I was introduced, years back, to a seafood paradise called Dampa in Paranaque by an old friend. True to its name which means kubo or hut, the place was really not that posh and was even bordering on being seedy. But what brought us there was the seafood being served by the restaurants inside its compound which were simply fantastic.
But seafood is really hard to badly cook, so what’s the difference between these guys and the thousand other restaurants out there. Well, as I was soon to learn, we literally had to do the shopping for the fare that we would be soon eating from their wet market. And besides the assured freshness, there’s also the case of the total bill, which is generally much much lower than what you’ll cough up for the same dishes in mall restaurants.
UPDATE: AS OF SEPTEMBER 2013 ALL DAMPA STALLS IN MOA ARE NOW CLOSED
I SUGGEST THAT YOU HEAD TO DAMPA MACAPAGAL INSTEAD
The memories of Dampa didn’t go away with the passing of days living in the southern part of the metro. There were still the once in a blue moon visit to the seafood mecca, but really, it was too far, me being from the other end of Metro Manila. It was such a blessing then that other places in the metro started opening similar joints; you can now go to Cubao, Pasay, Libis and Marikina for your seafood fix.
It was a tradition in our clan to gather round a feast a week or two before Christmas. It started out with Jolibee when we were kids and soon progressed to more mature restaurants (if you’ll allow me to say so, LOL). I soon introduced them to the Dampa Seaside at Macapagal Avenue in Pasay and sure enough, they were hooked; it became the standard eating place for the family.
Then opened the Seaside food stalls at the San Miguel by the Bay at the Mall of Asia. We immediately transferred our hallowed grounds, preferring MOA’s Dampa for the convenience and atmosphere which was more laid back than the noisy performance-ridden ambience of the one at Macapagal Avenue. Although the market choices at MOA’s Seaside is much more limited (well, according to my mom), the dining experience was much better with all the long tables set outside with the view and breeze of the Manila Bay.
Another concern I had then with the Macapagal Seaside was the not so nice smell coming from the bay; although I’m not really sure if that still holds true today as I haven’t really eaten there for quite some time. The same cannot be said for the seaside environment of MOA where the light wind coming from the bay feels and smells like it should really be, which is the blue scent of sea.
Like in any Dampa location, resto staff will try to pull you in their joint promising everything but the moon. We always resisted such invitations; there’s only one Dampa restaurant for us, Aling Tonya’s. They’d been the restaurant of choice for me since the Paranaque days and since they’ve always delivered well, why bother looking for another. The fact that they are the only restaurant at the MOA Seaside with two branches, both of which are always overflowing with customers can only mean one thing.
After waiting for almost half an hour to be seated, mom and dad started sorting through the mini market for this year’s feast. A tip for those who’s not used to long waiting time, once you decided on a restaurant of choice, with or without seats available, just ask the waiters for a reservation and start buying at the market right away. By the time you’ve finished buying and handed the goods at the resto’s kitchen for cooking; rest assured there would be seats available already as all this would take not less than half an hour and might even extend to an hour.
After a longish wait, our food finally arrived! We had multiple servings of Buttered Shrimp, which my mom forgot to have some as Tempuras, Baked Tahong, Calamares, Grilled Tuna, Pork Liempo and Pink Salmon Sinigang sa Miso. These have been the standard fare for us for years already. With the exception of the Tuna and Liempo, we see no reason to mess with a good tradition.
The Buttered Shrimp is still as excellent as ever, the mix of buttery goodness, sweetness and a tinge of garlic was still spot on. One thing I noticed on this batch though was that the skin of the shrimp was a bit hard to peel as they stick to the meat, an indication of overcooking perhaps. Another favorite, the Cheesy Baked Tahong also did not disappoint although it seemed as though there were not as much cheese as I remember it to be; it was still excellent nonetheless.
The Calamares was also good. The squid was very very tender and the breading was flavored just as how calamares should taste. The mayo dip though was a bit short and we had to ask for a few more servings of it. The Grilled Tuna was not really up to par with my expectations as the fishy taste was just too strong (well I know it is a fish hehe) and the Pork Liempo was an utter disappointment. I was expecting something like what they served us before which was so fantastically tasty and juicy; what we had this time was so dry and tasteless we had to resort to dunking the meat to a saucer of soy sauce and calamansi for it to have some semblance of flavor.
For our soup and general suya remover, the Pink Salmon Sinigang sa Miso. I’m not really a fan of fish dishes with soup but this one’s an exception. I just love the tender pink meat of the fish and the accompanying soup.
But now where were the crabs you might ask? Unfortunately we’re no crab eaters as we find the lengthy process of getting meat from them too cumbersome we end up wasting too much.
This year’s gathering was not as large as the previous ones as some of our family members were a bit busy with preparation for the coming holiday; there were only 15 of us this time, compared to last year’s almost doubled number.
The total bill for 3 kilos of shrimp, 2 kilos of squid, 3 kilos of mussels, a kilo of pork, half a kilo of tuna and pink salmon and an uncountable bowls of rice including the cooking fee is Php5,100.00. Not really so bad considering how gluttonously full everyone was. And, there were still bagful of pasalubongs for the guys at home. The problem now, as it was the previous years, was how to stand up and walk with such full tummies.
San Miguel by the Bay, Mall of Asia Complex
Pasay City, Metro Manila
Click to view location on Google Maps