First off, you don’t go to El Nido Palawan “for the food.”
Everything is simple, some are westernized, some are off the mark completely but hey, everybody – scratch that – most of them, are genuinely trying. Generally, food is good. And good food is good. #anodaw
To be fair, me and travel bud for the trip collectively ate in, like, three restaurants total, anyway – so what do we know, right?
ISLAND FRONT COTTAGES
On night #1, having no energy left from the day’s whole day transit going to El Nido, I asked people of the resort the closest place we could go for food. “Greeviews,” they say. I walk out and immediately, next door, I stumble upon Island Front Cottages. Not at all excited of walking further out, I get in and find my way to the restaurant.
Immediately, I should’ve taken from the clues and high tailed it out of there but no, this was my patient side taking center stage. First off, I asked for a menu. It took forever to get one. Second, I was asking about the food and when I asked Flamboyant Waiter, he immediately ordered it and I was like, “No, I’m not ordering, I’m asking what it is.” And then he asks someone else, who asks someone else who then asks someone else. Seriously. That happened. I didn’t even get an answer that I wanted. All of this happened with no one moving from their spot.
The whole thing was generally frustrating. Even as I ordered a shake, it seemed to take forever and they seem to not know whether I was ordering or not. It was just a big complete mess and I highly did not appreciate it – whether it was really that frustrating or I was just really exhausted from the day.
I asked if they could deliver the food next door since it literally was just next door. “No,” they say and I was fine with that. After I finished my shake, I wondered how long I had to wait and when I asked about it just to literally find out how many minutes to go before I could be heading home, they’re like, “Oh, we can just send it over next door, if you want.” I grumble at this, roll my eyes even and just make my way back to the room.
When the food does come in, an order of Chicken and Pork Adobo with Rice and Chicken with Noodles and Rice, I stare at it so hard that I have a hard time visually digesting it.
Chicken Pork Adobo – None of the potatoes were fully cooked. Like, none. The sauce itself, which is very hard to get wrong, tasted a bit off. But I was famished and needed food, now.
Chicken Noodles and Rice – This was fairly much better though not exactly what I was expecting. The sauce was good and though the rest of it didn’t have much else to offer.
Least to say, if the experience of ordering from Island Front Cottages wasn’t enough to help me make my mind about them, the food definitely was the nail in the coffin, so to speak.
EL NIDO TOWN EATERY
The next day, for lunch, I decided to go into town and just buy a couple of lunches – I ended up getting 2 regular, tried and tested Tapsilogs from a regular eatery. To translate to my British friend, it’s the Filipino equivalent of a Full English Breakfast – something you can eat at any time of the day and is something people generally reach out for when nothing else is there.
When I managed to get the resident Ginger out of the room and out of the resort, we took to Nacpan Beach and was able to grab some dinner before heading back to our home in El Nido. We stumbled upon a cute looking restaurant and decided to get dinner there.
The rest of our stay, we decided to order food in and have them deliver it all the way to the resort. It was only an additional P50 anyway, a good price to not have to go all the way to town just to get food.
In the end, we ended up ordering a good selection from their menu including:
Chicken Tinola – Standard. Nothing that jumps out
Beef Goulash – I expected something that resembles a bloody and delicious ooze that goes through chunks of succulent and juicy beef. Instead, I tilt my head to something that resembles a watered-down Pochero – complete with the cabbage and carrot bits
Citrus Rice Something – Don’t even ask, I was confused, very very confused about this dish.
Tomato and Cheese Pizza – Sexy, sultry and everything a provincial pizza should be. Eating it hot from the box is just lovely and eating it for breakfast the next day is not as bad as I thought.
Vegetable Spaghetti – It had cabbage, so I was a little weirded out by that but generally it was a great sauce and great dish overall. I’d order it again.
Pork Curry – This was on the money. This was the highlight of the resident ginger’s culinary experience. Good curry, good pork. Great with rice.
French Sub – A very hearty sandwich – it wasn’t served on a baguette as I expect “SUBS” to be. If you take out that little detail, I’d still order it again. It’s got a great balance of bread, meat, veggies and dressing.
