Dampa is a Filipino word which basically means a “hut”. More of a nipa hut, to be exact. But if we use dampa in conjunction with fresh seafood, it connotes a row of restaurants that cook fresh seafood according to the wishes of the guests. The kicker? Fresh seafood is conveniently sold in nearby stalls, directly handpicked by the guests. If Mactan/Cebu has sutokil, Metro Manila has its dampa.
The concept is really simple. You pick the kind and quantity of the fresh seafood, pay at the fish stall (which sometimes sell pork belly and other meats, as well as other fresh products like fresh buko, seen at the photo below), proceed to a restaurant of your choice, then instruct the restaurant personnel how you want the food cooked.
It could be tuna, tilapia, lapu-lapu, maya-maya, hito, crab, shrimp, lobster, scallops, oyster, seaweeds, and other seafoods. It could be a heart-stopping steamed fresh crab (photo above, complete with that forbidden golden alige or whatchamacallit), a delightful fresh hipon / shrimp sinigang (photo at the bottom), kinilaw or other recipes. The restaurant charge per recipe (as well as for the beverage and desert that you may also want to order). Voila! Fresh seafood meal at the heart of the Metro.
There are a number of dampa-themed restaurant clusters in Metro Manila. Our first encounter with dampa years ago was in Paranaque, right after the international airport (NAIA I). I have tried the (they say) original dampa at the back of the Baclaran Church and the one near Eastwood City (Quezon City). There’s also a dampa along Timog in Quezon City, but that is still a place yet to be explored.
Our most recent dampa encounter is at the Seafood Paluto Restaurants, along Macapagal Avenue in Pasay City. (How to get there is not really a problem: It’s found at the reclamation area, near the Mall of Asia, the World Trade Center and the Westin Philippine Plaza Hotel). We chose the restaurant right after the entrance, which happens to be Claire dela Fuente’s Grill and Seafood. Yes, the Claire dela Fuente who was once a jukebox queen. But let’s not stray into that point.
You’ll notice that three of the dampa mentioned above are near the airport — Paranaque, Baclaran and Macapagal Avenue. This is perfect for those who are leaving the country and is not expected to taste fresh seafood for a long time, or those who just arrived after a long seafood-free stay abroad. Also perfect for those who simply tag along for the trip to or from the airport. In short, PAL: PALalamunin =). Enjoy!