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Jump starting my Filipino food quest with Adobo Manok and soupy Lomi at Delmon, Karama.

Remember that time when I first ventured into Filipino food and vowed to start exploring it with a vengeance? Well, as is evident from my blog – a blog has grown from a healthy fire-breathing dragon to a wheezing donkey with its bony legs doing a shaky quadruple split as it hauls a human load lazily draped over its back from step 385 to 386 of the 800 ancient steps in Petra – I failed.

I failed so miserably that I actually forgot I had even been to Delmon over a year ago with the lovely Didi Paterno, and ended up going back this week thinking I’d never been there. Didi has sadly moved on from Dubai to the US and left the coveted post of being my Filipina foodie mentor vacant.

Delmon Restaurant - Filipino Food in Karama Dubai

Delmon is a bare-bones restaurant that dishes out Filipino fare in Karama. The last time I was here with Didi, I ironically had a tummy upset and settled on a soothing bowl of soupy chicken mami swirled with noodles and garnished with a quartered boiled egg.

But this time around I could be more adventurous and give the place a real gluttonous shot. With my fingers racing over my phone keyboard to translate the menu, this is what we ended up ordering…

Tokwat Baka - Delmon Restaurant - Filipino Food in Karama DubaiTokwat Baka. Fried strips of marinated beef tapa interspersed with crisp-chewy cubes of tofu, both of which were relatively unspectacular until dunked in a soy concoction with garlic and raw onion. This is a good ‘waiting mode’ appetizer – not half as addictively good and worthy of killing your appetite as a basket of warm freshly baked bread, not half as disappointing as cold limp white bread that deserves neither a pat of butter nor a spot in your cavernous tummy. It’s just one of those dishes that you mindlessly chew on as you wait for your main course to arrive. I’ll skip it the next time for the lumpia (spring rolls).

Pinakbet - Delmon Restaurant - Filipino Food in Karama Dubai

The Pinakbet was a tumble of sautéed mixed vegetables: bitter gourd, okra, pumpkin, tomatoes and Asian eggplants sautéed in bagoong alamang (fermented shrimp paste) and peppered with pink shrimp. The veggies had been cooked to that perfect point where they lent their flavour to the dish, yet kept their shape and colour close to their veggie cores. Had the chef left out the tongue-pinchingly bitter bitter gourd (maybe they don’t soak the gourd in salt water before cooking for pinkabet?) and the shrimp paste which I personally cannot stomach with vegetables, I might have ventured for a second serving.

Adobong Manok - Delmon Restaurant - Filipino Food in Karama Dubai

The Adobong Manok kept me occupied for most of the meal. Hefty chunks of bone-in chicken were submerged in a soy sauce gravy spiked with vinegar, garlic, pungent purple onions and bay leaves.  It was sweet, savoury, astringent and salty all at once, a versatile and aromatic gravy that I polished off with ease.

Lomi Special - Delmon Restaurant - Filipino Food in Karama Dubai

The runner up on the table was the Lomi Special, a hearty bowl of thick slippery egg noodles cooked with veggies, shrimp and chicken and garnished with fried garlic and scallions. The soup had a simple and hearty translucent broth thickened with eggs, and reminded me of the fulfilling chicken Mami I had on my first trip (though that one has different noodles and a clearer broth).

When I saw Kare Kare on the menu, I was COMPLETELY confident that I knew what this dish was because I had tried the same dish at Sari Nusa (remember that time?) Turns out, I was almost completely wrong. I stupidly fused the excellent peanut-covered Gado Gado and the superb oxtail stew from my Sari Nusa experience and concocted a new hallucinatory memory in the foggy depths of my mind. That memory told me that Kare Kare was a peanutty-oxtail stew.

Kare Kare - Delmon Restaurant - Filipino Food in Karama Dubai

Crazily enough, that foggy memory was not far from the present truth. Kare Kare is a rich peanut-infused oxtail stew that I begged my oxtail-wary friend to taste, just once. Sadly, the plan back-fired because the Kare Kare at Delmon turned out to be tough chewy bits of oxtail screaming to be rescued from the oil spill the chef had drowned them in. I didn’t have the heart to save them.

We closed out our lunch binge with halo halo, even though the appropriate thing to do would have been to clutch our over-stuffed tummies and tumble out as respectably as possible. Crushed ice drenched in evaporated milk and topped with beans, nata de cacao, bananas, macapuno, ube, creamed corn and my all-time favourite mix-in, a thick creamy blob of sweet leche flan. And Selecta ice cream, of course, sprinkled with pounded rice flakes.

Halo Halo - Delmon Restaurant - Filipino Food in Karama Dubai

I prefer picking out every separate element of the multi-textured halo halo and enjoying it in isolation, savouring a different flavour and texture in every bite rather than mixing it up into one gloopy puddle as is the tradition.

