the Heat|
|Balo-balo, Talangka, and Pesto Spread|
Paired with crackers, the dips were the perfect start for what was to come!
To be fair, pako is an interesting vegetable but I don't think I'll ever appreciate my greens. At least this salad had a quail egg.
|Piniritong Lumpiang Ubod sa Claude 9 Oriental Sauce|
Fresh vegetables complimented by Claude's very own oriental sauce. I put a liberal amount of chili sauce for that extra kick.
|Inasal na Manok at Claude 9 Talangka Rice|
Average chicken but the talangka rice was divine. I wanted more.
This didn't leave a mark for we only had one sushi each.
The lettuce wrap neutralized the saltiness of the fermented shrimps.
With the appetizers out of the way, it was time to indulge in a 5-way lechon feast!
|Get Your Own Veggie Station|
|Additional Elements for the Sinigang|
|1st Way: Sinigang na Lechon|
We were instructed to put bagoong (shrimp paste) and soy sauce in our sinigang broth for a sour and salty contrast. It was my first time to eat sinigang with bagoong and I'm not sure if it made a difference.
|Carving the Skin|
|2nd Way: Balat ng Lechon at Liver Sauce|
Nothing special here and Mary Ann was the first to admit this.
|3rd Way: Lechon Tortilla|
I thought I was not going to enjoy this wrap but it turned out to be one of my favorites. The pairing of the crunchy pork flakes with different sauces and toppings (kimchi included) is a stroke of genius. Truth be told, I managed two wraps.
|Heating the Sisig|
|To Each His Own Sisig|
|4th Way: Lechon Sisig|
I enjoyed choosing what items I wanted to mix with my sisig. The pork brain certainly made the texture of my sisig extra creamy.
|5th Way: Inihaw na Tadyang na Lechon at Ensaladang Talong|
They saved the best for last as this piece of meat was very tender and flavorful. I couldn't help but envy my neighbor's plate as I was served a tiny portion.
I don't have much of a sweet tooth, but I loved this dessert. The sweetness level was just right and the buffalo milk base was to die for.
|Coffee to End the Meal|
It's important to note that Claude Tayag was out of the country when we visited Bale Dutung. I'm sure the experience would have been more enjoyable with his mere presence. I also wonder if the food would have been better if he was there to do the actual cooking.
I guess I'l never know the answer as I have no plans to go back to Bale Dutung. While it's a good experience to share with friends, once is more than enough!
And oh, don't forget to buy Claude 9 products to bring home...
Bale Dutung is located at Villa Gloria Subdivision, Pampanga. Reservations needed. The 5-Way Lechon Menu costs 1,750php per person. Add 10% when visiting on a Sunday. For more information, click here.