Hello, Above Sea Level.
Positioning itself as the first fast food seafood restaurant in the country, Above Sea Level offers quick and simple seafood dishes at affordable prices.
In less than a year of operations, Above Sea Level now has over 70 branches (or stalls) nationwide and it continues to grow at blazing speed. In fact, it is expected to reach 100 before the year ends. Such success proves that its giant butterfly squid is not just hype.
I visited its full-scale restaurant in Maginhawa last week and was charmed by how smart the place was designed. It managed to have three levels of dining area and it still looked spacious!
The interiors also gave it a nautical vibe consistent with its offerings.
Above Sea Level's menu is limited to 5 dishes and I tried each one during my visit.
First served were the fried to perfection butterfly squid family -- Super (PHP250, good for 2, served with 2 cups of java rice), King (PHP350, good for 3, served with 3 cups of java rice), and Groot (PHP450, good for 4, served with 4 cups of java rice).
Above Sea Level takes the word giant seriously as each butterfly squid was enormous! In fact, even its Super size was more than enough for 2 if you are light eaters.
But what I loved most about this delectable snack is how well the squid was cooked. It was fried just right. The texture of the squid was snappy and you can tell that it was fresh. Even the batter was great. It was crunchy and perfectly seasoned. It was flavorful enough to be enjoyed as is or you can dip it in tartar sauce or vinegar.
If you want squid but dislike the rather messy way of enjoying butterfly squid, it's best to go with Squid Fries (PHP250). It's basically the same concept as the butterfly squid but it's mostly (if not all) tentacles. I highly recommend that you go with Giant (PHP180) or Super instead so that you get to enjoy the better parts of the squid and get more out of your money.
Bacon lovers would appreciate Bacon Wrapped Shrimp (PHP240, served with java rice). Fresh shrimps wrapped in bacon is my kind of dish.
It's a beautiful marriage between land and sea. Don't forget to dip it in tartar sauce for extra flavor and to balance the saltiness of bacon.
If you prefer spicy dishes, then Firecracker Shrimp (PHP180, served with java rice) is the one for you. I actually didn't know that this was spicy and thought that it was just your usual lumpia kind of dish but stuffed with shrimp. My taste buds went wild and screamed for water as soon as I took one bite.
Another bang for the buck dish is Seafood Festival (PHP380). This platter of java rice topped with crabs, shrimps, mussels and corn swimming in crab fat sauce is an absolute winner!
Each mouthful was oozing with fresh seafood taste beautifully complemented by aligue. It's definitely one must order dish here at Above Sea Level.
While dining, I noticed several walk in guests who were actually applying for franchise. And I was told that there are about 10 to 20 applicants per day! I wouldn't be surprised though as Above Sea Level offers great tasting dishes at pocket friendly prices and that's the equation for a successful food business here in the country.
I'll definitely be back for more!