Dennis Lim cooks lunch at Denlim's Kitchen in Pampanga

Lunch at Denlim’s Kitchen in Pampanga

Christine Cunanan Travelife Magazine The Frequent Flier



The other week in the Philippines, I was persuaded by my friend Tats to drive two hours out of Manila to have lunch at a restaurant called Denlim’s Kitchen. This restaurant is in the town of Pampanga. The whole area is a culinary destination for local foodies and there are many interesting restaurants and innovative chefs cooking local specialties here.

Dennis Lim cooks lunch at Denlim's Kitchen in PampangaDennis Lim, who owns Denlim’s Kitchen, is one of the culinary stars of Pampanga. He runs a quirky but stylish restaurant with a canteen atmosphere, surrounded by dozens of baskets, jars and cooking utensils. You really get the feeling that you are eating in his artsy kitchen.


Dennis Lim cooks lunch at Denlim's Kitchen in Pampanga
Chef Dennis Lim makes a salad at Denlim’s in Pampanga

Interestingly, Denlim’s Kitchen has a very long waiting list especially for weekends. In fact, I dislike long drives in general, but I decided to brave the traffic and drive to Pampanga after Tats, who invited me to join her family for lunch, said: “My mom waited about eight months to get this reservation.”

That certainly made me decide to join them for lunch at Denlim’s Kitchen in Pampanga one Sunday.

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The restaurant itself is hard to find as it’s way inside a neighbourhood off the national highway, so you’ll need to use Waze to get here. Also, unless you happen to know Dennis Lim’s best friend or his neighbour, you’d better start planning your 2020 Sunday lunch now. It’s not a walk-in restaurant so you should have your confirmed reservations before you go.

As for the food, it was very nice and home-grown. He’s self-taught and this is the Philippines, so everything was delicious but some of it was very unhealthy. But then, as most doctors like to say, “If it’s good, it’s probably bad for you.”

We began with salads and all kinds of appetisers. The dishes were all plated nicely and they were delicious. This was the healthy part.



Dennis Lim cooks lunch at Denlim's Kitchen in Pampanga
Sisig spaghetti

Of course my favourites were the ones likely to give diners a heart attack. I liked the sisig spaghetti because it was something new. It really was pasta with a big dose of sisig over it. And sisig just happens to be one of my favorite foods in the world.

At Denim:s in PampangaI also thought the roasted pork (lechon) served with fermented rice and a local gourd called ampalaya was excellent. We were told to place a slice of pork with crispy skin and a dab of fermented rice on a slice of ampalaya, and eat it in one go.

It was wonderful. In fact, I probably ate most of it as everyone else was very full by that time.


Dennis Lim cooks lunch at Denlim's Kitchen in PampangaDennis himself is very personable and he prepared most of the dishes right by our long table of diners. Everything was very relaxed and after all the food I ate, I felt like walking back to Manila.

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“Is it really that good?” Someone asked me afterwards. I’d posted some photos on Facebook, you see. Well, don’t expect gourmet food or fine dining. But the dishes he served that day for lunch were innovative, pleasing to the eyes, and a joy to the palate. These were a mix of Philippine dishes and original dishes with an international flair.

Driving to Denlim’s in Pampanga for lunch is definitely a nice foodie thing to do on a Sunday in Manila. That is, if you can get a table.

Read more about the best restaurants in the Philippines in Travelife Magazine.