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21 June 2008

Jetsetting Foodistas | Baguio: The Comforting and Familiar

JoeyJoey's Wanderings in the Summer Capital
Jetsetting Foodistas: A Travelogue by Joey
Part 1 of 2: Dencio's & Hamada

My latest Baguio trip was more food-centric than a good soak in culture, so unlike with my Thailand travelogue, I'll skimp on the general trip narrative and dive straight on to the food. And other than thoroughly enjoying all the good food, this visit made me remember and miss being a little kid again.

There are three things I look forward to most when going to Baguio: horseback riding, relaxing to the cool weather and the great food to be had. And there is one place where we always have our first Baguio meal whenever we go on a trip to the Philippines' Summer Capital: Star Café.

Star Café is a hole-in-the-wall Chinese restaurant along Session Road (on your right side, if you're facing downhill) that serves really good and really cheap food. It may be a relatively small place, but it's familiar interiors and the scent of all that lovely, savoury Chinese food trigger a warming "Welcome to Baguio, Joey!" in my mind every time.

Unfortunately, our quasi-family tradition was thwarted by horrible Session Road traffic, so, at my uncle's suggestion, we headed for Mile Hi at Camp John Hay for our first Baguio Trip 2008 meal.

While my adventurous rank sinks from heading for the familiar instead of venturing out and trying something new, I'd have to say that you'd be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn't come out completely satisfied (and feeling a little guilty) after dining in Dencio's.

If there's one dish you cannot miss out on when eating Dencio's, I would have to say it's their sisig. The thing I love most about their sisig is the texture. Most sisig I've had in the past wasn't all that interesting, texture-wise, since most of it is soft. Dencio's sisig has a crunch and a crisp to it, which makes all the difference to me. It also seems to taste better than most sisig I've had, but that could be just me.

Since we were a relatively big group, we ordered their Set C, which consists of Barbeque Chicken (good, but nothing to go crazy over), Sizzling Tiyan ng Bangus (Sizzling Milkfish Belly; delicious :9), Chop suey, Kare-kare (Philippine peanut sauce-based stew; my brother's favourite), rice, iced tea, and, of course, their sisig.

Dencio's, Camp John HayDencio's, Camp John HayDencio's, Camp John HayDencio's, Camp John Hay

After that incredibly satisfying, not so heart-friendly lunch and resting for a bit, we spent the rest of the afternoon horseback riding, wandering around the Butterfly Garden in Camp John Hay (worth a visit, if only to talk to Mang Loloy, who mans the place), a few rounds of bumper cars, revisiting our childhood at the playground, then heading back to our cottage for a few rounds of Pictionary whilst snacking on a bag of Cheetos.

And like how we always have our first Baguio meal at Star Café (except just this once), we always have to have dinner at Baguio Country Club's Hamada teppanyaki table, of course.

Hamada was named one of the Philippine Tatler's Best Restaurants of 2007. It's easily one of my favourite Japanese restaurants, if only because having a teppanyaki chef prepare our food in front of me tickles me. There's just something rather fascinating and fun about teppanyaki tables that makes me feel like a little girl again.

[ Funny little side note though: Hamada now has a dress code. That wasn't there the last time we dined there; granted, it's been so long since our last visit. They're particular about no slippers (I'm guessing it's because of that Havaianas fad that I never understood) and no 'hip hop' clothes (this made me giggle and go "YES!" at the same time). ]

We started our meal with a few plates of California maki and shake (salmon) sashimi. I'm actually not fond of California maki, since it's, more often than not, full of mayo (which I am not very fond of either). I enjoyed these ones served by Hamada, however, since they went light on the mayo and you can tell that they used fresh, quality ingredients (I've had my fair share of not that great sushi, yes). As for the sashimi, I think "I adore salmon." pretty much sums up what I thought about it, haha.Hamada

Our teppanyaki chef came about the same time as our orders of tempura. He introduced himself as Joel and proceeded to do a few fancy tricks with his cooking utensils. After cleaning his "workspace", he proceeded to crack open and fry more than a few eggs for our fried rice.

I don't think I can ever get tired of teppanyaki table dining. Not only do you see how your food is prepared, but there's just something a bit fascinating with the way they cook it. Along with our yummy fried rice, we had some mixed vegetables and beef tenderloin and chicken teppanyaki. Everything, of course, was perfectly cooked: the meat very tender and the vegetables crisp and flavourful.

The last time we were at Hamada, my cousins and I were able to try their teppanyaki ice cream. So this time, we decided to order a plate of their tempura ice cream. It was essentially vanilla ice cream covered with tempura batter and fried, drizzled with chocolate syrup and topped with a maraschino cherry. It was a bit much for me, but my cousin liked it, saying that it reminded her of the Wicked Oreos (Oreos covered in batter and fried, served with ice cream and chocolate syrup).


