Missing Claude’s, welcoming Tola

IT WAS a sad moment when I was told that Claude’s Le Café de Ville closed earlier this year. Claude’s, after all was a class by itself – an institution and a place to learn the ropes in fine dining even when it was just a small restaurant across the Oboza residence along Rizal Street.

As a young journalist still learning the ropes both at work and in socials, Claude’s was a place to learn about French cuisine, wine, and yes, which kubyertos to use in fine dine settings.

It was a joy when they moved to the Oboza residence for that complete ambience. That said, any place that takes over will be scrutinized. That is Tola.

Tola brings old world elegance to Davao food, the type of food you gorge on. Simple fare but prepared the way it has been prepared through the ages.

Imee, Trish, Deng and I tried it even before its official launch because that’s how we try restaurants – in their unguarded moments as paying guests.

Suffice it to say, Tola delivered what it promised – very familiar cuisine, no fusion. The care and focus is in the preparation.

Let’s start with our choice of appetizer – sour green crisp mangoes. Just the thought of it would make your mouth water. It is served with their homemade ginamos (salted fish sauce), ginisang bagoong (sautéed shrimp paste), and salt with chili powder. It’s hilaw na manga as we ate it when we were young – fresh from the tree, sinungkit.

The fresh spring roll is good, the sauce seasoned just right with the right sweetness and hint of fresh garlic. We also had the tinolang isda, crispy-fried tilapia, bam-i, and bistek. Having removed meat from my diet, I can attest only to the fish and they are good as well. Deng swears the bam-i and bistek were just as good.

With very attentive but not intrusive waiters, the whole experience is complete, a worthy successor has taken over the grand old house. By the way, you should try their drinks too. The Daba-Daba Coffee was a blast. Pricey, but a blast.

Highly recommended but a tad pricey. Definitely worth a visit and one other eating place to introduce guests to Davao.

By the way, if the waiters look familiar, they are. Some were once waiters of Apo View, the Pamintuans must have treated them very well, indeed.


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