Bale Dutung | Filipino Cuisine in Haute Twists of Flavours
So how one, in his extreme gustatory powers can possibly commit to make it to a 12-course finish line without feeling bloated? Welcome to Bale Dutung, where over-indulgence & extravagance are burping facts but never border anywhere near gluttony.
Here, hosts Claude & Mary Ann Tayag share the truths about the finest & the best ways to enjoy the explosive Filipino food in each awesome bite. They run you through the stories of each food, how it is prepped & what goes with it.
Bale Dutung: The Flavourful Truths of Filipino Cuisine
I only have 2 guidebooks on Filipino cuisine, that of the late Doreen Fernandez & Linamnam by Claude Tayag & wife Mary Ann Quioc. Although I did not meet the man of the house during my first visit, Mary Ann instantly bagged the best host award. Truly, she has contagious humor, mastery of flavors & graciousness.
Claude is a chef & a visual artist. While Mary Ann, a columnist & takes care of the front-of-the-house matters. This gourmand couple travels a lot, exploring the different flavors of the world & gracing invitations from the culinary art industries.
Both makes a perfect tandem in life, in their celebrity affairs & in the kitchen.
The hosts refuse to call it a restaurant; instead just a home that receives guests over good food & conversations. Reminiscent of late 19th century bahay-na-bato, Bale Dutung in Angeles City is made of a hodge-podge of salvaged bricks, planks, stones as well as Kapis windows.
Guests are received in the silong or the ground floor for dining. They started out on “by invitation only” but as the requests for dining grew, it progressed into “by reservation only”. In fact, advance booking is necessary & you must at least be a party of 12 for you to be accommodated.
Occasionally, they accept fewer than 12 too if there is a reservation from a another party on the same schedule. This means, Bale Dutung can squeeze you in but you have to take the menu of the majority group.
Bale Dutung is a 10-12-course degustation spanning about 3-4 hours. This means sampling the chef’s best pieces in a perfectly balanced serving & in a well-paced manner. As each course progresses, the portion gets bigger & the flavors becoming more aggressive.
Then it all lightens back, relaxing your palate & tummy.
The menu plates up our adored Filipino favorites taken to a whole new level of imaginative process & presentation. It’s a richer way of experiencing it without compromising the ingredients & flavours. Above all, you are hosted by some of the royalties of Kapampangan kitchendom.
Bale Dutung sure knows how to welcome their guests when they say “come in hungry”. A glass of sweating cold dalandan juice in frozen muscovado sugar welcomes you here. While they set the mood for the show, they serve bits of crackers with choices of toppings like balo-balo (fermented shrimp), taba ng talangka (crab fat) & pesto in pili nut.
The theatrics begin when the Ensaladang Pako (fiddlehead fern), makes its entrance. This lowly weed raises the gourmet curtain with quail egg & tomatoes in honey-calamansi dressing.
As your palate starts to feel the excitement, fried Lumpiang Ubod in homemade Claude’9 sauce of Thai basil & coriander starts to roll down. Inasal na Manok & Talangka Sushi shortly follows it.
Honestly, their version of this famed grilled chicken marinated in lemongrass is impressive. And while some think sushi is sushi anywhere in the world, this simple Japanese food when rolled on Bale Dutung’s kitchen, takes on a flavorful tweak with aligue topping.
It was my first time to eat Adobong Pugo & I must admit, I momentarily waived my love for these cute lil fellas. Served with liver pâté & pandesal, this braised quail stew simmered in vinegar & spices gave a new appreciation of this all-time Filipino kind of cooking.
Another of Bale Dutung’s wicked take on sushi is its buro. It is fermented rice stuffed with filleted hito (catfish) & wrapped in mustasa. It is perfectly balanced with salty aligue paste & tangy kamias.
Lechon, it is!
Lechon or spit roasted pig is perhaps the ultimate symbol of celebration in any Filipino table during fiestas, birthdays & whatever have-yous. And Bale Dutung has what it calls the deadly Lechon 5-Ways, although we only sampled three.
Pan de Bagnet is a sandwich stuffed with the Ilocano deep-fried pork belly called bagnet. It is hailed as the king of all lechon, lechon carajay, lechon kawali, crispy liempo & prichon.
Believe me, you’ll never be able to scream Ole! after sampling Lechon Taco. It is fried lechon flakes with Claude’9 sauce, tomato, onions & Korean kimchi all rolled into a tortilla. Now with the best of world flavors bursting inside your mouth, you’d be lost in translation!
Sinigang, much like Adobo is any Filipino’s comfort food. This sour broth from acidic puree of tamarind, kamias or even vinegar can take on whatever meat on it & will still be sinigang. But Bale Dutung braved the Filipino palates by bringing in Sinigang na Lechon. Have you ever wondered how the succulent lechon would taste in a sour broth? Divine!
Pièce de Résistance
Another winning piece of Bale Dutung is Bulanglang Kapampangan. Yes, it takes different names in other regions such as inabraw/dinengdeng in Ilocos or law-uy/bas-uy in Visayas & Mindanao. Likewise, this stew of vegetable casserole goes on different variations too as it lands on each Filipino table.
Here, they let you sample the literal rich version of bulanglang where everything on it are languishing in a thick broth. In the past, the thick base of soup were for the masters of the house while the remainder were added with hot water for the servants to share.
As the French call it bouillabaisse, the Tayags’ jokingly call it Bayabaisse since the broth is made of pureed local bayabas or guava.
After so much flavor pounding our palates, a simpler course took rounds to sort of segue it to the next attack. Don’t let this small serving of Begucan Tenga ng Babi at Ensaladang Talong deceive you. Yes because these bits of crispy fried pork ears in shrimp paste sitting on an eggplant salad is equally explosive.
Surely, they know how to prepare your palate for Bale Dutung’s coup de grâce, Kare-Kareng Lamang Dagat. It is a fiesta of seafood like prawns, New Zealand mussels as well as squid. It lays on a thick sauce of atsuete & kakang-gata gracefully garnished with knots of yard-long beans.
Oh My Sweet Tooth!
In between meals, Mary Ann reminds you to please make it to the finish line as a nowhere else to be found dessert awaits the gastronomic heroes. Indeed, after more than 3 hours of the happiest struggle we came to the sweetest part, Paradiso.
The late Doreen Fernandez, the icon of Philippine culinary disciplines coined the Tayags’ divinely sinful dessert. It is a trio of sweet balls of yema, macapuno & ube gently sitting on a bed of carabao pastillas.
Beyond the all the recognitions, both Claude & Mary Ann truly pulled up a higher respect, not only for the Kapampangan cuisine but also for the entire Filipino food fare. And yes, Bale Dutung is a delightful experience of haute cuisine worthy of anybody’s most discriminating palate.
Villa Gloria Subdivision, Angeles City, Pampanga
+63 45 6250169 / 09175950218 / 09185034540