We left Hamada very much happy, as always, and very much full. After a few rounds of mahjong, we head back to our cottage and got a good night's rest: A good end to a good day. :)

The next part of the Baguio series will include a number of Baguio must-dos and must-go-tos: Café by the Ruins, the Lourdes Grotto, Forest House, Easter Weaving Room, and, my favourite, Choco-laté de Batirol. For now, I leave you with more photos from my first day of my first Baguio 2008 day. ♥

Joey in Baguio

Joey in Baguio: Day1Joey in Baguio: Day1Joey in Baguio: Day1Joey in Baguio: Day1Joey in Baguio: Day1Joey in Baguio: Day1

See many more photos of my Baguio trip on my flickr.


  1. I love Dencio's! Especially their sisig.. sarap! :) And I ate in Hamada na, but I was still really young the last time we did, so I don't really remember it.

    We visited the Butterfly Garden na rin! I still remember the caretaker, but we never got his name. Mang Loloy pala.

    Thanks for the great post! And really nice pictures!!!


  2. Your post makes me miss Baguio :(

  3. check out my baguio food trip...:)

  4. hey bellisima ♥ you're looking good! and i miss you! :( i hope i get to visit las islas filipinas soon.

    and maaan, i miss roadtripping there :( the last time i went to baguio was eons ago. and i really miss the food there :( i miss star cafe!

    can't wait for your next post, bella ♥ anything that has to do with chocolate de batirol has got to be a good thing. and, really, we all just miss you over here in foreign soils.

    you take care! don't be a stranger :)

  5. great blog you guys have here :) ireallly adore your writing and photography, joey. keep at it!

    this blog really makes me miss the philippines.

    maybe you can do a post on filipino food staples? i think a lot of your filipino readers abroad would really like it.

    and, btw joey, i like your velvet(?) sweater. :) and i love bumper cars too! but i haven't been on one for so long. makes you wish we never grow old, doesn't it?

    alexa :)

  6. Excellent entry :)
    You really have a knack for blogging. Do you have a blog of your own? :)

  7. I went to Baguio last summer too! When were you there? We stayed at BCC and ate at Hamada twice during our stay. To think I could have met you then! :( That would have been awesome :P

    I got to eat at Star Cafe :) We walked there from the Cathedral and had lunch. It's always a great place to eat. You can't miss it.

    Great post, as always!

  8. Andrea
    yeahh, mang Loloy is really nice! and very helpful. he knows a great lot about butterflies and was more than willing to instruct us on how to make our own butterfly garden. :)

    thank you for reading and commenting! ♥

    it makes me miss baguio too. especially the second part of my baguio travelogue :(

    will do! tried looking for it, but it must be an older post, yeah? will try and check it out later :)

    i hope so too :( tony mentioned something to me the other day but it was cryptic at best.

    i miss star cafe too! it's v. sad i didn't get to eat there the last time i went up to baguio :(

    you're never online, miss busy :P and never ♥ come visit soon, okay? manila misses you! :(

    Alexa Hui
    thankyou! :) and the velvet sweater?? i got it on sale :) was super cheap haha!

    and yeahhh :( bumper cars are the super love ♥ if you ever see a middle age woman going at with on the bumper cars along with little children about a decade from now, then that's prolly me hahah!

    none that's open to public :)

    thankyou! ♥ was there last week of may :)

  9. Hi Joey, would you be interested in being a monthly contributor for a New Zealand-based food, lifestyle and travel magazine? Please email me for details, thanks.


  10. LOL @ your sidenote! ANd ooooh tempura ice cream! I LOVE wicked oreos, haha! You always seem to eat such yummy food :P

    I love your Jetsetting Foodistas series! Actually, just love your blog in general. Keep at it!! :D

  11. Que delícia! This is a good article!

    Vista en Flickr :)

  12. MAN!!! Your entry made me HUNGRY AGAIN. Actually it made me remember i forgot to eat dinner. Lol.

    "no hip hop clotes" :))

  13. What does teppanyaki ice cream taste like? XD

  14. Warren Fletcher
    hi! thanks so much for the offer :) unfortunately, i only write and take photos for leisure, and i'm not really looking into making money out of this. thankyou so much for offering tho! i'm very honoured you considered me :)

    thankyou! :) will do haha

    thanks :D

    gracias! :)

    LOL, you're welcome ♥ and i know! i found that so funny - but true :|

    like ice cream, really haha :P it was yummy, but nothing to go crazy over. :9


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