From popular seafood dishes to a wide array of local specialties with “a touch of Spanish, American and Asian influences,” visitors to Zamboanga City are in for a culinary treat. During the coverage of the La Hermosa Festival 2012 in Zamboanga City, I got to try a lot of different eating places and was pleasantly surprised at the range of great food and places to eat here.
Here’s my pick of what and where to eat in Zamboanga City.
Curacha: Curacha, a species of deep-sea crab found only in the waters of Zamboanga is one of the most famous dishes in the city. The best place to try it out is Alavar Seafood Restaurant, where it is served generously topped with a delicious sauce of coconut milk and spices. You need to be in a big group to enjoy this (and split the bill) as one order costs at least P850 (M) to P1,050.00/kilo (XL) at their main branch. As a huge fan of seafood, I have no complaints eating crabs just plain steamed, but there’s something about the sauce that makes this dish extra-special. [MENU OF ALAVAR 01 | 02]
The smaller Alavar branch in Paseo del Mar doesn’t serve curacha and the menu is limited to more affordable specialties like grilled fish, baked clams, prawns with Alavar sauce and inasal/barbecue dishes.
If you want to share the magic with your friends and family back home, you can take home frozen packs of the Alavar sauce for P250/kilo while curacha at the wet market in Guiwan Flea market cost about P450/kilo during my visit. Another thing you can buy at the market – lobster! But the larger ones can set you back P1,000/kilo.
Baked Clams & Green Mango con Bagon Gata: Everything served in Alavar Seafood Restaurant was great, but the baked clams topped with butter and garlic was really delicious. The green mango con bagon gata (another Alavar House specialty) topped with a delectable bagoong blended with coconut milk, helped us digest all the rich seafood dishes we were having.
Zamboanga White: A very sweet and tropical shake that is known as the signature drink of Zamboanga City. This refreshing creamy lychee-based shake is widely served in many restaurants and hotels including Garden Orchid Hotel, Haisan and Alavar and ranges in price from P60-P120/glass. The kamias-based Alavar Juice was also really good.
Fresh Seafood: Another popular restaurant in Zamboanga to get fresh seafood cooked the way you want is Hai San Seafood Market and Restaurant, a dampa-style restaurant specializing mostly in Chinese dishes. They have a wide selection of raw seafood like fish, crabs, shellfish, prawns, squid, shrimp, fish and shellfish that you can have cooked. They don’t have a fixed menu and prices vary according to the size of the dish and how it’s prepared.
Satti: Satti is a local favorite of barbecued meat similar to the Malaysian satay. Jimmy’s Satti and John’s Place serve inexpensive yet filling satti, which is served with puso (rice wrapped in coconut leaves) and a thick spicy sauce poured over the whole dish like soup. This is a great meal if you’re on a budget since 3 sticks plus rice costs only P25.00. Be sure to order softdrinks or have lots of water ready since it’s pretty spicy.
Coffee and cake from Tsokolate Cafe: Tsokolate Restaurant is a charming café that showcases some pop culture and vintage music memorabilia. The cafe serves very affordable food and has a cool vibe, making this place great to hang out for afternoon snacks, desserts and coffee and most importantly, Free Wifi! They have a few desktops and laptops for rent (P30/hour) for those who want to check mail but didn’t bring gadgets. Breakfast meals start at P50, brewed coffee is P28 and hot chocolate is P24. Lunch is served from 10am-2pm while grilled specialties are served from 4pm-6pm. Slices of cakes here are about P40-60 while cream puffs and eclairs are just P8.50 each! Great budget-friendly place.
Calamares & pulutan-type food: Bistro at Paseo del Mar serves pasta dishes, fusion food and affordable platters suitable for big groups. Their barkada platter consisting of calamares, krispy kangkong, pancit, rice, meatballs, chicken, & green mango with bagoong with 2 pitchers of juice cost P500 and is good enough for about 7-8 people. Appetizers start at P50 and entrees are about P75-110 each. [MENU OF BISTRO]
Hacienda de Palmeras Hotel & Restaurant along Pasonanca Road also serves pretty good food. The seafood platter is a good choice for groups. The baked clams are great too!
Knickerbocker: This dessert of sliced fruits and gelatin topped with strawberry ice cream is a local favorite. This healthy and colorful halo-halo like dessert is really, really filling. It’s served in the main branch of Hacienda de Palmera’s Hotel and Restaurant.
Smaller snack size servings are available at Pinoy Patio (Palmeras) at Paseo del Mar for P60/glass.
Check out Style Weekend’s Resto Roundup featuring the Seafood Delights of Alavar Seafood Restuarant and Hai San Seafood Market and Restaurant. For more things to do in Zamboanga, read “Choose Your Own Adventure in Zamboanga City” published in Zest Inflight Magazine
WHERE TO EAT IN ZAMBOANGA CITY:
- Alavar Seafood Restaurant. #173 Don Alfaro Street, Tetuan, Zamboanga City. Tel. #: (63)(62) 991-2483/991-3146. Alavar also has a smaller branch in Paseo del Mar.
- Hai San Seafood Market & Restaurant. #60 San Jose Road, Zamboanga City. Tel. (63) 991-5506, 991-1062
- Hacienda de Palmeras Hotel and Restaurant. Pasonanca Road, Barangay Sta. Maria, Zamboanga City. Tel: (062) 991 3284
- Garden Orchid Hotel. Governor Camins Avenue, Zamboanga City. Tel: (062) 991-0031 to 34
- Tsokolate by Linfood. #18 NS Valderosa St., Zamboanga City. Tel: (062) 992-5168
- Country Chicken and Mano-Mano, Barangay Pasonanca, Zamboanga City. Tel. No. (062) 991-1852
- La Vista del Mar Restaurant. Upper Calarian, Zamboanga City. Tel: (062) 991-1208
- Lantaka Hotel by the Sea. Ns Valderosa St., Zamboanga City. Tel: (062) 991-2033
- Chinito’s D Gathering Place. La Purisima, Zamboanga City. Tel: (062) 992-3236
- Bistro. Paseo del Mar.
- BarCode Grill and Bar. Paseo del Mar, Zamboanga City.
For more information on Zamboanga City, visit www.zamboanga.gov.ph