This time of the year, it’s all about seafood. And when you’re talking about the fruits of the sea, dampa is the best way to enjoy it. Dampa in Filipino literally means “kubo“, the traditional hut made from coconut leaves and bamboo. Cheaper than going to a typical restaurant, the dampa concept is simple: customers buy the raw seafood themselves, and then proceed to a nearby restaurant to have the items cooked in whatever way they please.
Perhaps the mark of a good dampa is its proximity to a large body of water. Because (we assume), the closer you are to the sea, the fresher the seafood you can get. And the Seaside dampa located along Diosdado Macapagal Boulevard in Pasay City is just a few meters away from the Manila Bay and the many fishing ports around the area.
The huge lot holds several rows of the open-air wet market where customers can walk by and choose their seafood, and on the other side, a row of restaurants where you can have your items cooked.
Step 1: Choose your seafood
It’s very easy to be overwhelmed when buying seafood at a dampa. The stalls are compact and many, and the salesladies are vicious and extremely eager to make a sale. And then there’s the skill of making sure you choose the freshest ingredients available. On your arrival give the whole area several passes. See what catches your eye and your appetite, but don’t purchase anything yet. The prices are all generally the same which leaves very little room for haggling. And then on your second pass, proceed to buying what you want.
The options are, of course, many: you have your usual fresh fish options, as well as a wide range of crustaceans such as crabs, clams, shrimps, scallops, oysters, mussels, and lobsters. For the adventurous, some stalls have tanks with live rock crabs, baby sharks, and abalone, among many others.
Our loot: 1 kilo of oysters for P50/kg, half a kilo of shrimp for P440/kg, half a kilo of scallops for P440/kg, half a kilo of blue marlin for P400/kg medium-sized crab crab P550/kg.
Step 2: Choose a restaurant
There are many restaurants along the strip where you can have your seafood cooked. It all really depends upon how much you’re willing to spend and the kind of ambiance you prefer. Royal Kitchen, located at the far end of the property is a Chinese restaurant so most of their cooking methods are Asian of Chinese-inspired.
Before you enter, you need to surrender your goods. An attendant will weigh them and ask you how you’d like each one to be cooked. At the back there’s a photo menu of their most popular ways to cook seafood.
Our crab was cooked Singapore-style with a thick and spicy chili sauce (P250), while our scallops were steamed (P130) with some garlic. The half-kilo of shrimps (P250) was perfectly cooked in a butter-garlic sauce, while the fresh oysters (P260) were baked with some cheese and garlic. Lastly, the blue marlin steaks (P50) were lightly grilled.
The novelty in visiting a dampa is choosing your own seafood. One can go to any Chinese-themed restaurant with some catfish swimming in an open tank and order similar dishes. But a real dampa, like the one along Macapagal Avenue, smells of the sea, tastes of the sea, and is a bit muddy like the sea. Some effort is needed, for sure. But that makes it fun. The seafood choices are many and varied, and the restaurants, while a bit of a hit-or-miss, aren’t bad, as well. Of course, it all boils down to the fresh seafood. And here, you can see it for yourself.-#EatsNowOrNever
Royal Kitchen Seafood Restaurant
(02) 623-6580, (02) 552-3930
Seaside Dampa Macapagal Boulevard
Macapagal Boulevard, Pasay City 1309
Operating hours: 10:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m.
Accepts credit cards: Depends on establishment.
VAT: Prices are inclusive of VAT
Service charge: Depends on establishment.
Free Wi-Fi: Depends on establishment.
Parking: ample parking space in front
Comfort room: Depends on establishment.
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