Not too many people have noticed how an empty lot between the Manila Film Center and Sofitel Hotel has been transformed into an attractive food and recreation complex that began with a sprawling, two-story building resembling a strip mall.
Called Seascape Village, its ground floor hosts several fresh fruit stalls and seafood shops replete with well-maintained aquariums displaying varieties of live fish and crustaceans.
Operating like the Dampa branches all over town, these outlets are collectively billed as Bay Market. It’s frequented by residents around the area, who have a choice between purchasing live seafood to take home or be carted up to any of the restaurants above.
Deep-fried garoupa with mango slices and sauce at Asian Taste Seafood Restaurant
The second floor of the airy, spacious complex currently has at least a dozen restaurants operating, with most of their regular patrons being Chinese mainlanders either frequenting the casinos in the reclamation areas, or employees of these casinos, hotels, and backroom operations maintained by Chinese operators.
Seascape Village’s official address is Atang de la Rama Street corner Zoilo Hilario Street, CCP Complex, Pasay City. From the main road fronting Sofitel Hotel, one simply turns into the street leading to a large parking lot.
The ambitiously planned Resort Village and Lifestyle Seaside Development has only completed Phase 1, which includes the Manila Bay Seascape Village with its restaurants, the Main Market Atrium, ice plant and other facilities. Phase 2 will have a three-level building with a pool/spa and deck, beach promenade, boardwalk and Bar Foods and Events Pavilion. Phase 3 of the 2.8-hectare themed development will come up with an Activity Beach and gazebos, the 289-room Lime Hotel, entertainment venues and a parking structure that will all be completed by 2020.
Well-maintained aquariums display live fish, crustaceans and eels.
There was no resisting an invite from the sisters Ruby Chua and Sheree Chua to join a group for a food crawl through half of the restaurants, plus a bar.
Our epic dinner crawl started at Wow Cow Fresh Beef Hot Pot, where manager Anthony Law hosted us for serial shabu-shabu featuring different cuts of beef that were dipped into a hot pot at the center of a large, circular table also laden with sauces and nibbling stuff galore.
Anthony introduced each cut, prime of which were the thinnest slices of beef that were practically eaten a la sashimi, with the briefest of dips into the hot pot. Among the dozen platters where the assorted beef parts were laid out, a favorite was the familiar feature of what’s usually called Soup No. 5.
Maybe it was a mistake to start with all that meat, as we all felt quite sated by the time we were herded over to the second stop: Lola Ina’s Seafood Paluto, which treated us to its regular dishes, among these Deep Fried Shrimp with Salted Egg, Pusit Adobo, and Kilawing Tanigue with Green Mango & Pipino.
The Bay Market, as a more elegant dampa
Yatai Asian Cuisine offered a full table of fusion specialties that included uniquely presented tempura and assorted sashimi and maki, along with a rich chop suey and their tweaked versions of crispy pata and kare-kare.
The table was also groaning at Mazu Seaside Diner, where the elegant interiors are highlighted by a wooden boat hanging by the ceiling. Its proximity to the bay also allowed for a sea view. While trying to hold back from additional gorging, we couldn’t say no to much of the classic Chinese cuisine, most memorable of which were the special clams called elephant’s ears, served in their shells with delicate vermicelli.
GoGo Kitchen’s adobong pusit, plated with a filigree fan of solidified squid ink
GoGo Kitchen also had attractive if simple minimalist features with a black-and-white design. Clams with black beans and garoupa in sweet-sour sauce both had impressive plating, limned with fish figures carved out of carrots. The piece de resistance had to be the adobong pusit, fancily presented with an upright filigree fan of solidified squid ink.
Much as we were already crying uncle, we still had to accommodate succulent bites of fried garoupa with mango slices and sauce, the redundant fried shrimps with salted eggs, and excellently textured tempura at Asian Taste Seafood Restaurant.
The eclectically posh main hall of Ash Kitchen Garden Restaurant & Bar
But that wasn’t the last stop, as culminating the epic crawl that took nearly five hours, from 7:30 p.m. to midnight, was a nightcap at Ash Kitchen Garden Restaurant & Bar — as posh as a spread-out bar can get, with private videoke rooms stretching past the main hall with its large MTV screen, wine racks, and curious exhibits of antiques like a manual typewriter, a vintage film projector, and assorted gewgaws.
At this point most of us had to decline the offered dessert and bottles of wine. The food crawl at Seascape Village would have us burping till the following midnight. A good thing the culinary parade was limited to only half of the possible stops. The rest — including Blue Posts Boiling Crabs and Shrimps, Golden China, Darwin’s Café, Hong Kong Special Golden Fortune, and Lhong – E Seafood Restaurant — would have to wait for another epic evening.
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