Sunday, July 24, 2011

Waway's Restaurant & Bigg's Diner in Albay

Our first meal in Bicol region, is at their famous Waway's Restaurant along Penaranda St. in Legazpi City. This restaurant is highly recommended on the internet reviews, due to their authentic Bicolano dishes at affordable prices. We arrived at almost 12:00 noon, and it looked like an early lunch wedding function had just ended.

I was expecting a carinderia ambience (open air, cramped dining area, basic furnitures, etc.), but I was surprised that they are like a regular restaurant. The place is air conditioned, nice furnishings, and dining tables even have tablecloths instead of linoleum. Their only difference with a regular restaurant is the "turo-turo" style of ordering, or by pointing your preferred food on what they have prepared on the counter.

As the famous saying goes, "When in Rome, do what the Romans do", and that is exactly what we did. We ordered the famous Bicolano dishes, which consist of 2 main ingredients: coconut milk and chili peppers. 

Our menu includes bicol express (pork and lots of chili strips in coconut milk with shrimp paste), laing (taro leaves in coconut milk), guinataang pako na may suso (ferns and snail in coconut milk), kare-kare (beef tripe in stewed peanut sauce), fried shrimps, and 2 pcs of grilled pork belly.

All the viands we ordered are very good, especially those food with coconut milk. For a group of 4 adults and 4 kids, I think we ordered too much food, as we incurred excess kare-kare and fern-snail dish. But we happily took out the excess food, and I consumed the fern-escargot dish all by myself during dinner at Embarcadero. Only the dessert items (buko salad and leche flan) leave more area for improvement.

With a large pitcher of iced tea and lots of rice, our food bill came out at less than Php 1,100. Its a real value for money and the reviews did not disappoint. No wonder that they are in business for 44 years now. 

The next morning after I bought whole pili fruits and nuts in Daraga Public Market, I spotted Bigg's Diner on the main road. Curious to learn why its a success story in Bicol region, defeating both Jollibee and McDonalds, I decided to give it a try.

Their selling prices are comparable to the popular fastfood chains. However, they have a more varied menu, and the ambience has a more homey feel to it.

To really test their signature dishes, I know that I should order their western dishes and sandwiches. However, I prefer hot comfort native dishes that morning, so I ordered their goto (beef tripe in rice porridge) and tokwa't baboy (tofu and pork face in vinegar & soy sauce) combo dish.

The beef tripe rice porridge was served really hot. Nice flavor but not exceptional. Negative point of this dish is the lack of beef tripes, only about 5 pieces or less in my bowl. However, they made it up on the tofu and pork face, with more pork pieces than tofu. I just found it unusual that their vinegar-soya sauce is too dry, compared with all the others I have tried before.

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