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Secret room, Filipino favourites in Dubai tower

#Pinoy checks out the newest Filipino hotspot in Deira

  • The Centurion Star Tower in Deira, Dubai
    The Centurion Star Tower in Deira, DubaiImage Credit: Florence Pia G Yu/Gulf News
  • The Centurion Star Tower in Deira, Dubai
    The menu at a restaurant in Centurion Star TowerImage Credit: Florence Pia G Yu/Gulf News
  • The Centurion Star Tower in Deira, Dubai
    Arcade games at Bodega, Centurion Star TowerImage Credit: Florence Pia G Yu/Gulf News

Dubai: A secret toy store. Boodle fights. Grilled chicken feet and intestines.

No, this isn't a list for the next Mission Impossible. These are some of the uniquely Filipino things you can find in just one building in Dubai: the 12-storey Centurion Star Tower.

Foodie haven

What's in there that draws crowds of Filipinos every day? First of all, there's Filipino food. Lots of it.

Video by Irish Eden Belleza

The tower is home to 22 shops, most of which appeal to the Filipinos' penchant for food. At the ground floor you can find Filipino-themed restaurants selling everything from Philippine classics to the quirkiest street food.

Craving for isaw? You'll get that deliciously odd delicacy fresh off the grill, along with deep-fried Filipino street food staples like fish ball, a meatball-like food made of fish meat.

Kevin Soliman, 25, says it's one of the reasons why he loves dining here. "The restaurants serve Filipino food that reminds me of home," he says, adding that if he can't cook it in his apartment, he'll buy it here.

Boodle fight, budget buffets

Many of the restaurants here serve "boodle fights" - a literal spread where food is piled on top of banana leaves laid out on the table for people to share and eat with their bare hands. You can try the offers at Dampa, Carinderia ni Tandang Sora, La Mesa, Citi Pavilion, Bodega or Talk Hang.

The street food section of La Mesa, Centurion Star Tower

There are also budget buffets. A menu at one of the restaurants advertises a Dh29 lunch buffet that includes beef steak Tagalog, spicy chicken wings, adobong puti, sarsiadong tilapia (fish in sauteed tomato), ginataaang gulay (vegetables cooked in coconut milk), pancit or Filipino noodles and bottomless iced tea.

Quirky spots

A restaurant called Talk Hang puts humour on your plate and plays on the much-talked about "Tokhang" drug war in the Philippines, with tabletops dressed with caricatures of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.

Talk Hang restaurant, Centurion Star Tower

At Bodega, diners can also get a blast from the past with tabletop arcade machines featuring classic games. 

Philippine ambiance

Restaurants like La Mesa offer diners a literal window to the Philippines with traditional Capiz shell windows incorporated in the interior decor. At Carinderia ni Tandang Sora, a wall has become an exhibit of Philippine history.

Capiz shell windows at a restaurant in Centurion Star Tower

"You instantly feel at home here, whether you bump into kababayans, or sit down for a meal with friends," said Karren Antonio, 43.

But it's not just food that draws people here, she says.

The tower is also home to six clinics manned by mostly Filipino doctors and dentists. And then there's that secret room.

Open secret

"I often see diners carrying a plastic bag from a toy store upstairs," Antonio reveals.

It turns out, the toy store is a secret room that takes up the entire office 1103. A sign on the door says you have to "ring the doorbell" to be allowed inside.

Once inside, you'll be greeted by rows and rows of the popular Gundam toys, which is a hit among Filipinos who grew up watching anime.

A Gundam robot

The Japanese fighting robots come in various shapes and sizes, and are apparently popular among the big boys, and girls. We're thinking DIY Lego Transformers. The cheapest you can get costs Dh50, while an elaborate one with that lights up costs Dh1,800.