The sight of a bustling crowded restaurant is an alluring one. While it is sometimes our lot in life to patronise restaurants that have a deficit of diners, we do so to satisfy the voracious appetites of our readers and of course satisfy our own search for that ‘new gem’.
Tonight’s bustling restaurant in question is a newish offering in the tourism hot spot of Alona Beach cryptically named Alona Hidden Dream Siloam Hauz. I say cryptic because other than the fact that it is located in Alona the restaurant is neither hidden nor dreamlike and the title Siloam is actually an ancient Greek word derived from Hebrew referring to an ancient site in Jerusalem (a far cry from Alona).
When I say bustling I really mean it. Our first foray to the restaurant resulted in not a single spare table to be had. Our second foray was more successful as the tables started to empty with the younger holiday makers heading to a night club and the older ones to bed. Sure it is heading into the peak tourism season but to see a restaurant packed to the rafters is an unusual Bohol sight.
The restaurant is nicely set back from the busy main street leading to the Alona beach and has been professionally fitted out with a mixture of local timbers and native materials. The front of the restaurant sports a couple of coal grills we assume set up to attract seafood and barbecue eaters who are not in the mood to head down to the beach and the ubiquitous (and often overpriced) grills along the beach.
The menu of the Alona Hidden Dream Siloam Hauz (still can’t get used to the name) is split between Thai offerings, a Western selection as well as Philippino and assorted other selections. Most diners would find something to their liking and in our case we opted for Thai.
As we have mentioned in previous reviews the fact that the Philippines is smack bang in the middle of Asia yet has a decidedly un asian spice based cuisine is still a conundrum to us so we were interested to see how the Pinoy owner of the restaurant dealt with this ‘royal’ cuisine. Good Thai cooking establishes a relationship between five fundamental tastes: bitter, sweet, sour, salty and spicy. Achieving a satisfying and exciting taste experience is accomplished by combining flavours from these five basic taste categories. This is the challenge of Thai cooking and unfortunately the Alona Hidden Dream needs to revisit these fundamentals. Actually we seriously question whether the chef actually tasted the dishes before he/she sent them out (an unforgivable oversight by any chef).
Our two dishes, green chicken curry and prawn pad thai (actually incorrectly delivered as chicken even after re reading our order out to us)
had all the hallmarks and ingredients of a great dish but the balance of the fundamentals were disastrously disproportionate. Overly sweet and cloying is not what you expect from good Thai and the pad thai had the nasty aftertaste of a cheap commercial sauce. The green chicken curry was also let down by the fact that the chef had not let coconut milk separate from the curry paste (another fundamental in Thai cooking).
The service was good and the staff friendly. We even recognised a waiter that used to work at JJ’s Dim Sum in the city who has obviously jumped at the opportunity to work closer to home.
It was interesting watching the eclectic mix of tourists dining that night. It was almost a united nations of dining, Korean, German, Swiss, Chinese, French, Russian, Australian, you name it they were all in attendance and seem to be enjoying the atmosphere. One let down was the pack of dogs that seemed to roam around the restaurant with not one staff member even attempting to evict them!
It will be interesting to see how Alona Hidden Dream Siloam Hauz survives in the future. Sure the prices are very reasonable but the quality could be easily knocked up a rung or two with a little extra effort. The real test for the restaurant will be when all the tourists head home.