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Visit this Negrense big house in Tagaytay

3 months ago

Visit this Negrense big house in Tagaytay

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Chef Antonio “Tony Boy” Escalante is inviting you to his house—his big house in Tagaytay. Balay Dako is his latest offering, inspired by Chef Tony Boy’s sense of tradition, flavors from his childhood, and his Negrense roots. It refers to the central house built within Negrense family compounds where the whole clan would hold their gatherings and celebrate special occasions—from simple long afternoon talks among family members to big lavish parties with relatives, neighbors, and friends.

Like a great host, Chef Tony Boy made sure that his place has something for everyone. Upon entering, guests waiting to be seated can shop for artisanal food products and pasalubong from the in-house Deli, like all-natural jams, an assortment of  bottled dried fish in extra virgin olive oil, snacks from Negros and other provinces, organic vegetables and herbs from the restaurant’s own farm and even embroidered nightgowns made by Chef Tony Boy’s sister.

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The house has three-levels, each with its own function—the terraza on the top floor is set up for the all-Filipino breakfast buffet in the morning, which then becomes a lounge bar at night; the comedor or the main dining area is in the middle level, offering a more homey, relaxing vibe to diners; while the silong or basement serves as a function hall for private parties. No matter where you are at Balay Dako, you’ll definitely feel the grandeur of the place, redolent of haciendero living was back in the day in Negros, but this time, with a fabulous view of the Taal lake and volcano.

It may be reminiscent of the former Antonio’s Grill but Balay Dako has certainly elevated its Filipino dining experience into an incredible level of appreciation for local flavors. Nostalgia plays a big role in Balay Dako as it sets the tone of how they came up with their dishes. Operations Manager Tricia Benedicto shared with us how Chef Tony Boy, together with Executive Chef Ricky Sison, conceptualized their menu: “Whenever we’re thinking of a new dish to present, it’s not what’s uso [or the trend now, but it’s about trying to answer the question:] what did you miss eating that you can’t get any more now?”  Don’t count on having your meat cooked sous vide or having your plate garnished with fancy flavored foam, though. Chef Tony Boy is set on preparing all his Filipino dishes in the traditional, old school way of cooking.

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Kilaw Sugba

Escabecheng Pampano

Escabecheng Pampano

Sizzling Bulalo ng Baka

Sizzling Bulalo ng Baka

The Kilaw Sugba makes for a wonderful appetizer—chunks of fresh Spanish mackerel are marinated in vinegar then mixed in with grilled pork. Bits of coriander, spring onions, and bell pepper round off the flavors of this refreshing starter. A Filipino-Chinese classic, the Escabecheng Pampano topped with crispy noodles is also a must-try. Tangy with a hint of sweetness, the familiar flavors will surely make you miss the home-cooked meals of your childhood. A sure palate pleaser is the Sizzling Bulalo ng Baka with thick mushroom gravy. A side of hot bulalo soup is also provided to warm you up on a chilly evening. Balay Dako recommends eating the bulalo with a serving of house made blackened onions as a condiment. It’s a totally different experience from the usual patis or toyo sawsawan for it adds a complex, smokey-sweet dimension to the dish.

Paksiw na Bangus

Paksiw na Bangus

It was the Paksiw na Bangus at Crispy Batok ng Baboy that made me decide that I would be coming back to Balay Dako. Escalante’s rendition is a large butterflied deboned bangus braised with slivers of ampalaya and eggplant slices in a stew of sugarcane vinegar, ginger, and garlic and then topped with a heap of pork-neck chicharon.  Yes, this is Antonio’s and classics here are done the right way; and the addition of chicharon just bumps it up a notch higher.

Halo-Halo ni Antonio and Coco-Panutcha Fondue

Halo-Halo ni Antonio and Coco-Panutcha Fondue

The Halo-Halo ni Antonio was the perfect meal ender for our lunch feast.  A metal carrier was placed on our table with six tall glasses filled with kaong, fresh langka, corn kernels, sticky rice dumplings, water chestnuts, and roasted peanuts. It was a fun way to customize your own dessert, mixing up the different textures and flavors.  Each concoction can be mixed with the light macapuno sorbet topped with suman sa gata and pinipig, for an even more indulgent treat.  Chef Tony Boy also elevates the humble bilo-bilo with the Coco-Panutcha Fondue, another interactive dessert. Glutinous rice balls sit in a pool of melted panutcha and coconut milk, which serves as a dipping sauce for different flavored mini turon like saging tikoy, and langka.

As Filipinos, it is in our nature to celebrate in big numbers while preparing huge portions. Leave it to Chef Tony Boy and his team at Balay Dako to transform that experience into a fine-dining affair like no other.

Balay Dako by Antonio’s. Aguinaldo Highway, Tagaytay City. Call (02) 246-9069 ext. 632. Visit www.antoniosrestaurant.ph/balay-dako


Words by Angeli De Rivera

Photographed by Ron Mendoza

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