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Destination #3: Dampa Seaside Paluto

If you absolutely love fresh seafood then Dampa Seaside Paluto is one destination that is a must try for you if you happen to be nearby Pasay City in Metro Manila, Philippines. The place is located at Macapagal Boulevard and is a stone's throw away from the World Trade Center. It is not exactly a restaurant though, it is actually a sprawling area with a lot of restaurants and a central market that sells fresh produce and seafood. The way it works is, you buy fresh seafood at the stalls and you have the nearby restaurants cook those ingredients however you like, each place has their own specialty (there are a lot of different restaurants to choose from - a place that specializes in local Filpino cuisine, another place that specializes in Chinese style of cooking, for example).

There are actually several "Dampa" restaurants out there and although they share a common theme (a wet market on one area where you can buy fresh seafood and other ingredients, and a number of restaurants or stalls on another area where you can have your newly purchased raw ingredients cooked however you preferred it only limited by the expertise of the cooking establishment), the one in Pasay is one of the pioneering places that started that trend.

It is debatable which place is the "original" as I personally suspect that these  places have just naturally evolved from originally being a bagsakan (or delivery hub) of fresh seafood for the various markets around the area and some enterprising individuals thought it was a brilliant idea to offer cooking services just beside the "source" to have the freshest seafood the area has to offer.  There are just too many places that they have tried to replicate the success of these places with mixed results. Most of the time, these newer places will have seafood delivered to them from the aforementioned seafood delivery hubs so they will never be as fresh.

There is a spacious parking lot in the back so there should be no problem driving there.

Some useful tips:
- since the cooking establishments in the area price their cooking fee by the Kilo, they sometimes charge for the whole kilo if you brought ingredients weighing a fraction of a kilo. Make sure to ask first. My mom, for example, is used to ask restaurants to prepare a certain kind of fish in two ways (the head part will be part of a soup, while the tail part will be grilled) and they charged us a full kilo for each preparation (it always doesn't hurt to ask up front).
- live seafood will always be much more expensive compared to non-living ones and the freshness might still be comparable. Do shop around and compare prices. There are raw ingredients that should always be purchased live though, such as blue shelled crabs. For fish, I would say that it does not matter as much.
- the price of the additional ingredients such as onions, garlic, spices etc. are built into the cooking fee.
- it is best to go to this place as a group since they do set a minimum weight for cooking most of the time.
- the price of drinks and rice is charged extra. Do ask them for a price list for these additional items.
- do not be embarrassed to haggle for a lower price in the market. It is actually expected that you do so. Some shopkeepers might unnecessarily inflate the prices if you are a foreigner and doesn't speak the local language so it is best to ask a friend to give you a ballpark price for the items you want to purchase.

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