Food

Kabsat Restaurant is the Easygoing Destination for Day-Trippers of La Union

Offering sea-and-sky views and an abundance of food and drink, the new restaurant and bar is the best place to unwind.
IMAGE JOHNEARTH PALMA/MONTY ANTONIO
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Despite being lined with shiny new hotels and hostels, San Juan in La Union is also a great destination for day-trippers. Some local tourists opt to ride the midnight bus headed north, spend the whole day riding the waves, getting a tan, mending a broken heart, visiting the food and drink options of the famous surf town, and then head back once they've had their fill of everything. This travel phenomenon is what Kabsat Restaurant & Bar, San Juan's new dining and drinking dive, addresses. 

Kabsat, the four-month-old restaurant and bar in La Union, offers everything you need: good food, great drinks, and the best views.

Photo by JOHNEARTH PALMA/MONTY ANTONIO.
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Kabsat has an easygoing vibe for friends and family.

“Just like a relative's beach house, we wanted a place where tourists or locals can drop by and spend the rest of the day—where they have everything they need: good food, a great assortment of drinks, and the best views in San Juan,” says its general manager Vincent Labeña.

Kabsat roughly translates to “sibling” in the Ilocano vernacular, and it is this strong bond of kinship or companionship that the restaurant’s sibling owners want to impart to its patrons. “We just want to make everyone to feel welcome, sunbathe on the deck, or lounge in our dining area, without having to worry about the passing time—hopefully, with a cocktail or two,” says Labeña of the Kabsat experience, which is a novelty among the more notoriously exclusive establishments in the area.

These rattan chairs on the deck are the choicest seats for happy hour and the best place to view the beach's famed sunsets.

Photo by JOHNEARTH PALMA/MONTY ANTONIO.
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Its space maximizes North Shore’s sea-and-sky views.

Found in San Juan surf coast's North Shore, where the surfing beach meets the more serene swimming beach, Kabsat capitalizes on its generous seafront view by installing a wooden deck furnished with comfortable rattan loungers and cocktail tables—the choicest seats for the surf town’s happy hour and also the best spot to catch its famed sunset.

Seaside views can be enjoyed throughout the restaurant's 1,500-square-meter space. Employing mostly wood, metal, and concrete in a tropical modern style, Kabsat uses wooden louvers in lieu of walls to let natural light and sea breeze in. “We took inspiration from the traditional nipa hut, which is a type of stilt house indigenous to the Philippines. We evolved it to feature a solid base with a slightly overhanging, wooden upper-storey, like the “bahay na bato,” shares the restaurant’s chief architect Paul Cahanding.

Reclaimed hardwood and rattan furniture and accents, all built on-site, are also a testament to the owners' concern for sustainability. On its massive second-floor dining area, a wrap-around table looks out into the famous shoreline, cashing in on the site's greatest asset.

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The two-storey space is an organic structure that maximizes North Shore's view.

Photo by JOHNEARTH PALMA/MONTY ANTONIO.
Photo by JOHNEARTH PALMA/MONTY ANTONIO.
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The traditional menu is for the very hungry.

Though the San Juan dining scene thrives on the new and trendy, Kabsat opted for a more traditional menu, in hearty, family-sized servings. “We are trying to serve the niche of family travelers or those who come in big groups, especially those who are hungry after a good run of surfing,” says Labeña.

Hence, the kitchen service starts as early as breakfast, where they put an elevated spin on the usual Filipino breakfast bowls. Regional favorites such as the Ilokano Pinakbet, Kalderetang Tagalog, Southern Tuna Panga (a gigantic slab of grilled tuna jaw), and the Wagyu Beef Sisig can sate anyone's dining preference during lunch, supper, beer matches, or hangovers, too.

The menu is built for all-day appetite and best enjoyed with craft beer.

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Photo by JOHNEARTH PALMA/MONTY ANTONIO.

Pinakbet with Liempo

Photo by JOHNEARTH PALMA/MONTY ANTONIO.

Stuffed Squid

Photo by JOHNEARTH PALMA/MONTY ANTONIO.
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Kabsat's array of drinks addresses happiness.

However, judging from Kabsat’s bamboo bar, which is stocked with countless spirits, it is the booze that takes center stage. Specially crafted cocktails come in twos during happy hour, while local craft beers flow from the tap. “We're in the business of serving happiness, after all,” quips Labeña, before handing me a glass (or two) of its signature rum-coconut-lychee concoction Headwind. 

Though already situated well and stocked full of food and drinks, the four-month-old Kabsat has plans for more good things. “While we want our guests to spend their whole day here, we would also want them to spend the night soon,” Labeña teases. Right beside the restaurant and bar, Kabsat is building a six-villa resort topped by an infinity pool slated to open next year.

Whether you stay for the day or, soon, the whole weekend, Kabsat serves the warm hospitality the north is known for. “Here, we treat everyone like family. Here, we eat as one and we drink as one," says Labeña. Indeed, just like brothers.

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During happy hour, signature cocktails are served in doubles. This one is the Ritz, a mix of watermelon gin.

Photo by JOHNEARTH PALMA/MONTY ANTONIO.

The Barrel, Kabsat’s take on the whiskey sour 

Photo by JOHNEARTH PALMA/MONTY ANTONIO.
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North Shore, Urbiztondo, San Juan, La Union; facebook.com/kabsatlaunion/

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