This Farm-To-Table Restaurant Has 10 Stellar Items On The Menu

IMAGE Jill Tan Radovan

It's not often you can find a place that you can say has more than a handful of dishes that you'll want to go back for. In the case of Balik Bukid Farm & Kitchen, it's a visual treat as well as a gastronomic adventure when you dine in. 

Balik Bukid is the brainchild of siblings Paolo, Louella, and Wilhelmina Garcia. Founded in 2013, this restaurant in Davao offers farm-to-table Filipino dishes where 90% percent of its ingredients are sourced from their family's farm while the rest comes from other local farmers. 

Photo by Jill Tan Radovan
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Wilhelmina upcycled the doors of an actual house into dining tables. She also had garbage from Taal sanitized and shipped to Davao and used it as raw materials for creating woven placemats and chairs that are now being used in the restaurant. Created by homegrown artists, the paintings on display are either available for purchase or souvenirs and hand-made posters from previous events. 

Balik Bukid is anchored on the principles of eco-friendly and sustainable living as well as on the value of giving back. It supports local farmers, local artists, and underprivileged members of the community. Some of Paolo's kitchen and restaurant staff did not have formal education, and it was Paolo who taught them how to cook and provide quality service.  

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Chef Paolo Garcia of Balik Bukid Farm & Kitchen
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Balik Bukid's charm does not rely only on its delightful interiors or its brand values. It is known for the quality and taste of the food it has been serving to customers for the past decade. As a chef, Paolo prefers to highlight the natural flavors of fresh ingredients through traditional cooking methods, without chemicals or preservatives. As much as possible, he makes recipes from scratch (from dressings and sauces to chili powder and mayonnaise) using raw, fresh produce from their farm, which follows only natural farming principles. Everything is served freshly cooked and once you dig in and relish the food inside your mouth, you know that what you're eating is made only from the freshest, hand-picked ingredients. 

All the items on the menu are affordable and reasonably priced because he wants everyone to experience farm-to-table food and promote the value of natural farming and sustainable living.

Below are some of the most delectable items on Balik Bukid's menu.

Homemade Bread Platter and Kesong Puti (P195)

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Baked fresh every day, Balik Bukid's focaccia bread is soft inside and crisp outside, with a light, subtle taste. What will tease your tastebuds is the kesong puti spread, made flavorful with the perfect blend of herbs and tomatoes. The cheese is made from fresh milk sourced through a cooperative in Malagos. 

Balik Bukid Farm Salad (P250)

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Made with freshly picked Lollo Rosa lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, quail eggs sourced from Garcia's own farm, and croutons made from unsold bread from the previous day, the Balik Bukid Farm Salad is easily one of the restaurant's bestsellers. You can't go wrong with choice veggies topped with an insanely delicious pesto-mayo dressing made from scratch.

Sinugba at Ensalada (P215)

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Another bestseller, Balik Bukid's version of sinugba or grilled pork and ensalada or eggplant salad sticks to the essentials. The sinugba is lightly seasoned with salt and pepper, bringing out the natural taste of farm-fresh pork. The eggplant is soft with just the right texture, evenly cooked and not too soft, and topped with chopped onions and tomatoes and sliced quail egg. This allows the taste of grilled eggplant to surface. Served with a mix of organic brown and white rice, Sinugba at Ensalada is a complete filling and tasty meal at P215. You may also opt for chicken instead of pork.

Paksiw na Pata (P275)

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Chef Paolo developed this dish based on his grandmother's Tagalog heirloom recipe. It is similar to humba, except the meat is lean, the dish is not oily, and the taste is not overwhelming; there is a perfect balance of sweet and savory. Another difference is that it is made with fresh (not dried) banana blossoms. Drizzle the sauce over rice and thank us later.

Sinuglaw (P260)

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Picture this: a layer of Filipino-style ceviche or kinilaw topped with grilled pork belly, sitting in the middle of a tuba vinegar lake. The kinilaw is made from Malasugue or swordfish instead of the usual tuna, hence it is firm. The marriage of flavors brings pure bliss to one's tastebuds.

Vegetarian Sisig (P320)

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What's amazing about this dish is that even if it's made from gluten meat and shiitake mushrooms, you almost can't tell the difference from pork sisig. The texture mimics that of pork sisig, minus the excess oil, and the taste is on point. Chef Paolo first tried vegetarian sisig prepared by a group of Hare Krishna practitioners in Davao. He made his own version, taught the practitioners the recipe, and now sources the vegetarian sisig meat from them. The mushrooms, on the other hand, are from General Santos City.

Laing (P220)

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Chef Paolo noticed the overabundance of taro or gabi plants and lubi or fresh coconut milk (otherwise known as gata). Davaoeños however were not familiar with laing so he decided to introduce the Bicolano dish at his restaurant. 

You'll appreciate the myriad of textures and flavors on your palate. Balik Bukid harvests and dries the gabi leaves, and even the chili powder used is made from scratch. Balik Bukid's version has crunchy parts as opposed to the usual wilted leaves. You can still feel the texture of the leaves with every bite.

Pair it with homemade traditional bagoong or opt for the vegetarian version. This veggie bagoong is made from ground black bean and tomato paste, and its flavor surprisingly mimics that of the original.

Ginataang Kalabasa (P210)

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The squash is sweet and soft, yet still firm, but doesn't end up as mush in your mouth. The string beans are still crunchy. Chef Paolo makes it a point not to overcook the vegetables to retain nutrients that are often lost when food is cooked for too long. All you will taste is the flavor of vegetables, along with that of garlic, shrimp, and fresh coconut milk. The aftertaste of lubi or gata lingers in your mouth with every mouthful.

The shrimps used for this and the laing are specifically sourced from a farm in Mati, Davao Oriental. You can request a vegetarian version, which does not include shrimp.

Binalot na Adobong Dilaw (P180)

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Adobong Dilaw is meat cooked with annatto or atsuete and Balik Bukid's own is a delicious sauceless version wrapped in banana leaves and paired with turmeric rice. A second banana leaf is wrapped around the first one and in between is a layer of rock salt that you can sprinkle over the side dish: sliced tomatoes and boiled quail egg.  

Chef Paolo serves the Binalot not only to dine-in customers but also recommends it for take-out to adventure-seekers who wish to trek Mt. Apo and bikers. It is best consumed with your bare hands. The Binalot is full and satisfying meal in eco-friendly packaging so you won't have to worry about waste disposal, ideal for those who are concerned about protecting the environment. 

Tsokolate Islands (P220)

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Here's something for your sweet tooth. Three scoops of homemade tablea ice cream sandwiched between profiteroles (cream puffs) drizzled generously with chocolate sauce on top make for this visually appetizing and delectable dessert. The ice cream sandwiches represent the three main islands of the Philippines: Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao.

The ice cream is creamy with just the right amount of sweetness with a chocolatey, not too sugary flavor profile. The profiterole is crisp outside and soft inside with a hint of saltiness that blends well with the famous Davao cacao elements.  

Balik Bukid Farm & Kitchen is open from 11 am to 2 pm, and 5 pm to 10 pm, from Tuesday to Sunday. Follow Balik Bukid on Facebook for more information.

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