It is no secret that I’m borderline obsessive-compulsive. I’ve been known to be quite the perfectionist, control freak (the tolerable type, I hope), am a huge fan of careful planning and is madly, deeply in love with spreadsheets. Don’t get me wrong, I can be spontaneous if the situation calls for it (really, really impulsive, actually ), but most of the times, I prefer schedules and structure.
This is why I feel two of our Tacloban food finds (and the trip in general, now that I think about it) are a fluke. No plans. No destinations in mind. No preparation at all.
First case in point: Ocho Seafood and Grill.
Don’t be fooled by this facade…
Ocho was a serendipitous find. Kite and I were just aimlessly walking around (no, actually, we were looking for some hangout spots ) on our last night in town when we noticed our stomachs grumbling. We have already passed by several fast food chains and some nondescript roadside restaurants but, for reasons I cannot remember, we eventually only got interested in exploring Ocho. (I think I was craving for seafood then and I saw the sign?) Little did we know it’s a fairly popular restaurant in the city, and, after sharing a meal for two, we understood that it was for very good reasons.
We really didn’t expect what we saw when we stepped in. The outside of Ocho betrayed its inside to some degree; the interiors were almost too posh, what with its ceiling details and rows, upon rows of bottles of wine. Kite and I went “Oh. This is a surprise.“, and a nice one at that.
…as these will welcome you once you get in. Ambience ba kamo?
This one was right beside our table. Who would’ve thought?
After being assigned a table, we were led to a dampa-esque area at the back of the resto where diners pointed and picked among a wiiide range of fresh seafood. (It was unfortunate that they didn’t allow people to take photos of their spread, though. I found no reasons for them not to, but I didn’t bother asking why…) There, guests are asked how much by weight their order is and in what way they prefer it cooked: grilled, fried, adobo, you know, the works.
To help us down our food, we ordered fresh mango (mine) and guyabano (Kite’s) fruit shakes. The mango was good, but major points for the guyabano.
It was a gargantuan task choosing from the many options, so we left our dinner’s fate to the recommendations of the ladies who served us. They gladly (and quite honestly, I must say) gauged how much will do for a serving for two and what we ended up with are supposedly their bestsellers: a bivalve called shell sarad, adobo-style, shrimps fried in garlic and squid served on a sizzling plate doused in sweet spicy sauce.
We sat down, enjoyed the feast bestowed by the Philippine seas, and well, nothing else to say but craving very much satisfied. The sarad (apparently pen shell in English) had an interesting chewiness, with a texture and taste reminiscent of kuhol or golden snails crossed with that of the familiar mussels or clams. The way the adobo was cooked was peculiar too, with a sauce that was a bit viscous. Don’t worry, it’s the good kind of peculiar.
Excellently prepared too were the squids and shrimps. While advertised as “fried“, the shrimps weren’t oily at all. Both it and the sizzling squid turned out tender and sweet, and the sauces were not cloying and kicked varying levels of heat. Kite, no doubt, loved it, and so did I.
Our waitress was “Sir, I recommend adobong shell sarad.” and we were like “Sarad? What’s sarad?”. Ayan. Ayan ang sarad. Cheers to bizarre foods!
Fried. Sweet. Garlic. Shrimp. How can you go wrong with that?
The color was a bit off when we first saw it – too bright I think – but one bite and were won over by Ocho’s sweet spicy sizzling squid. Spicyyy!
Oh, they have a menu too, and we chose two items from it, again based from the staff’s suggestions: porbidang kangkong and chicken binakol. The vegetable dish we ordered to balance off the calories from all the seafood, but well, it failed on doing that. Haha! It was extra rich and creamy! Think laing, but less viscous. So much for adding a healthy component to the meal.
From the menu: “Porbidang kangkong is an Ilonggo vegetable dish made with kangkong leaves stewed in a spicy broth of coconut milk. This rich dish goes perfectly with a great heaping of warm rice and is one of our bestsellers.”. Hay. Rice.
Now the chicken binakol, oh the chicken binakol… As amazing as their marine fare was, Kite and I were floored by this. Comfort food at its finest! The broth was to die for; naturally sweet, flavorful, heartwarming, the type of soup you’d like to sip whole night long. The person who invented this dish, adding coconut water and coconut meat to an otherwise average stock of boiled chicken, was a genius!
And this one at Ocho? I remember this was the day Pacquiao lost a match to Marquez. Chicken binakol made us forget about that. It was that goood…
And the award for best dish of the night goes to… a dish with no seafood! Haha! Can’t get over how awesome the flavors of this dish were. By the way, what other dishes are served on empty coconut shells like this one?
A closer look. See those white slivers? After we slurped all the soup away, we even scraped the leftover coconut meat on the inner sides of the shell. PG mode lang.
Ocho may be onto something as they claim they are “Tacloban’s finest seafood restaurant”. While I have no basis of comparison, I would still highly recommend it to anyone going to Tacloban. I hear Liisa (a proud local) and Kebs (her very own Jay Durias ) loves it here too, so I guess Kite and I are not an isolated case. That being said, don’t skip their chicken binakol! Don’t even think about it, just order for one. Well, unless you’re allergic to coconut, or great food.
And yeah. Goes to show some of the best things in life we come across with even on unplanned occasions. Woot!
Ocho Seafood and Grill: Tacloban’s finest seafood restaurant
Ocho Seafood and Grill
Senator Enage Street, Tacloban City
Leyte, Philippines, 6500
Telephone: +6353 325 4171, +6353 523 3220