Potato Salad – It was served warm, understandable as they probably just made it. But people should recognize that potato salad is generally served cold unless clearly stated that it is a WARM potato salad. I’m not complaining, just pointing it out – because I like my potato salad, frigid!
French Fries – thick cut and not supermarket-bought. Yey for French Fries!
ISLAND HOPPING MEALS
The meals on island hopping tours are fairly standard with only the type of fish and fruit varying from day to day.
They are all cooked as you land on a dedicated “lunch area” island. Eating with the sand, sea and quiet just makes for a better experience overall. I always ate with my hands. I cannot fathom not doing so in such a setting and with the food made available to you.
It usually is rice, grilled fish (one day I had tuna, the next a large flat fish and then a snapper), grilled squid, some sort of salad (one day we had eggplant-tomato-onion salad and the next it was just a cucumber with dressing), all lovingly finished with a selection of fruits (day 1 was pineapple and mango and day 2 was mango, watermelon and banana).
I would not trade this lunch for anything else, really.
EL NIDO MIDTOWN BAKERY
The bakery in the middle of town. They are the simple provincial run of the mill bakery that spews out blueberry muffins, egg pies, whole wheat/whole grain buns, piayas, pan de coco (super duper ultra mega AWWWWEEESSSSOOOOOME, btw), giant P5 pandesal, banana bread, chocolate slices and other things that can really open your eyes to what a small bakery can actually make.
Ours, here where I live has pandesal, monay and kabayans and that weird ube roll thing that doesn’t taste like anything anyway. I’ve got respect for this bakery, which is always, always packed at all times of the day. There never was a time that I walked up to its glass display and was immediately served.
My island hopping “baon” was usually from here and my post-island hopping carbo loading sesh was always courtesy of this loving bakery. I always bought a different thing each time.
I particularly fell in love with their pan de coco, a small bun filled with coconut. And when I say filled, I mean, FILLED. Not the usual that just had a snot-like amount. This was hearty and you KNOW it was coconut. Plus it was warm from the oven, doubling the experience into heavenly.
BREAKFAST AT CORAL BAY RESORT
This was the only standard thing we always had to eat and though they do have other choices, the call for routine breakfasts seemed to work with this particular trip. I could’ve had my choice of eggs, omelet or pancakes but I went with eggs each and every time.
Breakfast was basically 2 eggs any style (scrambled for me every time, please), 2 strips of bacon or 2 cuts of ham, 2-3 pieces of toast, some butter wannabe, jelly, a banana, coffee and water. Ginger Boy wasn’t impressed but I was completely content with the breakfast that I had every day on that lovely resort.
Actually, they could’ve fed me deep fried tires and dog poop with coffee and I wouldn’t have complained at all. The view that we had every morning, matched with a sumptuous and filling breakfast really started the day on the right foot. Sometimes, I didn’t want breakfast to end at all.
Prior and during the trip, I’ve been told to go eat at this place and at this restaurant – oh, the food is good – they say. Oh the view is amazing, they add. Hey, it’s on the beach. And I ever want to reply is this:
I don’t really care about the food too much. We mostly order in and eat on the balcony. We have 3-4 hour dinners that may or may not have wine or beer. We start off with a sunset appetizer that starts sometime around 530 and ends when it gets dark or when we get hungry. At times, as we stare of into the slowly dimming sky, we ask each other if we should think about dinner. We seem to always resort to putting it off for another 15 or 30 minutes until it was just absolutely necessary for our survival that we consumed something other than the presence of each other.
We were then bathed in Bacuit Bay twilight as we dig in with spoons and forks. We were cradled in a silence that creates an intimacy no restaurant in town can recreate. Our conversation seems to echo out into the water and bounce off to turn into the stars of the night. Each burst of laughter, banter of sarcasm and even the silent and knowing stares all contribute to the elevation of our dinner which could be an excitingly spot-on curry or pizza or a head-tilting version of goulash.
If you can find a restaurant that can give me that, then we would gladly make the effort of going into town for it, but until then – what we’ve got on our balcony cannot be replicated nor improved upon, in our opinion.