Delish Eats: Dara Filipino Restaurant Hong Kong, Traditional Meets Modern
February 07, 2023
Restaurant history: Dara Hong Kong opened its doors in mid-December 2022 to an F&B scene previously unfamiliar with Filipino cuisine, yet has cured a loyal following for its modern take on Pinot cuisine, alongside foodies’ embracing the history of Spanish and American influence on its dishes.
Chef story: Home chef turned culinary manager, Imelda Santos Bunoan, makes her first professional move into Hong Kong restaurant kitchens following the success of operating Darang Mel, a Kapampangan-focused delivery service set up during the pandemic. She hails from Pampanga of Luzon province, the culinary capital of the Philippines.
What’s the vibe and venue like: Hidden around the corner from the MTR exit in a stylish apartment block and behind a dark foyer, Dara is a warm hug and a modern celebration of Filipino love and culture that’s worth searching for. Run by a long-term Filipino family based out of Hong Kong, the interior is designed by the architect sons with an eye for traditional Filipino designs.
How much does it cost: HK$908 for three shared starters, two mains, two desserts and two cocktails.
What is the menu about: Think homestyle Filipino cuisine meets modern table dining in Hong Kong. Chef Imelda Santos Bunoan brings grandma’s warm cooking to a modern space, celebrating the beauty of the cuisine.
What did we order: Lumpiang Laing (HK$68), Tuna Kinilaw (HK$118), Lumpiang Shanghai (HK$78), Sizzling Sisig (HK$88), Pork Kare Kare (HK$148), Beef Kaldereta (HK$158), Sapin Sapin (HK$38), Ube Cheesecake (HK$58), Buko Colada (HK$108), and Gubat (HK$118).
Tuna Kinilaw: Served with julienned ginger slices that bite, each tuna cube teases the tongue for more savoury options later in the evening, with vinegar and onion aromas that invite you back for more addicting servings.
Sizzling Sisig: The sisig offered a heavy nutty and meaty aroma that followed through with savoury and fatty flavours with the chopped pork maskara and chicken liver, with fresh citrus shining through with the sweet purple onion and imported calamansi.
Pork Kare Kare: The kare kare holds a traditional focus at Dara, with a soupy peanut butter base stew that imbues the deep fried lechon and beef tripe with a nutty sweetness that is addictive. Pair each bite with garlic rice and shrimp paste for the full experience.
Beef Kaldereta: This shone the brightest at my tasting at Dara. I am salivating as I write this sentence, reminiscing on the nutty, salty bites of the soft beef rib fingers that float in the tomato stew, tying together the salivating tones of vinegar and honey.
Sapin Sapin: A perfect end to a great meal. The quaint ube and coconut milk bites host a delicate sweetness that cleans the palate for a good end, with pan-fried coconut pulp served on top that counters the condensed milk.
What we liked: The service and hospitality was beautiful. Each guest is greeted with genuine warmth, ushered in the family house for a meal and drinks. The Beef Kaldereta was sublime and a must to order, alongside the vinegar-infused and sweet dishes which temper your tongue for more.
What we didn’t like: Patience is required for a meal at Dara, having opened only two months deep into soft opening. Whilst a little spice added to the dishes would bring added complexity to each dish, I have no complaints for our meal.
What you should order: Isaw, Lumpiang Shanghai, Sizzling Sisig, Chicken Inasal, Beef Kaldereta, Sapin Sapin.
Location: Dara, Shop 6, 1/F Artisan House, 1 Sai Yuen Lane, Sai Ying Pun, Hong Kong
Contact details: +852 5107 4474
This food review is based on a complimentary media tasting provided by Dara in exchange for a truthful review and no compensation. The opinions expressed within represent the views of the author.
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