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  • Restaurants
  • Sheung Wan
  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Recommended
  1. Dara
    Photograph: Tatum Ancheta
  2. Dara
    Photograph: Tatum Ancheta
  3. Dara
    Photograph: Tatum Ancheta
  4. Dara
    Photograph: Tatum Ancheta
  5. Dara
    Photograph: Tatum Ancheta
  6. Dara
    Photograph: Tatum Ancheta
  7. Dara
    Photograph: Tatum Ancheta Isaw

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

Dara – meaning ‘auntie’ in Kapampangan (one of the eight major languages of the Philippines) and spoken primarily in the entire province of Pampanga – is a family-run business and is named after the restaurant’s executive chef and founder Imelda Bunoan, also known as Darang Mel (Auntie Mel). The modern Filipino restaurant originally opened in late 2022 within Art Lane in Sai Ying Pun; but has recently moved to a bigger location across the neighbourhood. The restaurant is tucked behind La Paloma and a stone’s throw from Call Me Al, so keep your eyes peeled if you’re trying to find their venue.

The new venue buzzes with activity and exudes a lively atmosphere. Dara has kept the same colour scheme, furniture, and decor from its previous location; such as the arch design in their bar display, rattan and wooden fixtures, and hanging light bulbs. Aside from boasting a space that’s four times bigger than their previous venue, the new space features high ceilings, a large bar table that stretches as far as the eye can see, and a soon-to-open karaoke and billiards room that will be fully operational by January. It's an expansive space that's a rare find on this side of town.

Since their move to the new location, Dara has expanded their menu to provide more affordable and filling Pinoy classics. Feeling hungry, we start off by tearing into a portion of homemade pandesal – a traditional bread roll – ($58) which comes with a creamy liver pate spread that evokes memories of the popular Philippine-made liver spread Reno, commonly used as a sandwich spread and ingredient for other delicacies. The appetiser selection features many playful twists on classic dishes, but some could benefit from a bit of fine-tuning. There was the lumpiang laing ($68), taro leaf-filled deep-fried spring rolls served with a coconut milk sauce. It is lighter than standard meat-filled lumpia. Those familiar with the cuisine might find it intriguing as it is a unique, deconstructed twist on the classic laing dish but it was not really my cup of tea.

Another playful take on a traditional dish is the ensaladang mustasa ($108), a mustard green salad usually served alongside deep-fried fish. In this rendition, it is mixed with tiny flakes of smoked mackerel scad, topped with crispy vermicelli noodles and an anchovy dressing. While the concept was interesting, the salad fell short due to the overly large mustard leaves, and an excess of fried vermicelli made it a bit challenging to enjoy. The yellowtail kinilaw ($138), a version of ceviche, is a refreshing palate cleanser, but needed more calamansi juice to balance the overall acidity. One thing we definitely enjoyed and would happily return for is the isaw, skewers of grilled chicken intestines ($68), which are coated in a sweet and sticky barbecue sauce and have a light charred flavour.

For mains, Dara’s signature Kampampangan palabok ($158), vermicelli noodles in a rich sauce made from shrimp, smoked fish, and minced pork, topped with shrimp, boiled eggs, and crushed crisp pork rinds is a definitely must-try, but its best consumed hot as soon as it arrives at your table. As soon as it cools down, the noodles can easily clump. An order of the sizzling sisig ($118) served with diced chunks of pig head, chicken liver, and pig ear, won’t disappoint. It offers a delightful range of textures and pairs wonderfully with our bowl of garlic rice ($28). As someone who always enjoys a hot bowl of simmering sour sinigang, the shrimp sinigang ($158) was a tempting choice, but I found that it was less tangy or sour than I would have liked.

As for drinks, Dara’s head mixologist and bar manager, Jon Bunoan, shakes up cocktails with Filipino flavours. The Perlas ($118) is a light cocktail that has white rum, Lillet Blanc, Champagne, as well as guava jam, and that makes an easy-to-drink aperitif, while the calamansi margarita ($108), a refreshing palate cleanser, is perfect for sipping through the meal to cut through the rich dishes. If you’re too full for dessert but want something sweet to cap off your meal, the Chocnutini ($118) is Dara’s take on an espresso martini, with an add-in of Choc Nut-infused syrup – a nostalgic candy bar flavoured with cocoa powder and peanuts. 

All in all, Dara has returned as a bigger and better version of its previous iteration. The modern yet cosy dining space is a great spot to enjoy a wide variety of Kapampangan home-style dishes and unique craft cocktails If you’re ever in the Sai Ying Pun neighbourhood, make sure to swing by this joint and dig in to your heart and stomach’s content. Once their karaoke room is fully optional, we reckon this spot will be a more spacious alternative to Junel’s Restobar in SYP.

Here’s what our star ratings mean:

★: Not recommended
★★: A disappointing experience
★★★: A good experience
★★★★: A very good to great experience
★★★★★: An outstanding experience

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Cherry Chan
Written by
Cherry Chan


Shop 3, 5-6, G/F, Soho 189, 189 Queen's Road West, Sai Ying Pun
Hong Kong
Opening hours:
Tue-Thu 5pm-12am, Fri-Sun 11.30am-1.30am
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