Dining in Boracay: Filipinized at Ka-on, Overwhelmed at Ambassador

The Tides Lamb Shank Caldereta
The Tides Lamb Shank Caldereta (Php 550)

One of the great pleasures of revisiting Boracay is the eats.  For an island no more than 10 square kilometers, the place offers a wide range of international cuisine, establishments wooiing diners with new flavors and treats.   After the sun goes down on White Beach, it’s a heady experience wading through restos and discerning which ones are worth the visit.   I was fortunate enough to visit for a writing assignment.  Appropriately, food was the topic so even though stuffing your face day in and day out to gather notes on the food is hardly the way to really enjoy the eating experience, I’m grateful for the opportunity.  Here, I write about Ka-on and Ambassador in Paradise, two dining destinations on the island worth revisiting.

Ka-on is located at the rooftop of The Tides, right at the center of D’Mall on Station 2.  Convenient location alright but hardly a romantic or poetic setting.  The set-up near the pool is warmly lit during the evenings.  On a clear night, it’s nice to literally dine under the stars.   The food is in a word, sumptuous.  The sell is “Progressive Filipino Cuisine” but the real proof is in the eating for how many times have you heard of this and that restaurant tweaking Filipino food and end up not pleasing the palate.

Our group was served the Lamb Shank Caldereta.  Now, I’m not fond of lamb and usually wary of the “fishy” aftertaste.  But this one is very good, falling-off-the-bone tender.  Part of the secret is the painstaking braising which took over four hours (which is why you need to call a day ahead if you want this) plus the simmering of shank in the liver sauce blend.  It’s a throwback to the traditional way of spending the better part of the day in the kitchen and the Caldereta certainly tasted nothing like the express dishes paraded as gourmetized iterations — delicately seasoned, tender and full of flavor.  The presentation was spot-on, eminently beautiful to shoot as the food is sumptuous (pardon the repetition) to eat.

The Tides Ka-on Beef Ribs Adobo
The Tides Ka-on Beef Ribs Adobo (Php 350)

What’s Pinoy fare without adobo?   We got our fix with the Ka-on Beef Ribs Adobo.  The middle riblets were used so even though beef was used, it’s a pleasure to bite into each piece without having to chew too hard.   The tenderness is immediately obvious as the beef ribs were simmered for four hours in soy sauce, vinegar, bay leaf, pepper and salt.  The long hours of cooking is worth it as every morsel is as flavorful as the one before it.  Simply put, Ka-on is a nice way to introduce foreigner friends to Filipino cuisine.

Location-wise, Ambassador in Paradisesits on the quieter side of Station 2 away from the maddening crowd so to speak.  On a clear night, you get to dine under the palm trees and the stars and look out to the shore just steps away from where you sit.  The wicker chairs, and tables, the trees  give the place a pronounced tropical vibe.  Come evening, the warm lighting adds to the charm.  The menu is to say the least, overwhelming, with so much variety.  We were fortunate to have an audience with the chef who helped  narrow down the daunting number of choices.

Ambassador Trio of Tenderloin Gratin and Lamb
Ambassador Trio of Tenderloin Gratin and Lamb

First, we were served the Trio of U.S. Black Angus Tenderloin with Foie Gras, Gratin Dauphanois and Skewered Lamb on Couscous.  Each one competed for my attention –especially  the soft, juicy tenderloin mingling with the foie gras and the tender lamb contrasting with the couscous.

Then, we had the Smoked Salmon Squid Tartare, delicately smoked salmon and squid bits mixed with onions, tomatoes and spices drizzled with pesto sauce.  It was a light and pleasant respite from the meat dish earlier and the Pinoyzza (a contraction of “Pinoy Pizza”) that came next — a rich compendium of pan de sal dough topped with aubergine, itlog na maalat (local salted egg), tuna, cream cheese and aurugula.

Ambassador Chocolate Encased Brazo de Mercedes
Ambassador Chocolate Encased Brazo de Mercedes (Php 170)

For dessert, we had brewed coffee and Chocolate Encased Brazo de Mercedes, a sinful treat to cap the heavy meal.  A custard treat wrapped with Belgian chocolate, there’s as much eagerness to empty the middle portion to get to the dark chocolate casing afterwards.  By this time, I lost count of the calories we were served but never mind.

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