I first heard of Dampa from a friend that described it as the "Best Seafood Experience Of Her Life". Since my ears don't exactly ring when I hear "Seafood", it didn't really leave a mark with me. I don't eat squid, shrimps, crabs, tahong, or any of those things. In fact, the only seafood I really eat, is fish. Though I wasn't really excited about it, I ended up going with some people from work, who had no clue yet of just how picky an eater I was. So with my luck, it was only natural that they ordered everything above that I said I didn't eat. We were taking out a German friend of my boss, and he wanted his visitor to get an authentic taste of Good Old Filipino Seafoods. Not to mention the fact that the Dampa experience was something that would definitely be a story to tell when going back to his country.
So I went to Dampa with low expectations, and completely clueless to the fact that I was about to try something that would make it to my list of "Best Things Ever".
During the dinner I had Dampa in Paranaque with my work friends, I was intrigued by the smell of the Prawns that were bathed in what seemed to be a thick golden sauce. Upon dipping the tip of my spoon into it and giving it a taste, something magical happened. I ended up eating rice with the sauce from the Garlic Butter Prawns. Yes, you read that right. Sauce and Rice. That's how good the sauce was.
Rina invited me to go to Dampa sa Libis this time with her family, and another time for my birthday. I was eager to go because I knew what to order. The Butter Garlic Sauce, but instead of it being on Prawns, I would have them fry up a Lapu Lapu and douse the sauce in that. At first they refused, but then our Tita Bablou pointed out that since they don't actually cook the prawns IN the sauce, why can't they just use the same sauce and pour it over the fish instead? She's not exactly someone you'd want to get into an arguement with, so that worked in my favor, and they ended up doing it - in turn, giving birth to one of the Best Things Ever. It's not exactly in their menu, so since I thought of it, I'm taking credit for it. (and Tita Bablou too hehe)
The concept of Dampa is simple. You drop by the "Palengke" (Wet Market) and you choose the seafoods you want. You determine the quantity, and you get to choose what you feel is the freshest among the catch. The aisles are labeled fish, Squid and Prawns.. in case you get lost. I guess.. hehe
Now the problem with this is - and sorry I don't mean to sound sosyal or anything like that, but.. the outside kinda smells like.. well.. a Palengke.. It's not really the most appetizing thing in the world. And while Rina and the rest were there shopping for the seafood.. I saw a giant rat that I coulda sworn was coming straight for me. (The guard explained to me he wasn't allow to use his gun shoot at rats.. even if it was a, "killer rats", as I described it. I'm scared of rats, in case I haven't mentioned it yet)
After paying for the seafoods, you can select the style you want it to be cooked from their menu. You'll be charged a fixed amount per kilo. As you will notice, Butter Garlic is in the Prawns/Shrimp Section, but not in the fish. But i've never been one to follow the rules. ;) hehe.. I actually like the Dampa sa Libis better than the Paranaque one, because for one, it's easier to park, and second, the moment you walk into the Paranaque branch, you're swarmed by people who beg and plead with you to eat at their restaurant. Almost like when you go to Greenhills or MCS and you get swarmed by the Dibidi-dibidi people.
You can choose to eat inside at the wide Al Fresco area, or inside at the more cramped air conditioned room. Though it's nowhere near as spacious as the Al Fresco area, we still prefer the aircon room. When you go Dampa during the lunch hour of a weekend, expect the aircon area to be jam packed, so I suggest you go around 11:30 or so.
Rina loves this pic cuz of her shiny hair hehe.. (
Chaikka's smile is natural. Don's.. not so much.
If tempura is on the menu, expect Rina to order it
One of Rina's favorite dishes is tempura. For as long as she sees it in the menu, there's a big chance she's going to order it. We went to a Filipino restaurant one time and she saw tempura in the menu, guess what? she ordered it. Of course she was kinda disaapointed with it, and later I told her that maybe she should stick to ordering it in actual Japanese restaurants. hehe. I'm not a big Shrimp Tempura eater, but this one was pretty good. Not as good as Saisaki's though.
Rina and her family really love the Shrimp in Butter Garlic Sauce. With sauce like that, I don't blame them. There's a "Dampa" near MOA as well, and they didn't make this as good as this one, because the sauce was really thin and barely even there. The one in Dampa Sa libis was rather generous with their sauce, giving them a two thumbs up from me - and that's for a dish that I didn't even eat.
Rina's two shrimp dishes
My Discovery. Almost as important as the discovery of fire.
Adding the Butter Garlic sauce to the Fish was a no-brainer for me, and of course, the best fish to use for this dish was the Lapu Lapu. It melded together into a magnificent symphony of flavors, as the white meat of the Lapu Lapu served as the ideal canvas for the coating of the sauce. The fish was also fried to crispy perfection, to the point that I could no longer distinguish where the meat ended and the bones began. This was really one of the best fish dishes I have ever tasted in my whole life. When the fish is gone, you can still eat the sauce with rice. It's awesome.
If you don't eat Liempo with every Filipino meal you have, you might as well give up your citizenship.
Their Liempo isn't anything out of the ordinary, but there's really something about it, when I eat there, one plate never seems to be enough. Maybe it's because of the Butter Garlic Sauce that i drown in the liempo as well that makes it so delicious. It's seasoned very well, and grilled just right, so that the meat is charred at the right amount, but still juicy at the same time.
So Don, you CAN open your eyes during a picture!
You know what's funny? I don't recall seeing this Tortang Talong on the table. But since there's a picture of Don holding it up, It really must've been there. Huh. Weird. I guess I was so focused on the fish and liempo that I didn't notice this. hehe.
Steamed Fish Chinese Style.. another Dampa masterpiece
Another gem found in Dampa. The fish was steamed so well that the slightest touch with the fork ripped the meat off the bones. The Chinese Sauce had a sweet tinge to it that added another dimension to it, while the green onions gave it a slight kick, without going overboard.
The Coke Zero on the bottom right was mine. I was on a diet.
Dampa sa Libis may not be the classiest joint you'll ever go to, and they probably will never win any awards from the Department of Health anytime soon, but you cannot live a single day of your life without trying the Butter Garlic Sauce, be it with the fish or the shrimps. I'm telling you, you're missing 4/3s of your life! (which is more than one whole, so you know that's alot)