As everyone already knows, Anthony Bourdain featured Claude Tayag’s Bale Dutung Dining Experience on No Reservations. Since then, I’ve been curious about this no-longer-hole-in-the-wall place in Pampanga. My dad’s birthday is coming up so I figured it’s a perfect excuse to go. Not that my family needs an excuse to eat, but you know… for formality’s sake.
For those who aren’t familiar with Bale Dutung, it is a hideaway that serves an epicurean 10-course Kapampangan meal. Prepared by Claude Tayag and narrated by his wife, Maryane Tayag, the experience is informative, luxurious and unforgettable.
Here is my family’s photo with Claude & Maryane before our meal at Bale Dutung.
A visit to Bale Dutung requires a quite some planning. Reservations are required and upon reservation a 50% downpayment prior to arrival. According to Maryane, Bale Dutung only serves lunch once a month and typically accommodates big groups(10+people). When Maryane emailed to let me know that they were serving lunch this weekend and could include my family (4 people) I jumped at the chance to go.
Clear your schedule, people. They were right when they said this is a long lunch. We arrived at 11:45. It started around 12:30 (we were waiting for more guests to arrive) and ended around 4pm. I suspect that if we started on time (12nn) then we would’ve finished earlier. The pacing, explanations and eating simultaneously with a group of 40 other people definitely took some time, not to mention a little bit of getting used to. We cityfolk are used to quick meals. Bale Dutung stands to remind us to slow down and enjoy good food and company.
They serve 3 types of menus, a Kapampangan Menu, Bourdain Menu and Lechon 5-ways menu. I don’t know how you select the menu (since we were the minority) but I’m thinking it has to do with what the majority of the group requests. In our case it was the Kapampangan menu.
Lunch is served at noon so my family and I woke up early to make it out to Angeles on time. Some nice sights along the way on the NLEX.
When we finally arrived! My brother looks really grumpy because it is too early (11:30am?!) for a Sunday.
View when you first enter.
Parents with the exterior facade of the house.
The dining area. Other dining parties came in large groups which explains the long tables.
Their selection of take home goodies.
Maryane making explanations prior to the meal. My brother is still grumpy and not paying attention.
My awesome parents.
My favorite brother.
The Welcome Drink – Dalandan Juice with a single Muscovado Sugar Ice Cube. This was quite refreshing.
Maryane explaining the drink and officially welcoming the entire group to Bale Dutung. Please notice the awesome shorts worn by the lady wearing white(not Maryane). Loved them. If you know where I can get cool shorts like these please share the info!
Appetizer – Trio of spreads and crackers (Pesto, Talangka, Balo-Balo) – this was delicious. The pesto is made out of pili nuts instead of pine nuts. The talangka (crab fat) is pure and fresh with no extenders. The Balo-balo is made with shrimp (instead of Buro or fish) which made for a more subtle flavor. Individually good. Mixed together also made wonderful taste combinations.
We inhaled it because we were hungry. Obviously, we’re not used to the eat slow method. Notice the carafes of ice cold ginger tea (Salabat) and water. These were in abundance throughout our meal.
1st Course – Ensaladang Pako (fiddlehead fern salad) with a honeymansi dressing – According to Anthony Bourdain, the fiddle head fern is about $22/lb in New York. However, according to Maryane, it is a fern that is in abundance everywhere and worth absolutely nothing, historically only consumed by drivers and yayas. I never would’ve known. Taste-wise it is sweet and tangy (perhaps also cuz of the dressing.) Texture was quite crunchy which I loved. It didn’t get soggy as most salads do, it stayed fresh and crunchy. My dad took home some to plant in our backyard.
2nd Course – Piniritong Lumpiang Ubod sa Claude’9 Oriental Sauce – they give you one piece of lumpia drizzled with the pesto, wrapped in a lettuce leaf. Yummy. My family was kind of bitin because it is early in the meal and we haven’t yet adjusted to the fact that it is a tasting menu.
I didn’t get a good photo..sorry 🙁
But here is the Claude’9 Vinegar that is fermented in-house. The one they served us is 12 years old.
