(NOTE: On November 8, 2013, Leyte province described below, where Yolanda's restaurant is located as mentioned here, was one of the areas devastated by supertyphoon Yolanda [or Haiyan as internationally known]. I'm sure Yolanda's is now gone because it's right beside the sea that became a monster wave because of a terrifying storm surge that was caused by the strong typhoon. The storm surge from the sea flattened many structures in the area including several houses, buildings, the airport near Yolanda's, and hurt and killed many people. My sympathies and prayers go to my countrymates involved in this calamity.)
If ever you’ll come to Leyte, a province in the Visayas region of the Philippines (that’s about in the middle part of the country), be sure to get your fill of the wonderful food at Yolanda’s.
Yolanda’s is a seaside eatery in Barangay San Jose in Tacloban City, the capital of Leyte. (Barangay is a small village or community.) A meal at Yolanda’s will definitely help make your stay in beautiful Leyte even more memorable. This eatery is just a few minutes away from Tacloban City’s airport. It's also not far from your next possible stop after Yolanda’s for a photo op, which would be the “Leyte Landing Memorial Park” in Palo town, also known as “MacArthur Park.” The Park features big bronze statues immortalizing the team of high-ranking soldiers led by Gen. Douglas MacArthur as it waded its way to the beach, fulfilling MacArthur’s “Second World War” promise to the Philippines that he will return to help liberate the country from the Japanese forces.
Back to Yolanda’s. You see in the photos here (which I took when I had lunch there on a recent trip to Leyte with some friends) that the place is low-maintenance inside and, more so, outside. Even its signboard seems to have fallen off. But anyone wanting to savor what Yolanda’s has to offer wouldn’t have a hard time getting directions on going there because this restaurant is famous in the locality not for its looks but for its delicious food. The eatery is like a "well-kept open secret" for the townsfolk. (But then, the simple seaside ambiance of Yolanda’s could be a come-on for people who would want a countryside [or seaside] feel while having their meal.)
Yes, Yolanda’s sits on the beachfront but don’t expect a whitesand beach. But you’ll have a nice picturesque view of the wide sea from your seat as you partake of your freshly cooked food. And expect refreshing seabreeze wafting through Yolanda’s dining hall throughout your lunch or dinner. While at Yolanda’s, you can also get a glimpse of the life of the community in Yolanda’s neighborhood. Small fishing boats (bancas) with outriggers are resting on the beach; newly washed clothes are hanging from the nearby houses’ clotheslines, fences, and boats' outriggers; and the residents are busy going here and there for their chores or sitting around for some chit-chat.
Yolanda’s may be simple in looks, and its servers are also simple folks. But you’ll be there expecting good food, and that’s what you’ll get. This eatery’s menu is basically what’s found in a regular Filipino home, and you can choose from seafoods, chicken, pork and beef meat, and vegetable viands. You can go to Yolanda’s kitchen to choose from its stock and discuss with the server or the cook the way you want your food to be done. Of course, you should also take the cook’s (and even the server’s) suggestions on cooking your food (they are Yolanda’s experts, after all). When my friends and I were there, the cook was a man, whom we later met when we were about to leave the place. I just don’t know if he’s also the cook for dinner time.
A meal at Yolanda's is worth the bit of waiting for it to be served to you. Your discriminating taste buds and grumbling stomach will truly be happy with the wonderful taste of the fish cooked in hot broth (fish tinola); prawns fried in ginger (among other ingredients); and grilled fish. My group didn’t quite understand what the names of the fish were in the local dialect, but we were too busy enjoying our food to ask more questions. On our table were condiments like vinegar, soy sauce, fish sauce, and small lemons (calamansi) for anyone who wants to mix some dip or sauce (sawsawan) for her or his food. Bottled drinks are available at Yolanda's. After finishing off your food, you can refresh yourself at the eatery's washroom where there's plenty of water.
Among Yolanda’s many specialties, the fish tinola, fried prawns, and grilled fish were the ones that my friends and I enjoyed that lunch time. And I hope you, too, will experience Yolanda's in your trip to Leyte, someday. Hopefully, soon.
And, by the way, finding out at Yolanda’s that prawns fried in ginger could be tasty was quite a discovery for me! That led me to do some experimentation upon going home to Manila. After adding ginger to my own version of fried prawns, it then seemed to me that ginger WAS the missing ingredient in my prawn dish! Yummy! I’ll tell you about that in another blog entry soon.