There isn’t much in the lazy, slow, sunbaked small town (Ok, small city – but it feels like a town) of Dumaguete in the Philippines that can be considered a high-end restaurant. In fact, I can think of only three that even come close to qualifying: the fusion Filipino resto (they abbreviate every “restaurant” to “resto”) Kri with its modern and healthy menu, and the legendary Dumaguete icon, Sans Rival Bistro (they are most famous for their Sans Rival bakery with incredible sweets and baked goods, like their Silvanas that are so good they should be illegal). So that’s two high-end restaurants, and I’m using the term “high-end” pretty loosely here.
But there is one other option in Dumaguete for semi-fine dining, and that’s Casablanca. Located right in the center of the main Rizal Boulevard area overlooking the sea, Casablanca is rated as the #3 most popular (or is it third best? I don’t know how their rankings work) restaurant on Tripadvisor. But they should be able to throw their hat in the ring for the best place to get a meal in our little Duma.
The building is set up with a nice raised patio where you can sit and eat outside. Casablanca tends to get far fewer beggars and panhandlers trying to sell you pearls (seriously – that’s what the street vendors try to sell you here!) They have plenty of staff working out there including a security guard, and it usually never gets hit with full sun, so it’s a nice place to eat.
But usually when I go to Casablanca, I head inside where it’s comfy, cool, and spacious. I believe the owner is German or Swiss, as are a good portion of resto owners in the Philippines, as many of them came in the 1970s or 1980s and opened their own eateries. There are definitely a lot of Swiss, German, and Austrian items on the menu, like the traditional schnitzel which is HUGE and really tasty and the meat and cheese platter (leaves a lot of be desired and expensive, although I totally understand because it’s hard to import all of those things.) But the chef also makes limited sushi (seared tuna sashimi as an app and a few rolls), they bake their own bread (fill up on free table bread and garlic butter before a meal), and they do import a whole lot of foods.
In fact, Casablanca has the best selection of imported beers anywhere in Dumaguete, with about 20 beers from Germany, Austria, and even USA and Mexico. They also have the best selection of imported (of course) wines you’ll find in Dumaguete, with vinos out of their small cellar from Australia, Latin America, France, Spain, Germany, and Italy.
They import plenty of meats and cheeses from Germany like I mentioned. It’s nearly impossible to find these things, and Casablanca features their own full German-style deli. You can also get sausages, sundried tomatoes, great olives, and other yummy edibles.
But on the menu, they also have local fish, curries and local Filipino favorites made slightly more healthy Medditeranean, and even middle eastern food – probably inspired by the Casablanca theme (you can see a movie poster on the wall when you walk in). However, it all comes at a price, as you’ll pay a hefty price for some of these imported items and normal meals. Eating at Casablanca is too rich for my blood on a regular basis, but the great thing is that they have a daily lunch special with a moderately priced good set menu, and also tapas nights. It’s worth eating at Casablancas when you have company in town or for special occasions!
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