I hadn’t been back to Bohol in over 5 years, and had several things on my “to do list”. First and foremost was a meeting with our lawyer handling family related business matters, and since we arrived on the “fast ferry” from Cebu just after noon we decided to meet over lunch. We tried the #1 rated trip advisor restaurant in the city of Tagbilaran, a place called “Gerarda’s”. Our lawyer, a Tagbilaran native, who had never eaten at Gerarda’s, and was somewhat skeptical of the top ranking on trip advisor. I just wanted a decent Filipino meal in air-conditioned comfort to discuss business issues…
Located in an ancestral home on a Tagbilaran side-street, the spacious main dining area with old style tables and chairs and air-conditioning is a pleasant setting. We quickly glanced through the menu and ordered five dishes for three people. The biggest hit for me, was the dish up top, a simple sauté of shrimps with kinampay or that mild colored ube special to the island of bohol. This had all the hallmarks of a stunningly good, but simple local dish. In fact, it was, along with the kinilaw, the only local dishes we had on the table. I ate practically the entire serving, only leaving a small taste for the others. :) We also ordered a seafood kare-kare that was pretty good, though the broth was perhaps just a tad on the watery side, lacking the oomph of a nice thick kare-kare, and perhaps relying on cornstarch to thicken the broth. It was well-priced, however, and didn’t scrimp on the alimasag, shrimp and squid. Actually, the prices on the menu looked shockingly low for a city-dweller like me, though portions for several dishes turned out to be quite modest in size.
The oddest dish of the lunch was this dinakdakan, which the restaurant is known for it seems, though I think it is originally an Ilocano dish of grilled pork belly, here altered with the addition of what looked like thick coconut milk. But the consistency of the milk was odd, and perhaps it was mayonnaise with some coconut milk mixed in. I could see what they were trying to do, but this just wasn’t that appealing to me, and half the dish was left uneaten at the end of the meal.
A traditionally made kinilaw, with large chunks of fish and lots of tomatoes and onions, was distinctive because of its use of bahalina, or slightly alcoholic coconut vinegar. Some folks may find this a bit off-puttingly sour in a sense, but this is how some terrific kinilaws are in fact made in Bohol and northern Mindanao. Now if only there was more fish in the dish.
Finally, we had a dish of crispy (mini) beef tadjang that was good, and a nice foil for the sourness of the kinilaw. Five dishes with a platter of rice, a couple of soft drinks, and this lunch cost roughly PHP1300, or roughly PHP430 each. I would certainly eat there again, but I am not sure I would say it was the best restaurant in the city. For kinilaw, I longed for this dish of malasugi or swordfish we had once in a slightly dubious looking restaurant on stilts near the Tagbilaran pier, it was that much more memorable!
30 J.S. Torralba St.
Tagbilaran City 6300