I rarely go to Dampas, mostly because they’re so far from where I live. I’ve probably been to three different dampa restaurants since I’ve moved to the Philippines in 2006. The first one I went to was quite an experience. I was with a group from my youth fellowship. They asked if I’ve been to a dampa before and when I said no and asked what it was, they told me it was seafood and you picked your own food. We went to the one in Pasay that was along Manila Bay, right behind the Philippine World Trade Center.
The first thing that happens when you drive into the area is get called by barkers that stand outside each restaurant. I won’t go into detail, except to say that I now know what it feels like to be cat called.
The women in our group were unphased and picked a place. We had a wide variety of dishes since our group was big. We ordered crab, shrimps, baked oysters with cheese (first time I tried it), fish, and deep fried calamaris. So this leads to the second part of the experience: the restaurant’s service is cooking and the prices on the menu are for cooking only. You’re given the choice to venture outside to the market and pick the sea creatures you were going to eat. They have them in big fish tanks or laid out on a iced table. I highly recommend not getting attached to the displayed animals.
It’s a pretty expensivee ordeal, but a great food experience. If you’re in the Philippines I’d highly recommend trying it at least once.
Yesterday I had my third experience at the dampa. I went with my wife and her sister and husband. We went to the same Dampa in Pasay except we ate at the Hongkong Master Cook restaurant nearest to the parking lot. It’s the nicest and largest restaurant there, and this one didn’t have a barker. We went on a random Wednesday night and the restaurant was packed with people. Apart from the locals, we saw several tables with foreigners from China, Korea, and the U.S. Hongkong Master Cook felt like the safest bet as the other restaurants were mostly empty.
We ordered the Maya Maya steamed fish with soy sauce and half a kilo of shrimps (lemon and garlic), except this time we didn’t go to the market to pick the food. There was just four of us and my wife and her sister don’t eat much, so it felt sufficient for the four of us. The cooking time is around 30 minutes and they served the food as soon as it was finished cooking. I wouldn’t mind this if we were in a big group, but it was quite odd having shrimp come first, then 10 minutes later your fish, then last your rice.
But the food was great. The shrimps were big and the fish large enough for four people. We finished everything and were satisfied. The fish was the most expensive costing around P900, while the shrimp was around P500. The cooking came out to be around P500, so our total bill was arond P2,000. Quite expensive for a basic meal, but we enjoyed the food and the experience.