Apr 13, 2017

Happy Ongpauco-Tiu describes her father’s wonderland as “his imagination made into life,” and “a playground where he allows his creativity to go over the top.” This is as true as it gets. It is, indeed, Disneyland—meets Thailand, meets Universal Studios, meets the circus, and then maybe even throw in Pilipinas Got Talent.

Isdaan, at its core, is a floating restaurant born from the ideas and culinary expertise of Rod Ongpauco, who has made a name for himself not only for Barrio Fiesta and the Singing Cooks and Waiters, but for the creation of crispy pata, too.

Isdaan has a man-made lake filled with floating kubos and surrounded by tropical trees. Throughout the property, paths are lined with familiar figures like Mickey Mouse and Shrek.

If you’re lucky (because there may just be a hundred or so other people to compete with), you’ll get a seat with a good view of the stage. Here, dance performances, acrobatics, and magic tricks take place for a good half hour or so—it’s easy to lose track of time watching their stunts—while you either wait for your food or finish up your meal. For those without such a view, musicians roam the area, playing one OPM hit after another.

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Isdaan may as well be a team building spot in itself. “We also have the isang kilo bridge that you have to cross, where there are obstacles that make you fall into the water,” Ongpauco-Tiu shares. “But if you succeed and cross it, you get one kilo of fish, cooked in any way you like, for free.”

If you’re not up to the whole obstacle relay, Isdaan’s Nueva Ecija branch offers an area where you can wade into the water and even feed the fish.

The palaisdaan concept calls for a very Filipino menu. A platter of the basics—fried fish, lumpia, crab, shrimp, fried chicken, and lechon kawali or pork chop, with tadtad na mangga, sibuyas, kamatis, itlog na maalat with bagoong on the side—is a popular choice. Other must-trys include the pinatola, a soup dish based on bulalo; tinupig na pata, which has pork knuckles cooked in coconut milk, wrapped in banana leaves, and then grilled; all paired with a steaming hot pot of rice.

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But perhaps the highlight of Isdaan—or at least what sets it apart from other restaurants with performance gimmicks and fishing-for-your-food elements, not that there are many—is the stress-relieving tacsiapo wall. Frustrations, pent up emotions, be it from work, issues with family, friends, or lovers (or ex-lovers) can literally be thrown at this wall, with ceramic plates, glasses, and even televisions to choose from.

With all these things happening around a five-hectare space, Isdaan proves to be exactly what it was described to be: a playground for all the senses.

TAGS: filipino Filipino Food happy ongpauco-tiu isdaan laguna nolisoliph nueva ecija rod ongpauco tarlac