By Alexander Villafania
PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, PALAWAN – Admit it, we love trying to be exotic in a country where a lot of things are already exotic. When many people are living and working in high rise buildings, some try to literally go back to being provincial by dining in homey places.
Surprisingly, some “exotic” restaurants are more luxurious than expected. One place that doesn’t have to try to be exotic but has that natural provincial air is KaLui, a quaint restaurant in the outskirts of Puerto Princesa, the provincial capital.
The place is prominent in the itinerary of must-visit places for tourists, but is likewise popular among locals. Most of its patrons are businessmen and politicians
A distinguising factor for KaLui’s appeal is a requirement that all visitors must take off their footwear at the door entrance and walk inside barefoot.
I previously interviewed the owner, Luzerino Oliva, who said the gesture of removing footwear at the door is a trait of older generation of Filipinos living in traditional houses. It’s also a way for his customers to feel really at home, especially since the restaurant has more tables than chairs; people have to sit on the floor to eat at tables that are barely a foot high. This is also a typical design for traditional houses, somewhat similar to the Japanese.
Blogger ivyhoneylou was also captivated by KaLui’s mix of modern art deco and traditional Filipino furniture. The entire structure itself is made of sturdy bamboo, varnished to sheen. The thatched roof cools down the air even on a hot summer day and nearby are mini-waterfalls that add a refreshing, bahay-kubo (nipa hut) touch.
Of course, the most important aspect that really makes a restaurant is the menu. Luckily, KaLui does not disappoint. It is perhaps one of the best places to be utterly surprised with the choices of food as these tend to change almost everyday.
Even as there is a regular menu, the chefs of KaLui can offer something different everyday, giving customers the element of surprise.
Majority of the food served is seafood, are seafood, served “in the most pleasant way”, as described in the food blog Bucaio, despite the fact that these are essentially simple dishes readily available from the wet market.
As if following the way the Japanese create appetizing meals, KaLui puts a lot of emphasis on presentation. Food is placed nicely on plates and are sprinkled with some green, orange and yellow vegetables, served with some clear seafood or clam soup stock.
My companion and I chose at that time the clam soup, which has a slightly tangy taste perhaps due to the addition of ginger. We also chose the broiled blue marlin. It already smelled sweet even before it reached our table, maybe because it was either marinated or basted with some barbeque sauce. A best seller dessert that we chose is the coconut fruit mix, which is somewhat seasonal.
KaLui also has its “Special of the Day” and “Choice Catch.” These are menu items that are made based on what Oliva and his chefs have found during their daily trips to the market for fresh ingredients. This is exactly what makes KaLui extra special; the surprise factor.
And the best part? The price! For a great, four-to-five item dinner or lunch for two, you won’t have to spend any more than P1000 and that already includes the 10 percent VAT. So if you’re ever going to visit Puerto Princesa, never forget to swing by Kalui.
Kalui is located at 369 Rizal Avenue, Puerto Princesa City. To commute, take a tricycle to bring you to Kalui. For reservations, contact +0484332580 or +639287539621. The place is always full so best to make reservations.
(Photos taken from the Kalui website).
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