Yellowfin on Torres Street

A couple of decades back as I was curiously exploring the soul of Davao cuisine, I had been tipped by some Davaoeño drinking buddies to eat at this carinderia beside a steakhouse frequented by politicians whose bodyguards consider its cooking style a delight. Both establishments were owned by Mr. Joaquin "Ken" Angeles who eventually enjoyed a greater following with the home cooking at his carinderia, and with his sound business acumen, eventually improved his offerings such us upper scale seafood items and a deliciously crisp greaseless fried chicken of which they are now very well known for. Eventually the carinderia became known as Yellowfin and Ken's children who are all professionals are now taking turns in helping him expand their family enterprise.

I did meet Ken who set up the shop about a stone's throw away from our culinary school in Davao on Torres Street. I got to talking to the hands-on restaurateur briefly as I would see him on the several occasions I would have lunch at this branch. I like going to Yellowfin because it is one of the very few classier establishments that serve a more plebeian tuna kinilaw instead of the white fish malasugue that the Davao gentry prefers. I took Ken's advice one day of adding a dash of soy sauce which gave this raw tuna dish a new dimension. On a warm sunny Davao noon, I figure this is one of the best starters with the cooling crunch of cucumbers, balanced by the sharpness of onions and the tartness of coconut sap vinegar (tuba), calamansi juice, and chili.

The seafood platter is always a good value centerpiece to revolve other dishes on since the sizzling iron platter or plancha has a grilled selection of tuna belly, stuffed squid, shrimps, bagaybay (tuna gonads) and imbao or fat, fresh water clams bathe in butter and their juices. I would immediately pour this beautiful natural sauce on my freshly steamed rice as I would start on the clams when this hot platter arrives.

The Fried Chicken is very simple and straightforward with just the lightest flour coating on the outside that makes it look almost bare. The skin is crisp and the meat lends itself of course to a good banana ketchup dip given a little more heat with some chili sauce.

Yellowfin serves what used to be pier hands, stevedores or fish port helpers' food that has become pricier menu items now such as tuna belly and jaw which were discards years ago as canners and processors were only interested in the body which was barrel-shaped, hence, the term bariles. Anyway, when I'm in a group, I love ordering grilled silik or back fin that is fatty and full of connective tissues and ligaments. One can also order the tail, crispy pata style or have it done Pak-prit which is fried then cooked or doused in a sweet-sour paksiw or vinegar based sauce. Two of my favorite tuna parts are bihod and ubol-ubol. Ubo-Ubol is the large ligament connected to the esophagus and when grilled is much like the texture of calamari with a light crunch of cartilage. Among fisher folk it is rumored to be an aphrodisiac or as a male booster.

As a meal ender, I always have two items on their menu that I look forward too. The halo halo is very simple and not cloyingly sweet with a horde of ingredients. It has just very minimal items such as leche flan, ube haleya, sweetened banana, toasted pinipig, sago and macapuno topped with ube ice cream. What gives it a very smooth yet cold consistency is the ice which is pre-blended with milk so the crystals are very smooth. Another dessert ender are the Durian Rolls, custard filled rolls with durian fried to a crisp like turon and served piping hot. The rich creamy and warm custard has a distinct toffee-like flavor and it goes well with a scoop of ice cream. I just miss the final cup of espresso they serve in their main and biggest outlet where they have a sizeable Italian machine. But this branch is just close by and I have an immediate sampling of well-prepared and homey Davao flavors just a stone's throw away. Torres Street has another gem from all the good, varied restaurants it now has.

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