Saturday, June 20, 2009

Seair InFlight Palawan Feature: A place for crabs

It’s far from the beaten tourist track, and its location – right beside a cemetery – has prompted many local jokes, but food at Café Arturo is othing to laugh at. The restaurant serves up good, old home-cooking, using the freshest ingredients. And the star dish on the menu is seafood and in particular, crabs. located in Barangay San Jose, some five kilometers north of Puerto Princesa city proper, Café Arturo’s approach is a narrow gravel path lined with mahogany trees. The restaurant is an open-air structure with a high ceiling, native cogon roof, bamboo railings, and shell decorations. It’s an ideal venue for al fresco lunch and an intimate dinner.

Most diners come here for huge servings of the most delicious crabs anywhere in Palawan, cooked in garlic or chili sauce (P75 per 100 grams). Our gang of four hungry diners had the Garlic Crabs, so finger-licking good that we just had to chuck our forks and spoons. Café Arturo’s Lengua or ox tongue (P375) is also highly recommended. and so is the Kinilaw or Tuna Ceviche (P195) with tantalizing slivers of cucumber, green bell pepper, and red onions topped with slices of fiery chili. It had the right hint of sourness and piquancy to prime the palate, which was just what we needed as there were more dishes to come.

We had Grilled Prawns (P285) lightly flavored with curry, a unique take on this tried and tested barbecue recipe. Our local guide Gerry Ortega persuaded us to try the Squid Rolando (P250), named after Chef Rolando Banzuela who owns and runs the place with wife Christine. The squid was tender to the bite and the sauce, drizzled on my plate of rice, was zesty. Finally, we had a mouth-watering slice of Blackened Blue Marlin (P210). cafe arturo interiors at nightThe best thing about eating here is that all the seafood is freshly caught. Palawan has one of the longest coastlines in the country and seafood in the area is abundant. Service is brisk and friendly. Christine Banzuela says it’s largely a family affair with her children helping out in the kitchen. She only hires extra staff during peak tourist season or special occasions. Testimony to the success of the place is its local support. Regular diners are mostly local families who bring along guests to treat them to Palawan’s local cuisine.

A meal for four costs about P2,000. Café arturo is on Mahogany Drive, San Jose, Puerto Princesa City. call +6348/ 433 4146 or +63917/ 585 0012. e-mail: café text by Yasmin Arquiza, art direction by Jocas See, photography by Oggie Ramos


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