Food Trip in General Santos City

Sinuglaw
There are many reasons why you should go food-tripping in General Santos City. First and foremost, being the tuna capital of the Philippines, the city wouldn't be recognized as such for nothing. Home to the world-class General Santos Fishport Complex--the second largest fish port in the country next to Navotas--that exports tuna to Japan, US, and the rest of the world, its gastronomic scene is teeming with  a plethora of delectable tuna and seafood dishes. This does not mean, however, that tuna and seafood dishes are the only must-try's in the area. In fact, the best among the three restaurants we've tried during our stay was a Thai restaurant that serves delectable beef khao pad!

Second, there are limited tourist spots in General Santos City as it is a business- and industrial-centric destination. Plaza Heneral, Pacquiao's Mansion, and the fish port are some of the few spots that you can explore, as well as  the eco-tourism hub known as Kalaja, which is promising but a bit far from the city proper. That being said, food-tripping is the best means to keep boredom away.

Third, food here is relatively cheap. 'Nuf said?

In our four day GenSan-Sarangani-South Cotabato trip, we spent two nights in GenSan, which allowed us to see and try some of the city's culinary gems. Here are three restaurants that we have sampled during our visit in General Santos City:

Cafe Amoree
Since we were staying at the Microtel by Wyndham in Gen San (see review here), we opted to have lunch in one of the restaurants within Valley High. The choices were: Big Ben Steaks & Grill (best for carnivores), Red Trellis (fresh seafood), C Bistro (best ribs and grilled salmon), GoodFellas (Italian cuisine), Mama Paulita’s (comfort food), and CafĂ© Amoree (24 hour dining). In the end, we chose Cafe Amoree as we want some local and not-so-Westernized dishes to satiate our cravings.


Valley High strip
Interiors and Ambience
True to its name, Cafe Amoree radiates a typical cosy cafe feel with neutral hues and minimalist interiors. A vitrine of moderately-priced cakes and pastries welcome you as you enter, and further inside is the dining room. The dining room also serves as a function room.

The Dining Room
What We Ordered
We browsed the sleek menu and one thing called our attention right away--sinuglaw. Coined from the words "sinugba," which means grilled, and "kinilaw," which means raw fish or meat cured in vinegar, sinuglaw  is therefore a combination of grilled pork belly and raw tuna drizzled with spicy vinegar sauce. It is best eaten with a steaming cup of plain rice and is a beer-match. Cafe Amoree's version of sinuglaw is definitely a must-try. The succulent grilled pork belly strips complements the raw tuna, with contrasting flavors and textures. The serving is good for two to three persons (actually good for four if you're ordering other entrees) and the price is affordable at around Php 250 per serving.

We also ordered sizzling tuna steak which is good, too, albeit a bit overcooked for my preference. Oh well, I guess I'm just so used to eating raw tuna!

They say cakes here are good, too!

Tuna Steak
Tiongson Arcade
If you're a foodie and you're in GenSan, it is a mortal sin not to dine at the Tiongson Arcade on Tiongson Street in Brgy. Lagao. It is a long strip of sutukil- and dampa-style eateries just like Larsian in Cebu. Locals and tourists alike love this foodie heaven!

Tiongson Arcade
Ambience
All restaurants here are al fresco, so be prepared to inhale all the smoke from the grill, but I'm telling you, it's worth it. It can get crowded on a weekend night so better come earlier if you can.

Our dampa-style restaurant of choice
Inside Kalye 5
What We Ordered
Stalls here offer either grilled stuff like isaw, barbecue, etc. or fresh seafood that they will cook for you the way you want. We opted to eat bihod (tuna roe) and asked them to cook it spicy adobo-style (Php 100), and grilled white giant squid (Php 130) which they said is better than the purple one. Surprisingly, the spicy adobo bihod was a winner although I think one piece (usually the size of an average Hungarian sausage) is enough for three to four people. The squid was good but I should've chosen the purple one and asked them to cook it adobo style, with all its mighty ink included. Hubby ordere lato salad at Php 50 per serving, good to share. By the way, unlike in Manila where the seafood are priced separately from the cooking charge, here, the price is all-in so it turns out affordable. No wonder, even locals flock here to dine in troops!

Seafood galore



Top: Bagaybay (male tuna reproductive sacs)
Bottom: Bihod (female tuna roe/eggs)

Spicy Adobong Bihod

Lato Salad

Grilled White Squid
Have Sam Thai
Wondering what restaurant knocked us off our feet in GenSan? No other than the only Thai restaurant in the city, Have Sam Thai, which is located just opposite Tiongson Arcade. Owned by siblings Sam and Dionam Basco, this restaurant offers scrumptious Thai specialties that are reasonably priced. It caught our attention while waiting for a tricycle on our way back to the hotel. Since it is an open-air resto, the menu board can be easily seen from where we were standing and there, prices listed range from Php 55 to Php 200, which probably explains why the restaurant is so full. So on our last night in GenSan, we made sure to eat dinner here.


Interiors and Ambience
The restaurant depicts what eateries in Anusarn Market in Chiang Mai (one of Thailand's culinary capitals) look like--small, hole-in-the-wall, cosy, open-air and warmly lit.

Beef Khao Pad
What We Ordered
One of the owners suggested that we try their bestselling beef khao pad (Php 75), so we ordered one, and added pad Thai (Php 69) and tom yum goong (Php 55). The beef khao pad (stir-fried rice with beef and egg) is killer good, and I bet this pairs best with their barbecued ribs, satay, or any of the curry dishes on the menu. But if you're like me who's a purist most of the time, I can live with this beef khao pad alone. It's that good!

Pad Thai
Their version of pad Thai (noodles with bean sprouts, shrimps, egg, and peanuts) is also good as it is not soggy and bursting with flavors. It's even at par with Benjarong Royal Thai's version, in my opinion.

Tom Yum Goong

Their tom yum goong is actually infused with a Pinoy twist as it has local clams and tuna chunks instead of the usually prawn and enoki version.

We washed everything with Thai milk tea (Php 55). How I wish they also have ruamit (Thai halo-halo) or the classic sticky mangoes or torched pineapples that are also famous in Chiang Mai.

Overall, our tummy-filling trip to GenSan was a blast. What about you, what's your favorite dining hub in this corner of the world?


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