Boracay is the perfect paradise for the beach lover and the gourmand. In this island, you can soak up the sun and savor the sight of it sinking into the sea to make way for the clear night skies. In the same island is also a food paradise, where a stroll by the beach also is a trip around the world for your tastebuds, with the many restaurant choices catering to almost any budget and cuisine imaginable. Italian, Japanese, Indian, Korean, Mexican, and many more dishes await foodies that they will have to choose whether their vacation in the beach will be showcasing a Boracay body, or a Boracay belly.
Housing both Asian and European food under one roof is a beachfront spot in Station 2: Ti Braz and Damiana's. These two restaurants share space in showcasing homey French and Filipino food to hungry travelers. Ti Braz, Boracay's famous creperie and French bistro, started about 14 years ago, and is one of the first and oldest restaurants in the island. "The original owner has decided to move back to Palawan, and then that's when I took over," Christine San Diego shares. Ti Braz still has in their menu items that tourists and locals have come to love through the years, and, under Christine's supervision, additional food that leans more on the French bistro-style. "It's how the French would eat if at home," Christine explains, "it's comfort food, very simple. It's what you'll see in a French bistro in Paris."
The concept of incorporating a Filipino menu is also San Diego's idea. Damiana's is the next door neighboor of Ti Braz, sharing tables and chairs. Christine shares that Damiana's is dedicated to her grandmother, who serves as her biggest inspiration when it comes to cooking. "Damiana is my grandmother. She taught us how to cook at a very young age; my brother studied culinary in the States, and my family has been in the food business for a long time." The Damiana's menu features heritage recipes; actual recipes from the grandmother herself, which Christine learned from her mother. The rest are modern and inspired dishes, a twist to the familiar and traditional Filipino food.
Once you're on your seat, you can browse through the two menus, cross order, and mix and match two cuisines under one meal. Start your morning with some petit déjeuner, or go local and have your almusal--the choice is yours. They also have a juice bar called Fuel (so yes, that's essentially three food menus under one roof!) for you to quench your thirst.
French and Filipino Under One Roof
We begin our afternoon al fresco eats with a couple of appetizers and a bowl of soup. The Crevettes Sautées à l'ail (P260) may read sophisticated (and twist your tongue) on the menu, but it's quite the familiar dish, more commonly known as gambas al ajillo. Ti Braz's version of the classic garlic shrimps is sauteed with garlic, lemon zest, Pernod, and chili. The Soupe a L'Oignon Gratinee (French Onion Soup, P180) is such a steal for less than 200 Pesos. "Very authentic, as authentic as it gets," says Christine about this soup. The flavors are rich, punctuated with onions and hearty beef. Adding more texture to this delicious soup is a topping of toast and melted Gruyere cheese. From the Damiana's menu comes the Lumpia Tinapa (P150), deep fried rice rolls stuffed with smoked fish. It comes with lettuce leaves which you wrap around the lumpia, before dipping it into the sweet-sour sauce, for some crisp and freshness upon every bite.
For hungry folk seeking comfort of familiar dishes, order classics such as Ti Braz's Salad Niçoise (P310) or Damiana's Ginisang Monggo (P100). The traditional French salad is Christine's personal favorite, a bowl of fresh greens combined with boiled potatoes, green beans, tomatoes, olives, and tuna, with a vinagrette dressing that is the restaurant's own concoction. Their hearty mung bean soup reminds me of my grandmother's cooking, and the classic stew of monggo and malunggay leaves flavored with pork belly makes me feel right at home in Boracay.
If you want familiar Filipino flavors married with creative modern flair, then order any of Damiana's signature dishes. Their Oxtail Sinigang (P200 - solo, P475 - sharing) has an amazingly flavorful broth that is succulently sour, and the most tender of oxtails thanks to the meat being simmered for hours. "Nobody serves oxtail in their sinigang, right?" Christine says with a laugh. What we usually eat by way of kare-kare is glorioiusly showcased in this sour broth classic dish, and deliciously so. I wonder what else can oxtail replace excellently in our Pinoy dishes?
Moving to Ti Braz's menu, new flavors are introduced with their Poulet Aux Speculoos (P325), or 'fillet of Speculoos;' this actually is just an invention of Christine's. "There's this French dish that is cream based, with sauce to go with chicken breast. So I took that and used the cookie butter as the sauce," she shares. The grilled chicken breast is topped with a special speculoos cream sauce, inspired by an idea given to her by her children. This dish introduces both novel and familiar flavors to the palate, with nuances akin to chicken satay laced with that sweet yet salty flavors of the cookie butter.
If you mention Ti Braz or Damiana's to Boracay residents and regulars, most likely they will share to you that the restaurant is most famous for their adobo. And while you may not think much about ordering your common adobo for beachside grub, please do so and get yourself the Twice Cooked Adobo (All Chicken - P265, All Pork - P300, Combination - P275). It's well-known among Boracay locals and they regularly head to Damiana's just to get their adobo fix; among traveling foreigners, the adobo is also most frequently ordered. Meaty pieces, soaked in that irresisitble combination of soy sauce and vinegar, are a treat to consume with its crunch and crisp edges combining well with the garlicky aftertaste. The adobo is served with three kinds of sauces: classic, spicy, and one that is laced with coconut milk.
After a feast of European and Asian flavors, you may want to relax with their selection of coffee and tea, or try any of their fresh juice concoctions at Fuel. I opted for a cold jar of their Detox (P200), a delightful beverage that's spiced with ginger, and made blushing red by beet root. I taste hints of apple, watermelon, and lemon with every sip, and convince myself that the drink is refueling my system after a sleepless but fun weekend in Boracay. If a more saccharine ending to your meal is more of your thing, then order any of Ti Braz's famous crepes, or go Pinoy with their crisp and sweeter Turon Sampler (P150), three crispy pieces of banana, leche flan, and mango turon. It's quite the dessert to nibble on as you sip on some coffee and wait for that famous Boracay sunset.
Like Ti Braz and Damiana's on Facebook (TiBrazBoracay and damianasrestaurantboracay), and follow them on Instagram (@tibraz and @damianasboracay).