FeaturesEscarda’s Grillhaus

Escarda’s Grillhaus

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The first time I ate at Escarda’s Grillhaus was with a friend named, Thommy Yong, also an avid foodie. It was, I think, back in 2010.

We were about to attend a Sponge Cola concert at ACSAT. Back then, concerts were ‘a thing’ in Dumaguete, and rock bands were the trend.

My cousin Ejay and I went ahead to ACSAT from Bantayan with a fare of P15 each paid to the pedicab driver for a “double ride”.

Before going inside the campus for the concert, we decided we needed something to eat to have energy for the screams, chants, jumping, and group singing.

From the entrance to ACSAT, what anyone  could see across V. Locsin Road was a huge crowd. We got curious.

Fat dripping from the pork tocino onto the hot coals, filling the air with a “smokey” barbecue aroma. Causing a bit of a pure haze along the road that motorists would have to slow down to avoid hitting anyone queueing almost on the road. (Good-luck to asthmatics  like me.)

The grill stand had a long queue. I remember back then, Dumagueteños seemed to enjoy joining long lines. (Now, arte na kaayo ang uban.)

Then just as quickly, it was our turn! They took our orders almost systematically. (Mind you, the guy who took our orders 14 years ago is still the same one who takes the orders to this day! Wow. The family business must have worked out so well for them!)

I ordered heaps: three pieces puso (“hanging rice” inside a woven pouch of palm leaves), two sticks of chorizo, four sticks of tambok sa baboy (just the pork fat), four sticks of isaw (barbecued chicken intestines), one huge grilled hotdog, two pieces of atay (pork liver), and extra sauce. Yep, that was all for me. (I know. I know. I used to be reckless!)

To this day, I couldn’t understand what was so special about that eatery where one couldn’t even clearly see eye-to-eye with your friends while eating because of all that smoke.

To top it off, the eatery had a lightbulb right above the ceiling fan that kept on turning, maybe to keep the heat and the smokes off. But for those who suffer from motion sickness, good luck. You would be dizzy before finishing a single stick of barbecue.

Also, the eatery has plastic chairs, similar to those sold at Ruby Marketing or at Dew Foam. It also has a really tight walkway leading to the tables at the back, that anyone as fluffy as I am would have to walk sideways to get through the narrow path.

Most curious of all, the servers remembered anyone’s orders by memory! That alone felt really sketchy for me.

Seriously? Okay, I thought then, I might as well just go through this one hour of eating; anyway, we were sure to enjoy the concert later.

A couple of chitchats, and our orders came, just as I had rattled them off.

The moment our orders landed on our small table, I could immediately feel my mouth salivating.

“Hugas usa ta’g kamot!,” my cousin volunteered. Bro, that moment just after I had smelled the aroma of the grilled food I didn’t care if I had dirty hands. So my friends headed for the faucets….I couldn’t even wait for them to return.

I immediately separated all the meat from their sticks, carefully licking my fingers with every pull out.

Okay, here’s how the various meat tasted:

The pork tocino was cured so well, and I loved it. The taste of sweet breakfast tocino cooked over charcoal was just amazing.

The chorizo was so fatty, and is actually similar to the chorizo they popularly make in Cebu. It was also properly charred and rendered over the hot coals.

The tambok sa baboy had a chewy and soft texture. It was like eating humba but barbecued.

The atay was firm, but it gave one that mushy chew that almost every swallow needed a chaser of coca-cola.

The isaw was so clean — I cannot stress this enough. You can tell a well-cleaned isaw from one that was sloppily done by its aroma and how it actually tastes.

The hotdog, of course, was amazing, so tender and juicy.

Maybe you’re thinking I’m just explaining every cooking technique that every barbecue place here in Dumaguete ordinarily implements. So maybe you think they’re all the same.

But no. I believe what separates Escarda’s Grillhaus from the all the rest is their sauce. Oh, man, their sauce is the bomb. (I actually attempted to recreate this  particular sauce, and I think it was pretty close, but not quite.)

They’ll never give us the exact measurements but I’m quite sure the ingredients are: soy sauce, lots of sugar, black vinegar, lots of ginger, bay leaf, garlic, MSG, a bit of ketchup, black pepper, and chicken oil.

You can play along that recipe. Make sure you make a thick sauce out of the soy sauce and sugar first, then you can add in all the aromatics after. I could be wrong but this recipe tastes close to Escarda’s,  I promise.

After eating all that I had ordered that evening, all of my negative impressions just quickly disappeared. Every food was just worth it. Promise.

And so since that one night back in high school, me and my friends, family, and loved ones would eat at Escarda’s about two to three times a week. It was always our Friday hangout spot. It was our Birthday spot.

Celebrating small wins? Escarda’s ta! Ga maoy imong migo sa uyab? Tala Escarda’s!

We even brought our teachers to eat at Escarda’s with us, and they, too, agreed it was one of the best barbecues they’ve ever had.

It has been about 14 years already since that one evening before the Sponce Cola concert, and nope, I am still not about to turn my back on Escarda’s Grillhaus.

They’ve been pretty consistent with their taste. It’s fun to eat there. They’re timeless. And most of all, you can count on them: Same taste, same flavour, same personalized service.

With a better ambiance, better systems, better waiting time, this eatery will forever be with us. I promise you.  It’s one of those brands that you can’t beat. Truly, Escarda’s Grillhaus is part of #LegendaryEatsDumaguete.

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Author’s email: samuellebawasanta@gmail.com

 

 

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