Halo Halo - Delmon Restaurant - Filipino Food in Karama Dubai

The Adobong Manok was not my favourite dish in the whole foodie universe, just my favourite pick at Delmon, with the Lomi a close second. The Halo Halo with its childish creativity always makes me happy happy, but I'm no judge of authenticity and taste when it comes to Filipino food. Take the wiser words of a Filipina blogger and read both of Didi's reviews on Delmon (here and here) to get the real verdict. On both counts, she held off giving a stellar review of authenticity to the place but admitted that it could nevertheless satiate a homesick Pinoy soul.

The next place on my list is Bulwagang, also in Karama. Let’s hope it doesn’t take me yet another year to haul myself there to explore Filipino food again.

Delmon Restaurant
Near Karachi Darbar, Karama. I've pinned the location on my Google hideout map.
Phone: 04-3369561





5 Comments

  1. Wendy

    I love Filipino food! I found your post by trying to find Filipino cooking lessons in Dubai. Do you happen to know of any, or of any other Filipino dubai based foodies that might be up for it? ThX!

  2. I’m just so sad that I’m not there to guide your curious palate :( And you know my sentiments about Filipino restaurants in Dubai…Nuninoo. I would rather that I cook you a meal than having you eat there. Seriously. But alas, we won’t get that chance anymore (unless you find yourself in the US soon).

    Anyways, here are some points:
    1) Tokwa’t Baka – That is a sorry take on the Tokwa’t baboy (Tofu and pork) which is usually eaten as a side dish to lugaw (Filipino congee) or as bar chow. Pork head: ears, cheeks, jowls, are most often used.

    2) Pinakbet – Unfortunately, you cannot take out the shrimp paste in this dish as this is gives its essence. It is a peasant dish up north, where vegetables are given a meaty and salty flavor with the shrimp paste. I personally also don’t like ampalaya (bitter gourd), so I just fish out the veg I like ;p

    3) Kare-Kare – This dish is uniquely Filipino, not similar in anyway to Indo and Malay cuisine. I always say it is an acquired taste for those who are not familiar. But this is quite a treat for us. Sadly, I don’t think they put so much care into cooking the ok tail, which should be so tender that it melts in your mouth. Did you try it with shrimp paste? One must have shrimp paste with the kare-kare, else there’d be no salt in the stew.

    Oh, I have read somewhere that kare-kare was derived from “curry” (curry-curry! Get it?) from the Indian settlers, who escaped from the hands of their British masters (yes, the Brits also did try to take the Philippines too). This dish look so like Indian curries, hence, its name.

    4) Adobong Manok (Chicken adobo) – The sauce from this dish is similar to the adobong kang kong, which you enjoyed from the Kabalen trip eons ago :) Usually, we adobo anything and everything ;p

    Fill me in on the visit to Bulwagan. Those guys own the same resto along Rigga, Tipanan, so expect the same food offerings there.

    I would recommend that you visit La Mesa in Asiana hotel instead. They are, of course, pricier that Delmon and Bulwagan / Tipanan. But they do put more care into the taste and presentation of the food.

  3. nadia

    I miss Didi too! Even during my recent 6-week stay in the US, I was still too far away from her :( But hey, I can accompany you to your next Filipino food adventure! I have a decade of authentic Filipino food experience with me :)

  4. Hmmm not sure I will be rushing there…but your post has opened up another little chink of light into the obfuscated world of Filipino food. Thanks to Abigail I actually know what ube is (and like it too).

  5. Just catching up on your posts… we are serious Filipino foodies. My Lady Friday has turned a Bong as much as I have turned a Filipina. We’ve seriously scouted most of the Filipino restaurants in this part of the creek. I would seriously recommend a dish called ’Bikol Express’. My LF hails from this region and they are considered to be great chefs. Bikol Express has many variations – the one she does at home is the best. However, you get very good Seafood Bikol Express in Golden Fork. There’s Max – a fast food joint in the Spinneys building on Trade Centre Road. Please try the Chicken Sinigang + Bangus. Also if it’s Halo Halo, do try the one at Chow King’s. Though the last two are fast food and a regular restaurant, lot of Filipino people visit these places.

    Haven’t found in any restaurant so far, but if you have a Filipino friend (or if you are interested, you are most welcome to join us at home), do try 1)Pancit Canton 2)Lamb Caldaretta 3)Torta (Sliced Eggplant dipped in egg and fried) 4) Seafood Bikol 5) Fruits Salad with lumps of Macapuno inside. Don’t want to push posts here, but just wanted to tempt you with recipes from the source… Pancit Canton – http://ishitaunblogged.com/2012/11/24/pancit-palabok-bihon-canton-on-a-filipino-food-trail-episode1/; Seafood Bikol – http://ishitaunblogged.com/2012/11/27/bikol-express-the-romanticism-of-the-mayon-volcano/

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