After a very quiet year on the food scene we are at last seeing a light on the horizon with several new eateries opening their doors in Panglao and Bohol. One such new entry is the Personal Che’f in Dao, Dauis. The restaurant has risen from metaphorical ashes of the Grass Roof Resto and L’Isola, both of which valiantly tried to make the somewhat remote location successful but failed mainly due to the location and the fickle immaturity of food culture in Bohol. While the food culture has certainly evolved since then it will be sometime yet before people will travel far afield and pay large sums for excellence in the culinary arts.
The Personal Che’f made quite a splash when launching a few months ago on social media but while Facebook can certainly fill your seats it can also be a platform for disgruntled customers venting their spleens. And there was certainly plenty of venting going on! Most of the venting was about tardy service. Our reviewers avoided the glitz and glamour of the ‘soft opening’ and decided to wait patiently for the dust to settle. We visited the restaurant several times after the opening to give the restaurant time to get into stride and this review is based on our most recent visit.
Let’s start with ambiance. The restaurant has always been lovely. Nestled in a beautiful tropical garden set well back from the main road, the dining environment couldn’t be more pleasant. The new team seems to have spruced the place up a bit from the last owners and there is a more open spacious feeling now. The service was competent clearly showing that the owners know how to train front-of-house staff.
Now to the food. On the evening of our review we were joined by some overseas guests so we had a chance to explore the menu in more detail. The menu, while nicely presented, is one of the strangest we have seen. The pricing and the mix of starter and appetisers vs mains is quite confusing. A case in point is the Tuna Tatami at P650 as a appetiser when all the mains range from mid P250 to mid P350. Putting aside the strange menu layout the Tuna Tatami is one of the best dishes in Bohol!
For starters our group ordered the aforementioned Tuna Tatami as well as Som Tam (Hot Thai Salad) and Japan Tempura. The Tuna Tatami is an amazing dish lightly seared with sesame crust and served on a ‘to die for’ sauce made of (we think) sesame oil, Japanese kewpie sesame dressing and other secret ingredients, but we are just speculating. This is a serious ‘go to’ dish and a real spark of brilliance from the chef. While the Som Thai was bursting with flavour we think it lacked a certain textural component lacking crunch, but we may be overly picky as it was still a great dish. The Tempura wasn’t tempura at all – more like a coconut crusted prawn but nicely executed with great flavour.
Our mains were a selection of Chili Con Carne, Chefs Risotto, Bruschetta, Chicken & Pork Adobo and Kinilaw no Puso. All dishes were competent but really didn’t live up to the quality of the entrees. The Chili Con Carne was somewhat bland but this could be to avoid issues with Pinoy guests. The risotto was excellent – perfectly cooked and seasoned, the bruschetta was fresh and crisp with a real sense of balance in the toppings. The two local dishes were a fascinating fusion of local favourites and the chef should be given credit for experimenting outside the box. It would be interesting to compare the view of a Boholano with a foreigner’s take on their most beloved dishes.
While on the subject of dishes…the bowls used by the restaurant certainly add visual appeal to the dining setting but they are simply impossible to comfortably eat from. All our guests felt that they had to be contortionists to get the right angle to use a knife and fork in the deep bottomless pits of the bowls.
To finish off with we shared a number of desserts, nothing outstanding but artfully presented.
A criticism that was levelled at the restaurant (repeatedly) when they opened was the tardiness of the service. We also experienced this on our previous visits at one point waiting over an hour for a very lack lustre curry. On the night of the review we also found the dishes arrived haphazardly with some mains being served within seconds of receiving the appetisers and other mains arriving well after everyone else had finished eating theirs.
In this day and age of catering equipment that includes heat lamps for pre-serving areas there really isn’t any excuse for this. Let’s just hope its still just an affectation of the restaurant ‘settling in’.
We are looking forward to this restaurant getting a few months behind them because we think this could be a real stand-out restaurant in Bohol.