Situated in the innermost part of San Fernando, Pampanga is an old warehouse turned into a rustic homey kitchen now better known as Denlim’s Kitchen. We kinda missed it and had to turn around, but the drive all the way to Pampanga was worth the wait. Cooking for us was chef Dennis Lim himself who insists he isn’t a chef but a passionate cook. He likewise takes wonderful food shots and group shots of all those who visit the place.
Inspired by this trip, we listed down 8 reasons why many people are magnetized by the charisma of the chef and this wonderful place. And yes I’m willing to go all the way back to get to try other dishes which Denlim prepares just for the day. By the way all weekends are fully booked until October as of our last visit.

For starters we had the Bread and Spread. The slices of blow torched Basil Loaf was crunchy and tasty. They match this with a spread that looks a lot like hummus (which apparently was made of a combination of mashed chicken peas and cauliflower—yes the ingredient none of us in the group could guess—mixed with garlic, yogurt and cream cheese). We loved the simplicity of the spread’s flavor and the crustiness of the bread.

Then came the humongous Summer Salad platter, a refreshing mix of iceberg and romaine lettuce, crisp turnip and red apple slices, topped with candied walnuts and raisins served with a fruity cheesy yogurt dressing.

The huge platter of pasta cooked al dente tossed in a lively mix roasted capsicums and and roasted garlic cloves sautéed in olive oil, and topped with lots of roasted tomato slices, sliced black olives and capers and lots of Parmesan cheese. Denlim doesn’t scrimp on ingredients. If I didn’t see the lineup of our orders beforehand, I could have eaten more of this addictive pasta creation.

Although usually served as an appetizer, Denlim used the large-size shrimps instead of the teeny weeny ones we often get when we order gambas. Cooked to pink perfection and topped with a liberal amount of toasty golden brown garlic and drizzled with beurre noisette (that’s brown butter), the dish would have been great paired with a cup of hot steaming rice. But that would not leave room for the other dishes lined up.

The twist to this callos recipe was the absence of tomatoes or tomato sauce. Denlim’s callos recipe is stewed beef skin and tripe cooked to fork tenderness in a brown-based sauce instead. I can still taste the tender beef tripe and skin slow cooked with hearty Spanish chorizo slices and garbanzo beans.

Although we were stuffed by the time this dish was served, this is another must try! The beef log is made from thinly sliced beef brisket. Cooked until very tender for four hours, the masterfully made beef log was stuffed with three kinds of mushrooms—enoki, button and oyster mushrooms.

As if the previous dishes were not enough, we devoured the very fresh large crabs cooked in lots of crunchy garlic and aligue. By this time, none of us were worrying about our expanding waistlines what with the rice we were already wolfing down with the delish dishes.

The highlight of our dinner was the grandiose slow roasted  (as in seven hours or more until the pork skin gets to crunchy perfection!!!)  Pugon Liempo that Denlim is well known for. There is no denying that this is a must try for every group that visits the kitchen. This dish alone is worth the trip to Pampanga. Although the Pugon Liempo may be eaten by itself (and with rice), the wrap that Denlim made for this heavenly dish is a must try—imagine the crunchy slices wrapped in fresh lettuce leaves with a generous dollop of burong babi or fermented rice with pork slices instead of either shrimp or fish.
Got fine memories from Denlim’s? Share them now in the Comments Section.

Lorraine Timbol

Lorraine Timbol, also known as LT, former culinary consultant for Unilever and EIC of Appetite Magazine is a frustrated actress who managed to get into bit roles at the tender age of 40. She is now comfortably in her element as a freelance food stylist and food writer, teaching Cohen cooking on the side.

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