There is that one restaurant you somehow grew up with. For me, that’s Panagatan Restaurant, an open-air seafood place propped along a coastal highway in Opol, a municipality in Southern Philippines.
I am not sure when Panagatan Restaurant actually opened. But I could still remember that during its first few years of operation, it still had wooden floor planks which creaked under my heavy steps. They also had gaps in some portions that were wide enough for me to see the gentle waves below. These added a rustic charm that its present concrete and tiled floors could never replicate.
Ambiance and music
We come here for at least three things: the ambiance, the music and their spectacular kinilaw (a raw fish dish, almost like a ceviche if you will). I honestly don’t care much for the first two but I make some concessions from time to time. After all, nothing beats watching the sunset over the Macajalar Bay as you wait for your orders to be served.
During my last visit here, we arrived just in time for dusk. The late afternoon sky was bathed in a mesmerizing shade of blue, before it was slowly swallowed by the darkness of the night. There were no stars that evening but I could make out the faint blur of city lights on the horizon.
I am surprised why we did not request any song from the band that evening though. We probably forgot our routine or maybe because I still had a flight to catch afterwards.
But if we were not pressed for time, one of us would write our song requests on any available piece of paper. Our musical preferences vary but we often have Here, There and Everywhere, Bridge Over Troubled Water and Country Roads in the mix.
Kinilaw and the usual suspects
My sister and I knew what to order even before we arrived at Panagatan Restaurant. She wanted the crispy pata (pork knuckles) and it is the kinilaw for me.
There are many versions of the kinilaw across the Philippines, but I am particularly biased with our recipe in Mindanao. We use fresh tubâ (coconut vinegar), biasong (a fragrant local citrus) and the tabon-tabon (Atuna Racemosa) fruit. The extract of the latter removes the langsa (fishy smell) and adds a welcome layer of tartness to this bright dish.
We also ordered two of our usual suspects: a crowd-pleaser seafood bilao (woven platter) and a decent bouillabaisse, which my good friend Philip apparently liked. He tagged along with me in my week-long homecoming trip which culminated in this simple (yet becoming increasingly rare) meal that I get to share with my family.
While Panagatan Restaurant offers affordable seafood, their service however, is sometimes a hit or miss affair. If you are lucky, you will have your food even before the band plays the next set. Otherwise, know that you are not alone.
Maybe the restaurant needs a better expediting system or more crew to look after a quite sizable dining area. The acoustic band can only entertain so much, but at some point, food should already be flying out of the kitchen.
Our unpleasant experiences, albeit very few, taught us two hacks: place our orders as soon as we are settled in or come earlier to avoid the crowds during peak hours.
While we do not mind waiting, the three things I mentioned earlier are not negotiable. And maybe I’ll include a fourth one now: family. Who you share the view, the music and the meal with matters the most.
The rest, in the grand scheme of things, will just be detail.
? Opol, Misamis Oriental
Opens daily from 8:00 AM – 10:30 PM
Major credit cards are accepted.
For inquiries and reservations: +63 9177131436
Dine-in restrictions and the restaurant’s business hours may change based on the latest community quarantine status and rules.
Panagatan Restaurant also has branches in Cagayan de Oro, Iligan and Bukidnon:
- Panagatan Centrio: +63 9230872418 / landline +63 88 3231390
- Panagatan SM Downtown: +63 9278516711 / landline +63 88 8591376
- Panagatan SM City Uptown: +63 9177999056 / landline +63 88 8592096
- Panagatan Iligan: +63 9278516713′ landline +63 63 2247838
- Panagatan Valencia, Bukidnon: +63 9177715418
Editor’s note: This restaurant feature was originally published in another blog back in 2019.