3rd Course – Inasal na Manok at Claude’9 Talangka Rice – this is a winner. I could eat plates and plates and plates of this stuff. I’m not too much of an inasal person but I loved this. Instead of marinating it with vinegar (as is traditional to inasal) the Tayags make theirs with lemongrass marinade which makes a lot of difference. The crab fat rice of course is delicious also. They give you a really small portion which made my family sad because they wanted more.
4th Course – Adobong Pugo (quail) with mini-pandesal and chicken liver – eat the quail with your hands and soak the pandesal in the liver sauce. The sauce is good and so is the quail. I’m not a fan of liver by default so I gave this to my dad.
5th Course – Talangka Sushi / Hito at Balo-balo Sushi – I like the crab fat better than the catfish rolls. But they were both good. Another thing I wish we were given more of. The sushi is so small, probably the size of a 5 peso coin haha. Super bitin.
6th Course – Tortillang Lechon – Oh heaven heaven heaven. Lechon flakes on a tortilla topped with fresh tomatoes, cilantro, onions and this delicious kimchi made with fuji apples (instead of cabbage). Crunchy, spicy, sweet, tangy = heaven.
This is served buffet style so I was able to go back for seconds.
Mom & Brother enjoying their lechon.
7th Course – Bulanglang Kapampangan na may Tian ng Bangus, Ulang at Tadyang ng Baboy – It smells/looks like sinigang with a tinge of guava. It is not sinigang though. It’s done a little differently. The broth is rather rich, sweet and creamy. I heard the word “bouillabaisse” being thrown around a lot to describe it.
It is also quite sweet (cuz of the guava) so they give you homemade alamang for some saltiness. They also give you these awesome cones of rice wrapped in pandan leaves.
8th Course – Begucan Sisig Babi at Ensaladang Talong – It’s deconstructed sisig. They used the shrimp paste (alamang) to flavor the pig ears and served it with an itty bitty mini eggplant. Loved the way this was played. However, not one of my favorite courses. It was okay.
9th Course – Kare-kareng Laman Dagat – Seafood Kare-kare, my friends. I love kare-kare! It’s my favorite Filipino dish so I was excited for this one. I wasn’t disappointed. My parents were right when they said it is a mix of Ginataan & Kare-kare. It was rich and creamy. You could taster the peanut sauce and a hint of coconut milk. The seafood is genius, so so so so yummy. I was extremely full at this point but I forced myself to go back for a second serving. Haha.
There was a lull between the dessert and last course. They encourage you to walk around (presumably to digest). So my family and I used this time to explore the Tayag property some more.
We discovered their wall of vinegar jars. They actually ferment them right in front of you. The oldest one I saw was labeled 1998.
There is also a huge, mildly creepy tree. Kulang nalang dwende, kapre, tikbalang or white lady. Haha. I dont know why I chose to take a photo with it.
Claude is an artist! He has a gallery of his own work.
Check out the portrait famous artist BenCab did of Claude.
They had these interesting bags of water with coins in them hanging from the ceiling. I took a photo. This is a genius way to scare off flies. (Yes it works considering we were dining al fresco, we only had two fly encounters.) You fill a bag with water and put copper coins in it. A fly sees it and its reflection is magnified by the bag. It then thinks there is a bigger fly coming to eat them. Fly goes away. GENIUS!!!
10th Course (Dessert) – Paradiso – This is ube (yam), coconut and eggyolk in a water buffalo (carabao) milk sort of custard. It tasted like creme brulee but pastier and 10x sweeter. It was so good but too sweet for me. I didn’t eat the eggyolk but I nibbled out of it and it tasted like yema. The rest I finished anyway.
Bonus Course! – Tibok tibok – Maryane was nice enough to bring out some of this to try. It’s like maja blanca but with carabao milk instead. It’s good.
I can’t even think of food anymore. We were so full afterwards. What a fun meal and fun day with my family. Happy Birthday Dad!!
Bale Dutung by Claude & Maryane Tayag
Reservations absolutely required. Everything you need to know is on their website:
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