Chef Claude Tayag’s proudly Kapampangan food concept, BALE DUTUNG, is one of the most highly acclaimed restaurants in Asia. Ranked as one of the best by the Miele Guide in 2009, Chef Tayag’s humble abode reached celebrity status when he was featured on Anthony Bourdain’s “No Reservations” in 2008.
Tayag was raised in Angeles City and is the 9th of 12 children–earning him the clever nickname of “Claude 9”. While his first passion was the visual arts (he is now an accomplished furniture designer and painter), Claude often observed his mother in the kitchen–picking up little bits and pieces of culinary knowhow.
It was only in 1979, after an Economics degree at UP-Clark, that Claude found himself backpacking in Europe and craving for homemade Filipino food. Living on only about $10 a day, he explored wet markets in search of cheap, alternative ingredients. Learning to experiment with food unleashed Chef Tayag’s culinary creativity and paved way to more milestones in his life such as Bale Dutung.
The restaurant itself is actually the home of Chef Claude and his wife, Mary Anne. This antique-looking house, built in 1991, was made with a variety of materials from old churches, bowling alleys, and recycled wood.
The homey interiors are filled with functional and conceptual furniture made by Chef Claude himself.
To dine here, you will need at least 12 persons. However, should your group be less than 12, simply shoot the Tayags an email and they can schedule you on a date with another group that has room for you.
Lunch usually lasts up to 4 hours and is hosted by Mary Anne.
The Tayags generally open their doors to the public only once a month–so book as early as you can by contacting [email protected] or calling +63 (45) 625-0169. Read the Bale Dutung Terms & Conditions for further information.
PRICE PER MENU:
Lechon—P1,750 plus VAT
Anthony Bourdain—P1,850 plus VAT
Kapampangan—P1,850 plus VAT
Menu items may change without further notice due to the availability of ingredients.
We tried the LECHON 5 WAYS during our visit. In the Lechon menu, Chef Claude disassembles a roasted pig in a manner similar to nose-to-tail eating.
The Taba ng Talangka (crab fat) is topped on a sushi roll with a wedge of Kamias (Bilimbi Fruit) to create a beautiful balance of sour and salty.
Balo-Balo (aka Burong Hipon) is fermented rice with fish or shrimp. This widely popular, smelly-but-delicious paste is typically eaten with bitter vegetables like Mustard leaves, Bitter Gourd, and seafood like Hito (Catfish). We love these very traditional Kapampangan flavors presented in a contemporary way.
While you wait for the next course, Mary Anne personally serves refreshing drinks like this Honeydew Juice. We enjoyed how the drink relied only on the fruit's own sweetness.
1st Way: Lechon Skin (Luzon Style). Whole roasted pig with liver sauce.
To begin, Chef Claude starts off by breaking the crispy skin (get up close to truly appreciate the sound and aroma)! Truly mouth-watering.
Unlike the Cebu-style lechon, which is stuffed with lemongrass, herbs, and spices, the Luzon-style version is much less extravagant. It has a simple rub of salt and pepper on the outside and a serving of savory liver sauce on the side.
The skin is sliced into small squares, so each person gets a chance to try the BEST part of the lechon.
Try the skin and meat with homemade sarsa (sauce) with pig’s liver.
2nd Way: Lechon Tortilla. Crispy roast pork flakes on a tortilla.
Another play on familiar Kapampangan flavors with a hint of foreign notes. This soft taco comes with a variety of toppings like onions, tomatoes, pesto, and coriander.
The pulled pork flakes are light and crispy on their own.
Make sure to add every topping to fully appreciate the flavor combination! This is the Claude way!
3rd Way: Sinigang na Lechon. Pork meat in sour soup served with a side of Kalamansi, Chili, and Shrimp Paste.
For something hot and comforting, we were served a common Filipino favorite. However, we’re not sure if this soup was meant to have a bitter aftertaste. Perhaps it was the charred parts of the lechon that caused this.
4th Way: Inihaw na Tadyang na Lechon at Enseladang Talong. Grilled pork ribs with eggplant salad.
We enjoyed this dish so much that we wanted seconds! The eggplant went so well with the grilled ribs and helped cut the meat-filled monotony of the menu.
5th Way: Lechon Sisig. Pork cheeks with onion and liver sauce.
You can't say you’ve been to Pampanga without having Sisig. They say the term originated from the pregnancy cravings of women–“Sisig” means to snack on something sour.
A good sisig, according to Chef Claude, is one that maintains a sour flavor all throughout to balance the richness of the gelatinous fat from the pork cheeks.
You have a choice of various toppings for your sisig like onions, chilies, kalamansi juice, and for the more adventurous eaters–pig’s brain! Ask for rice to fully enjoy this Kapampangan staple.
Fun fact: Did you know that mayonnaise was added to sisig to replicate the rich flavor of pork brain?
The seafood is fresh, perfectly cooked, and soaks up the nutty flavors of the sauce–highly recommended!
Paradiso. Dessert of yam, coconut, egg yolk in water buffalo milk.
Tastes like paradise indeed! This dessert wakes up our inner child with its sweet, comfortingly ingredients. Don’t forget to ask your server for a side of coffee with carabao's milk.
Our time at Bale Dutung was like no other. Not only was the food memorable, the Filipino-inspired ambiance elevated the whole experience. By opening up their home, the Tayags increased our appreciation and understanding of the Filipino-Kapampangan heritage.
If you plan on visiting Angeles City any time soon, do book a date with family and friends to one of the best restaurants in Pampanga. You won’t regret it!
Congratulations, Chef Claude and Mary Anne Tayag!
Live an Awesome Life,
Sean & Sheila of Team Our Awesome Planet
Disclosure: Our meal was courtesy of Chef Claude and Mary Anne. We wrote this article with our biases, opinions, and insights.
(This article is sponsored by AZURE NORTH, an amazing, tropical-inspired residential project featuring a man-made beach in the heart of San Fernando, Pampanga! Developed by Century Properties who clearly know that Pampanga, with its delightful food and hospitable people, is a place really worth living in. Check it out: www.azurenorth.com.ph)
P.S. We recommend going to Bale Dutung on the cooler months (September to December) as the dining area is not air-conditioned.
HOW TO GET THERE: