Dos Mestizos: Still tops through the years

DOS Mestizos’ chef-patron Jose Carlos ‘Binggoy’ Remedios with wife Nina Bustamante and their daughter Chabeli.

The year 2000, for various reasons, was a milestone year for Boracay. Karen Villarica, whom I knew from when she studied at the Assumption in Iloilo, had opened Mandala, a stunning wellness and spa resort in a lush setting where she introduced such rejuvenating (and even life-changing) wellness therapies as watsu. There wasn’t anything like it in the country when she opened Mandala.

Also,  Station 2, heretofore considered plebeian (by Station 1 habitues) had started to effect a certain classy jive, with Jude Lee and Louise Ravelo’s Hey Jude being the epicenter of coolness and hip music in that part of Boracay, nay, the entire island.

I was beginning to feel a new, much agreeable mood envelop the island. And then I discovered Binggoy Remedios’ cooking at Dos Mestizos.

Remedios was part of this group that hung around Doc Orlando Sacay’s Waling-Waling, one of the new beachfront resorts along Station 1 which then catered to an upmarket clientele.

I was then a writer/editor for the inflight magazine of Asian Spirit, the airline servicing Manila-Boracay-Manila owned by friends Archie and Jack Po, and in 2000, I was writing about new things happening on the island and the people — mostly emigres — responsible for giving Boracay a fresh sheen.

 Even then, at that time, Doc Sacay and other such friends like Sea Wind resort owner Joebert Cocjin and resort manager Jimmy Coscolluela were already buzzing about Remedios and his tiny restaurant and finally, one night, I came around and sat with the man in Dos Mestizos, which then was this minute taberna-like dining place with white sand for flooring.

Remedios is quite the raconteur and every now and then, as we talked about the island lifestyle, Boracay issues and common friends, he would stand up to go to the kitchen and check on his cooking.

Finally, the food came. It was mostly tapas, small plates of chipirones, and such mestizo staples as callos, gambas, salpicao and the like, but the cooking and the quality and taste of everything he put on the table was a veritable knockout.

This was food I’ve never tasted in Boracay before; it was akin to, and even surpassed, fare that I was familiar with in some of my dining haunts in Manila! I knew then that things had turned a new leaf in Boracay; I had a keen sense that with food like this, Boracay would, henceforth, not only draw people for its gleaming white sands and clear aquamarine-hued waters, but also be a place where people could eat very well indeed.

I was correct. Remedios’ Dos Mestizos could be said to be the first, or the one dining establishment on the island that has made people regard Boracay as a culinary destination. Many a visitor who’ve come to dine in the restaurant would become regular patrons whose trip to the island wouldn’t be complete without dining at least once — or twice
— in Dos Mestizos. 

The consistency in the quality and taste of the dishes in Dos Mestizos’ Heritage Spanish-Filipino (thus mestizo) menu, primarily as a result of Remedios’ insistence in using the finest ingredients possible have given the restaurant its exceptional reputation as the best place — non-pareil — to dine on the island.

New home

From its little spot in Station 1, Dos Mestizos moved to Asya, the boutique hotel built by Choy Cojuangco along Tourist Road on Station 2 in 2005. For a short while, Dos Mestizos served as Asya’s restaurant, but in less than a year, Remedios decided to build his own place in a site a stone’s throw down the road from Asya, closer to the Tourist Center fronting the beach.

Dos Mestizos’ new home had a substantially bigger floor space than the original branch, with a high ceiling, a “bodega” for private dining, and a bar section featuring live music.

Before long, Dos Mestizos became a prime venue for many dinner parties and other festivities on the island. The annual
Halloween-cum — anniversary party held there in late October became a major event in people’s social calendars, with locals, expats and other visitors putting on the most creatively thought out, the most fantastic, the most ghoul of costumes. 

 Locals and visitors to the island also looked forward each week to Dos Mestizos’ Saturday Tapas Nights to dine on tapas and pintxos, cold cuts, pates, fine bread and cheeses laid out buffet style, and downing along with those, jugs of the house’s famed sangria.

On regular nights, people would go to Dos Mestizos for cocktails before dinner, followed by more drinks at the bar after dining while listening — and dancing — to live music. Then by midnight, people would go out to the beach and party on, mostly at Hey Jude then for more serious drinking and jiving to sounds spun by the house DJs. 

Not long after it moved into its own place, a deli and bakery were added. The deli area became a popular breakfast place where patrons — mostly expats
— came for gourmet sandwiches, imported hams, sausages, cheeses with sourdough and other specialty breads, along with Eggs Benedict, omelettes and the like.

Back to where it started

Except for two particular instances when the going got rough, Lady Luck has generally shined on Dos Mestizos. Remedios was able to navigate his restaurant through Boracay’s closure for six months in 2018 when former President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the rehabilitation of the island.

The more critical time was when when Covid-19 hit the country in 2020.

For about a year and a half, nothing moved in Boracay. The pandemic eased towards the end of 2021, but until it did, islanders, resort operators and other entrepreneurs were at their wits’ end with no visitors, no work, nothing. 

You have to give it to the guy, for Remedios, through all the hazy uncertainty of the pandemic period did not only keep ALL of his staff together, but — incredibly — went for broke and poured whatever savings he had from past earnings into building an entirely new branch of Dos Mestizos on the island’s Station 1, where most of the luxe resorts in Boracay are located.

Transferring Dos Mestizos back to an area where it started over two decades ago was one of the best moves Remedios ever made because when the pandemic had receded to a point where tourists, especially those booked in posh beachfront accommodations on Station 1 started to return to the island, the restaurant was extremely well-positioned to welcome them back.  

Today, Dos Mestizos, from the
nipa-roofed, taberna-like operation that it was when it started over a quarter of a century ago, has metamorphosed into a fine restaurant manned by over 30 well-trained kitchen and wait staff servicing arguably the best-run dining operation on Boracay.

The restaurant’s location may have changed various times, but the one constant that remains the same is the taste and quality of food that Remedios’ kitchen puts on the table. The food served here is cuisine  that he grew up with, that is, culinary fare reminiscent of times when señoras from Filipino-Castillian families and their kusineras would spend time preparing dishes from recipes that would become family heirlooms.

In Davao and Cebu where the chef-patron grew up, the Remedioses were known for their particularity with food on their table — staples like bacalao, albondigas, callos, salpicao de vaca, tortilla de patata, paellas, ostras Espagnola, cochinillo, and other such dishes familiar to mestizo families.  

All those and more are reincarnated in authentic fashion in the Dos Mestizos menu, food meticulously prepared by Remedios when he started out 26 years ago and which he continues to serve today in a dining room more well-appointed than when his restaurant started maybe, but just as delightful and pleasing to the palate of patrons now, as it had been to Remedios’ dining guests then.