Until last weekend, I never really liked Boracay. My experience of the island had mostly been huge crowds, sweltering heat and bad shopping. It turned out that there is a right time to visit Boracay to really appreciate it. Never go in the summer; rather, go off-season when the weather is friendlier and the crowds are thinner. I just came home yesterday after spending a long weekend in the island and I loved every moment of it.
Not a lot of people go to the beach during the Habagat season when the southwest winds blow, the weather is often humid and rains fall in torrents. But the September Boracay trip with friends from U.P. College of Law was planned and paid for as early as February and, despite the threat that it might rain non-stop, we went. It did rain occasionally but that was a benefit rather than a drawback because every rainfall cooled the air and lolling by the sea sipping mojitos and piña coladas became the ultimate pleasure there could ever be.
And then there was the food. We walked, we took tricycle rides, rode on scary lifts and hopped over puddles to get to where the good food was. And we feasted.
Aria Cucina Italiana
On our first day, there was Aria Cucina Italiana. We ordered individually, I lost track of the names of the dishes that were chosen but we shared what each ordered so we were all able to taste every dish.
Aria is not the kind of pseudo-Italian restaurant one often finds in the city with the over-stylized plating, small servings and horrible prices. While it is true that food at Aria is not cheap, the serving portions are very generous and the ingredients that go into each dish are the best kind.
The must-try list includes the insalata di salmone affumicato e rucola which counts among the ingredients two of my favorite things in the world — smoked salmon and arugula; the pasta al fume with creamy tomato sauce that is made subtly sweet by brandy and contrastingly salty with the addition of emmenthal cheese; the pasta boscaiola with mushrooms and ham; and, of course, the pizza — thin crust and baked in the traditional Italian wood-fired oven.
After a fantastic meal, we moved next door to the gelato stand. So many flavors to choose from, I can’t even recall now what I ordered. But I remember eating my gelato while walking back to the hotel. Glorious first meal after arriving in Boracay on Friday.
Nami Resort Restaurant
There are three very good reasons to visit Nami Resort Restaurant in Boracay — good food, fantastic view and good food. Yes, food has to count twice because the most breathtaking view cannot make up for bad food. Nami has the most wonderful view but the food is even better.
Where is Nami? It sits atop a hill overlooking Diniwid Beach on the far end of Boracay — the side where Station 1 is but farther to the edge of the island. From Estacio Uno where we were staying, we hired two tricycles (there were six of us, all women lawyers) to get to Nami. It was sunny when we left Estacio Uno, we were wearing our pretty summer attires but, between Estacio Uno and Nami, it poured like the dickens, and we were soaked. It didn’t matter. We were having fun, we were on a food adventure and getting soaked was a minor inconvenience.
From where the tricycle dropped us off, we walked, crossed a portion of the beach, went up stone steps on the hillside and on to a waiting lift. I’d say elevator but that might make you visualize something that was not. It was a lift that we rode, what most would refer to as a construction lift, the kind that workers and engineers ride in to go up and down a building that is still under construction. The sides, floor and ceiling of the lift had been covered with bamboo and it was picture pretty. It’s a pretty safe ride too because Nami does not allow more than four passengers at a time.
So, up we went. Four of us in one ride and the last two after us. Perhaps, I should mention too that someone from the second group screamed in terror all the way up and had all the diners staring as the two passengers got out of the lift but, hey, that’s part of the adventure. Women lawyers can’t do that in elevators in office buildings but, in Boracay, it was hilarious rather than embarrassing.
At the restaurant, we were each given a thick dry hot towel to wrap around ourselves. We were dripping from the rain, literally, and the towels (which I don’t remember anyone asking for) was such a thoughtful gesture.
The Nami meal was meant as a light late lunch. We were still full from the buffet breakfast, there was a spread especially ordered for dinner (a treat from a lawyer friend) and we wanted to feel starved by dinner time to really enjoy the food. We went to Nami primarily for the view and the spanakopita.
