Friday, April 16, 2010

Hunt for Savory Filipino Food, Part Deux

I ventured out to Abu Dhabi's city center today. No taxi this time -- I drove. It was Friday, my day off. It has been fairly easy to drive from home to work and vice versa. I am still a little apprehensive about driving to the city center. But on Fridays, traffic is considerably lighter. I even assumed that the parking situation would be better. I left at 9 AM. Yes, the traffic was light, but the parking situation later in the early afternoon was still horrendous.

I stopped by the vegetable and fruit market located in the port area. Not anything special. It was more suited for wholesalers rather than the individual shopper, although it had a few areas for individual shoppers. In Europe, it was always nice to visit their public markets. The shopkeepers usually had attractive displays of their produce. The produce you find at these markets were usually of good quality. I did not find this at Abu Dhabi's outdoor public market. Next, I went to the fish market nearby. After driving around for about 15 minutes looking for a parking place, I gave up and proceeded on. I went to Abu Dhabi Mall, not as big as Marina Mall, but I wanted to check it out anyway since I have not been there. The mall does not open until 2 PM since it was Friday. So instead, I went to a a grocery store nearby. On the way to the mall, I had noticed a Filipino restaurant along the way. After finishing at the grocery store, I went back to where I had seen the Filipino restaurant. The main roads here are fairly wide. It's the secondary roads and alleyways that get congested because they are used for parking. It's a battle just to go through them because the roadway gets tight, especially for bigger vehicles such as the one I drive. I went around for about half an hour looking for a spot to park. Winding thru the alleyways was difficult. I finally found a parking spot, but it was not a designated parking spot. As the locals would do, the spot I found would not interfere with access of vehicle, so I took it. Since it was Friday and I saw many other parked in similar non-designated areas, I did not think I would be ticketed.

It was time for lunch and continue my endeavor to try to look for restaurants serving Filipino food. The restaurant is named Jun Encarnacion Cafe & Restaurant. They have several other locations in UAE, but only one in Abu Dhabi. Aside from traditional Filipino food, it also serves Chinese and Vietnamese menu items as well as pasta, sandwiches, and burgers under its American menu offerings. The restaurant interior seems to be recently renovated. Although nice and clean, the decor inside was a mish mash of Filipino (colorful daily life paintings), Southeast Asian (Buddha figures and wall fixtures), Middle Easterns (light fixtures and metal railings), and others that I couldn't categorize (a Dali painting and glittery fake flowers on the walls). The restaurant, including the bar area, was nicely furnished in modern black. The black leather seat and back cushion of the chairs were stylish.

I ordered pancit palabok, as I did on my first Filipino restaurant find. This is a favorite dish of mine. This was quite a bit better than the one I had two weeks ago at another restaurant. I ordered a dish of "ginataan na tilapia" (tilapia in a coconut milk-based sauce). The dish had slices of eggplant, bamboo shoots, whole green long chilies, and slivers of ginger. I heartily enjoyed the fish dish eaten with a bowl of rice. The leftover was as good for dinner later in the evening. I had halo-halo for dessert. It was served in a bowl rather than in a traditional glass. It was also impressive. It contained the fillings that I like such as ube, langka, nata de coco, and buko. The halo halo had everything that was lacking in the first restaurant I had checked out. I requested that no additional sugar be added to the dessert. The sugar from the the fillings made it sweet enough.

The tab was roughly $20 for the pancit, fish dish, bowl of rice, halo halo, bottled water, and tip. The price is a little bit steep for lunch here, but the two main dishes could serve two. This place is worth visiting again. I would rate this restaurant an 8 out of 10.

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