Mindanao’s Mains

If you’re after a new family foodie destination, the latest addition to Davao’s dining scene could tip the scales in the city’s favor. Tola, Kan-anan sa Balay Oboza, which opened last month on the second floor of Casa de Oboza, is an elegant heritage house that was built in 1929 by the city’s first mayor Alfonso Oboza.

As Tola, the space is bright and modern — it feels like the well-preserved ancestral home of a cool globe-trotting grandaunt. Tola is decked in heirloom-type appointments such as filigree arches, crystal chandeliers and sitting room chairs in emerald-green crushed velvet upholstery, and the food is as hearty and homey as the vibe.

Derived from a popular big fish head-to-tail cooking method called sutokil — a compound of Bisaya words sugba (or grill, for the head), tola (sometimes called tuwa,   clear soup infused with ginger and lemongrass, for the belly) and kilaw (the raw tail-end of the fish cooked in acids) — the name Tola was of particular importance to owner Chris Pamintuan who, together with four partners, also operates the ground-level bar Huckleberry.

“I wanted something Bisaya,” he says, “something that automatically suggests that it’s not fine-dining, but straight-up Filipino food — many of which are those you might usually enjoy in Mindanao.”

Executive chef Rob Pengson, who ran acclaimed restaurant The Goose Station in Bonifacio Global City before co-founding the Global Academy, developed Tola’s mouth-watering menu that includes starters of seaweed salad, tuna kinilaw or fresh lumpia; the classic soup dishes from around the Philippines; and grilled mains of chicken, pork belly as well as tuna.

Restaurateur and mixologist Enzo Lim of New York City’s famed Maharlika and Jeepney Filpino restaurants adds cosmopolitan flair to Tola with cocktails and signature drinks.

Written by

Tara Sering

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