D I N I N G
I N D A R A G A
The last time I was in the town of Daraga was two years ago. Visiting the province's famous Daraga Church was timely as it was undergoing a major face lift that day. Something old was given an extended life. I guess it's prevalent of life in that town of Albay where everything needs to be lasting and extended.
Lunch Venue For My "I Love Albay!" Blog Series Tour
It's no wonder that the word "daraga" in Bicolano dialect refers to a maiden or someone unmarried. There are a lot of well-maintained ancestral houses in the area. One such house was for my lunch venue during my recently-concluded "I Love Albay!" Blog Series Tour. Called Balay Cena Una, the restaurant means old house in Tagalog (from the term sinaunang bahay). It's actually a restored ancestral home that has been converted into a dining venue for intimate meals and events.
Mostly offered in Balay Cena Una's artsy crafts-y menu are traditional Filipino dishes that have international cuisine influences. This may have been brought about by the restaurant's executive chefs -- the husband and wife tandem of Diosdado and Concepcion Condeno. Both are considered to have a world-class background in the culinary arts as they were able to work in the Middle East, the US, and Macau.
The Rice Culture
Easily noticeable was how the steamed rice serving on meal plates were interestingly served -- in the playful shape of a cone as a tribute to the majestic Mayon Volcano. And since Daraga has most of its months in wet climate, rice farming had become a generous activity for locals so much so that rice is what they use for coffee instead of the usual arabica or robusta beans.
To kick-start my immersion, I ordered the restaurant's traditional Rice Coffee. With just a few sips, I was able tell how different it tasted from other types of brew. There's a lasting grain-like overtone in taste that's devoid of an arabica's lasting sweetness and lacking the kick of a robusta blend.
Plates of Pasta and Chicken
For the actual meal, I had the restaurant's Pasta Cena Una Special which was served in a plate of fettuccini with shrimps. I was informed that it was mixed in coconut milk, taro leaves, and saffron which rendered the dish flavorful the way Bicolanos like it.
The dining experience was made complete with heritage inspiration from the house's structure itself. Accentuated by displays of rare collector's items, the dining area felt like a delicious visit of a museum.
Photography By Josua Chan
and Karl Ace
Balay Cena Una
Address: F. Lotivio St. Bgy. Bagumbayan, Daraga, Albay
(Monday - Saturday) 10:00 am - 10:00 pm
(Sunday) 11:30 am - 09:00 pm
Phone: 0917-827-9520 and (052) 435-4338
My "I Love Albay!" Blog Series Tour:
More Photos Below: