Popular Filipino restaurant Dampa Seafood Grill reopens after fire

One Carlo Diaz

Popular Filipino restaurant Dampa Seafood Grill in Deira reopened its doors on Friday, nearly six months after its closure.

Located at the foot of the Centurion Star Tower in Port Saeed, the venue closed in August when a fire gutted its interior. The cause of the fire has not been revealed. The restaurant did not release any public announcement at the time and had kept quiet about any indication of reopening.

The restaurant before and after the fire. Photo: @dampaseafoodgrill / Instagram; Pawan Singh / The National
The restaurant before and after the fire. Photo: @dampaseafoodgrill / Instagram; Pawan Singh / The National

This weekend, however, videos on TikTok showed the restaurant brimming with diners again.

“Who missed Dampa Seafood Grill. It’s now open,” writes one TikTok user, @rovetrip, in a video showing a brightly lit, fully renovated venue.

Wooden tables with benches are scattered across the indoor and outdoor areas, while gleaming string lights hang over head. Although the venue is in the same location, it looks airier and brighter as eager diners order their Dampa favourites.

“Same ambience, same vibe as always,” the TikTok user adds, showing clips of some of the dishes she missed when Dampa was closed, such as the famed Cajun crab and shrimps.

When The National visited the restaurant on Monday afternoon, it was buzzing with diners. But staff said it’s still in its soft opening phase and only a few items on the menu are available to order as the kitchen is yet to be fully operational. A section of the restaurant remains closed as well, until its grand opening which is scheduled in the next few days.

The Filipino-owned Dampa Seafood Grill was one of the first to bring the seafood dining concept of “dampa” from the Philippines to the UAE.

The concept involves customers choosing their own freshly caught seafood, sometimes from a live tank, and have them cooked to their liking – grilled, steamed or fried.

But at the Dubai restaurant, the name takes on more of a symbolic meaning, as an ode to the popular Filipino seafood concept.

Perhaps among its biggest draws is how the food is “dumped” on the table, for diners to eat with their hands, playing into another Filipino dining tradition called “boodle fight”.

Dampa Seafood Grill quickly grew a cult following, not just among Filipinos, but also the UAE’s other expatriate communities.

Aside from the food, Dampa Seafood Grill is also loved for its dancing waiters and friendly atmosphere. In 2022, the restaurant was named a Favourite Local Gem at the Expo Eats Awards.

When the restaurant ceased operations in Dubai last year, its Abu Dhabi branch continued to serve diners.

Courtesy: thenationalnews