|Welcome to T.O.P., not to be confused with The Only Place|
"Have you been to T.O.P.?", a colleague once asked when she learned that I frequently go to Batangas City, the capital of Batangas Province, Philippines.
"Uh, no.", I replied, completely clueless about what T.O.P. was. Only a year later did I realize that T.O.P. stood for "The Other Place", a seafood and native restaurant that is perhaps the locals' best kept dining secret.
The Other Place is located at the Rizal Avenue Extension in Batangas City. The place seemed unassuming from outside, like a modern nipa hut with its bamboo and wood exterior. For a second, I thought it was one of those a run-off-the-mill native restaurants. Things were quite different once I stepped inside with my relatives for an early Saturday dinner. We were greeted by friendly female servers who immediately directed us to a table. Once seated, I noticed two separate tables occupied by foreign diners (and there were more coming when we left the restaurant). Looks like those foreigners beat me to discovering this restaurant!
I usually prefer eating home cooked meals whenever I visit Batangas, largely due to the fact that the best local dishes can be eaten at a Batangueño's home. After going through the menu of The Other Place, we decided to order mostly seafood (since the server said that's their specialty) and of course, the Filipino's favorite, the Crispy Pata (fried pork knuckles). For starters, we had the Seafood Bouillabaisse:
|The Seafood Bouillabaise, good for 5-6 people|
It was definitely not the Marseille Bouillabaisse, where this dish is said to have originated. It's more of the Chinese style bouillabaisse with its generous portions of calamari, shrimp, mussels and fish cooked in a rich stock. I liked it since it was flavorful and not watery. My companion complained about the calamari in her soup though since she found it a bit rubbery.
|The T.O.P. rice, good for 2-3 people.|
|Was this Steamed Lapu-Lapu?|
I wasn't a fan of this since it didn't look like Lapu-Lapu at all, though my companions said it tasted great. I was more excited with our next order:
|The Other Place Crispy Pata! :-)|
A good Crispy Pata should be golden brown, with a crispy rind, tasty and tender meat, and not too oily. The Other Place Crispy Pata met those standards!
For dessert, we had their Special Turon. I am sure you want to find out what's so special about these banana spring rolls. Here's how it looks like:
|The Special Turon is meant to be shared.|
We ended the dinner with Kapeng Barako, the famous brewed coffee of Batangas which is a variety of the Liberica coffee. It tasted just as good as the Kapeng Barako I enjoyed at home with its strong and rich flavor. It kept me awake for the long after-dinner conversations.
I had a chance to visit The Other Place again last week since we didn't want to eat at the fast food restaurants inside the mall. This time we tried the Prawn with Lemon Butter and plain rice. We devoured the prawn before I could remember to take a picture (It was that good!). For dessert, we had their fruit salad, which was quite a disappointment since it was too frozen. We could barely eat it, so we ordered the Special Turon again.
Here's a page from their menu to give you an idea of the food's cost. I personally find it a bit expensive compared to other restaurants in Batangas City, but the service and quality of food is well worth it. Do try "The Other Place" to find out why it's "tops" among the locals.