Balay Dako by Antonio's: A new home in the heart of Tagaytay

When we think of Tagaytay, the first thing that comes to mind is the Taal volcano, and eating at the famous Antonio's for a good meal. However, Antonio's requires a smart casual attire for their restaurant, so we can't waltz in there in our shorts and slippers lest we want to stick out like a sore thumb. Plus, the menu prices are quite expensive. That's when we discovered that they had a restaurant with a more casual vibe and that's kinder on the wallet as well. Plus, it offers excellent views of Taal Volcano. Balay Dako, which means "Big House", is the newest addition to the Antonio's group of restaurants and it's situated in, well, a big house. They had a big area for parking, but due to the popularity of the Antonio restaurants, it's never really enough. There was a long line when we arrived in the evening, and we had a few minutes to spare, so we decided to check out this house, which is actually a replica of Chef Antonio's ancestral home in Bacolod.

When you enter the door, the first thing that greets you is a sign saying "Welcome Home", which makes you feel right at home with them; to settle and feel at ease with the surroundings. They have sofa couches on the entrance, where you can chill while waiting to be seated.
Welcome Home!
To pass the time, they have a small deli near the entrance, selling fresh produce and local delicacies.

Welcome to the deli

They had canned fish in multiple flavors
The restaurant has two floors. The cozy, brightly lit first floor had a chef making freshly baked Piyaya, and had large tables perfect for families.

Flipping Piyaya
And on the second floor, it had a much more classy interior with a bar, which is perfect for those who would like to drink and socialize, and it actually has the perfect ambiance for a date. If the first floor is full, you have a choice to eat at the second floor (you can ask the waitress), but we felt out of place with our attire and we wanted brighter lighting so we had to wait for a table to clear on the first floor.

After around 45 minutes of roaming and waiting around (we were number 10 in the list), it was finally our turn to eat! Balay Dako serves classic and modern Filipino food and now we will indulge in some of our favorite classics.
Sisig na Pusit P320
For our appetizer, we ordered their Sisig na Pusit, which had grilled cubes of squid covered in mayonaise, mixed with onions and chilis, served in a sizzling hot plate. I'm not a big fan of squid because they tend to be overcooked and rubbery in other restaurants, but if they were as tender as the squid in this this dish I would give them a go. The dish was a bit too flavorful with the different spices mixed in (in other words, maalat), which made us order a cup of rice to ease the taste. Overall still a good dish.
Callos P600
Another family favorite of ours is callos, so it was natural that we had to order it. Callos is made of beef tripe stew with tomatoes, chickpeas, and chorizo. We felt that this dish was a bit small for the price (use the spoon size as reference), but it's Antonio's so it's not too surprising. I loved the rich flavors in this dish though; all the ingredients complemented each other perfectly. I just wished that it was bigger.
Sinigang ng Balay with Baboy P460
What Filipino meal would be complete without the iconic sinigang? This is probably the best sinigang I have tasted in a while. You can choose the main ingredient (like lechon, fish, etc) and we chose pork for this one. It had generous servings of meat in it, and the sour soup is quite sour, which was just the way I like it. This is my favorite dish during this whole meal, and I would recommend that you try their sinigang as well.
Pancit ni Antonio P390
Pancit, the staple Filipino source of carbohydrates, and what they claim is a Balay favorite (or their best seller). When I took a bite, it was clear why. It was stuffed with chorizo, shrimp, chicken, pork, and cooked in anmatto oil. Unlike other pancit places where the sahog, or ingredients, were just on top which left the bottom disproportionally dry, their pancit had the ingredients mixed in really well and you get a little bit of all in every bite. Again, the serving size is a bit small, but I'm starting to sense that pattern already.
Ginataang Gulay ng Balay P240
Our last dish is the Ginataang Gulay ng Balay with Tangkay ng Kangkong at Sili, which is just a fancy way of saying Gising-gising. I felt that their version of gising-gising lacked a bit of that spicy kick, but I just asked for a few chili peppers and ground it all over the dish, and it's good.

Overall, I enjoyed the dining experience at Balay Dako. However, I don't think I'd be willing to wait almost an hour again. The food was good but some of them could use a little bit of improvement. I think they can also fix the food presentation since we're already paying a premium to dine, but I guess they're going for that homecooked vibe. I would definitely come back again, but I hope the line won't be as long. If you're in Tagaytay and looking for a good place to eat, I would recommend giving this a try if you have the time.

Balay Dako
-  Tagaytay-Nagsugbu Hwy Tagaytay City, Cavite (046) 483-4847

Menu: Click here

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