Palm Grill

The Culi­nary His­tory of South­ern Min­danao


How do you de­fine, or de­ter­mine, what your fa­vorite restau­rant is? For me, it’s sim­ple. Just two cri­te­ria: first, it’s got food that I ac­tu­ally crave for, and I make de­ci­sive plans to visit the restau­rant as of­ten as pos­si­ble, no mat­ter how ge­o­graph­i­cally un­de­sir­able it is. Sec­ond, I ac­tu­ally push through with those plans, and I visit that restau­rant again and again. By virtue of the sheer num­ber of vis­its I’ve made to Palm Grill since it opened in 2017 – five and count­ing --- ba­si­cally, ev­ery other month or when­ever I find my­self in Que­zon City, then I can con­fi­dently pro­claim that this is my fa­vorite new restau­rant of the year.

The food here is Zam­boangueño to the core. Add the del­i­ca­cies of the Tausugs, and the spe­cial­ties from Basi­lan, Jolo, and Tawi-Tawi, and you’ve got the true def­i­ni­tion, as far as I’m con­cerned, of what a “des­ti­na­tion restau­rant” is. With all due re­spect to au­then­tic ra­men and gen­uine soft tacos, an op­por­tu­nity to take a deep dive into the undis­cov­ered cui­sine of what are con­sid­ered to be the danger zones of our very own coun­try, with­out the need for armed body­guards and a fast mov­ing con­voy, is a bless­ing that ev­ery sel­f­re­spect­ing foodie should take ad­van­tage of, and of­ten.

I’ve been to Zam­boanga more than a few times, and I have fond mem­o­ries of Alavar and their fa­mous cu­racha, and Palmeras for that dessert that sounds like it orig­i­nated from New York, the Knicker­bocker. Both restau­rants are among the most fa­mous in Zam­boanga, and de­servedly so. Ev­ery first time vis­i­tor to that charm­ing city is brought there by their lo­cal hosts. Both of those most fa­mous dishes make wel­come ap­pear­ances in Palm Grill. The cu­racha, those deep sea crab-lob­ster hy­brids, are flown in daily, and then cooked in that sa­vory sweet co­conut cream-crab­fat sauce. The Knicker iced treat is a halo-halo type dessert, home­made ice cream that tastes like con­densed milk, scooped atop a re­fresh­ing par­fait of nata de coco, wa­ter­melon, ba­nanas, and other trop­i­cal fruits.

But my go-to dish here, the one I make plans for? The Green Chicken,





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