Spanakopita is a Greek pie with spinach and cheese filling. It’s something similar to Sam’s spinach and cream cheese dumplings but phyllo instead of wonton wrappers and feta in lieu of cream cheese. Spanakopita is a very traditional Greek dish and one of the most well-known and well-loved around the world.
Traditionally, spanakopita is baked in a pie dish. The dish is lined with layers of phyllo, the spinach and cheese mixture is spread and then topped with more phyllo. The edges are tucked in, the pie is baked until golden then cut into diamonds or squares.
At Nami, the spanakopita is served as a finger food — generous triangles of phyllo that burst with the spinach and cheese filling. They were glorious. And, of course, we had wine. What’s finger food unless enjoyed with a drink?
And because we were a group of food-obsessed lawyers, we had more than the spanakopita.
Nami’s tacos are served as finger food too — more like nachos, really, but conveniently stacked so that all we had to do was pick up a piece and bite. The tacos were good too.
Finally, because it rained and we were soaked, it was a good excuse to have hot soup. Some ordered French onion soup; others had molo soup. I didn’t order any for myself as I was more than happy with the spanakopita, the tacos, the white wine and the cheese that we brought.
It was once again warm and sunny by the time we were done with our food and drinks, and ready to go back to Estacio Uno for a nap before the much-awaited specially-prepared dinner. Did we manage to digest everything in time for dinner? Sure, we did. Some went swimming, others had a massage, I walked on the beach, from Station 1 to Station 3 and back, taking photos.
It was Dos Mestizos’ mojito that came highly recommended and the original plan was to go there one night after dinner. But, when on vacation, plans are never set in stone and, after discovering that a new Chinese restaurant had no chef and was closed for lunch, we went to Dos Mestizos for lunch instead.
Thinking that lunch at Dos Mestizos would be more of a “happy hour” affair than a regular meal, I was quite prepared to crawl on all fours back to the hotel. Figuratively speaking, of course. But, surprise! I had only two mojitos and two glasses of sangria because I was more focused on the food than the drinks. The food was that good.
Dos Mestizos serves full meals but we agreed to order tapas with our drinks. We chose the tapas and, while waiting, we enjoyed the most refreshing sangria I have ever tasted.
For those unfamiliar with the terms, tapas are appetizers or snacks in Spanish cuisine typically accompaniments for drinks. Sangria is a drink made with wine (red, usually, hence the name) and fruits and, sometimes, brandy.
The mojito did not disappoint. Made with fresh limes and mint leaves, it was every inch as good as our friend who recommended it had promised.
But it was the tapas that really made my day.
There was bacalao, squid, Spanish tortilla (potato omelet) and, the star of the meal — callos. I rarely use superlatives but I don’t mind describing the callos as “to die for”. Heck, it was terrific.
My only regret was that they had no oysters available. Fresh oysters and mojito just go so well together and mojito as good as Dos Mestizos really deserves to be in the company of the freshest oysters. But the availability of fresh seafood is largely dependent on the weather which directly affects supply, and there really was nothing that anyone could do it being monsoon season. In the end, I didn’t miss the oysters all that much because I could have eaten just the callos and I would have been perfectly happy.
The friend who recommended Dos Mestizos has been a regular customer for years and she knew the owners who came over and chatted for a while. One of them mentioned that they had just opened a restaurant, Rojos, at the newly refurnished Fairways & Bluewater Newcoast Resort and suggested that we might want to visit. Would there be oysters at Rojos? He promised that there would be. He’d order two dozens for us, he said, I scowled and he immediately upped the number to three to four dozens. I smiled.
So, after downing countless cups of tea to digest lunch, off we went to Rojos at Fairways & Bluewater Newcoast Resort in the evening. There was wine, mojitos, more tapas, paella and, of course, oysters galore.
Fresh oysters on the half shell, glorious in all its natural brininess. It was our last dinner in Boracay and it was perfect.