OUR COUNTDOWN TO CHRISTMAS
Lifestyle list of best ‘lechon’ in Metro ManilaBy Vangie Baga-Reyes
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Lechon. The word alone evokes happy memories of quintessentially Pinoy special occasions. It’s a gastronomic and visual highlight in almost all Filipino parties here and abroad. A Filipino gathering is not as grand without the centerpiece lechon. Famous chef and TV host Anthony Bourdain has rated our lechon the best in the world.
To usher in the holidays, we’ve done a survey in search of the tastiest lechon in Metro Manila. (We’ve excluded lechon available in Cebu, since they’ve long been acclaimed.) We’ve also included lechon served in various restaurants and hotels in Manila, for those who prefer eating not the whole suckling pig but small servings of it.
This listing is based on the recommendations of food experts, foodies and certified lechon lovers.
E-mail the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Palate teaser: Succulent meat and crunchy skin, plus that unique flavor of lemongrass mixed with the distinctive sourness of tamarind leaves—that’s Sabroso Lechon. Other herbs and spices sourced from Bacolod and Bicol are also used to spice up the lechon’s belly. With a nice smokey flavor, the meat is delicious enough to eat on its own without sauce. Owner Charlie Sabroso takes pride in using only the best ingredients. Only three years in the business, his Sabroso Lechon is already a heavyweight contender in the field.
Packaging: Wrapped in Manila paper and packaged in a corrugated box
Price: P680/kg (meat), P340/kg (head), P175/kg (feet); P5,300 for 15 kilos (20-25 servings); P5,800 for 20 kilos (25-35 servings); P6,500 for 25 kilos (30-50 servings); P4,600 for lechon de leche (10-15 servings). Delivers whole lechon or one kilo anywhere in town. For pickup and delivery. Fee depending on the location, but free delivery if within Scout area of New Manila. Order a day in advance.
Contact: Charlie Sabroso, 1237 E. Rodriguez Ave. corner Tomas Morato, QC; tel. 7250711, 5158253, 5158259, 3570659, 0922-8416220, 0932-7941007.
Palate teaser: It’s a complete meal in itself—salad, rice and a slab of roasted suckling pig that’s twice cooked. The infusion of lemongrass, fresh basil, garlic, onion, salt and pepper, wine
and other secret spices gives the dish a pungent aroma. The meat is baked for two to three hours, then deep-fried right before serving, for that lip-smackin’ crunch.
The local Pinakurat vinegar adds kick to the experience.
Price: P365/solo order; P689/quarter (good for two); P1,250/half (good for three). Available daily.
Contact: The Flying Pig, G/F, Eastwood Veranda, Eastwood City, Cyberpark, QC; tel. 9000886, 5847433.
Family Cebu Native Lechon
Palate teaser: Formerly called Cris Native Lechon, this family-run business has been serving rave-worthy lechon the past 16 years. The lechon is subtly spiced and seasoned with lemongrass, salt and leeks, among other secret ingredients.
The pig is cooked only as the order comes in. The pig is stuffed and roasted the old-fashioned way over a pit of smoldering charcoal in the family’s own backyard, to assure the lechon’s consistency and quality.
Native pigs used come all the way from Tuguegarao and Cagayan Valley. Lechoneros brush a thin layer of molasses on the skin to even out the nice dark brown color of the dish.
Price: P600/kg; P4,200 for 12 kilos (good for 10 persons); P4,800 for 15 kilos (20 persons); P5,300 for 20 kilos (30 persons); P5,800 for 25 kilos (40 persons). An order of lechon comes with homemade liver sauce and special dinuguan. Delivery fee: P200-P600, depending on the location. Order at least a day or two in advance during the holidays.
Packaging: Served on a bamboo tray and wrapped in sturdy aluminum foil and Manila paper, then covered in white wrapper with company logo.
Contact: Maria Cris Soriano, 129 N. Domingo St. cor. P. Tuazon, Cubao, QC; tel. 7249353, 7259342, 7260589. Open daily from 9 a.m. onwards.
Palate teaser: Here’s a guilt-free version—oven-baked and organic, with less fat and greasy meat. A healthy lechon experience, if ever there is one. The meat, rich and tasty but not overpoweringly so, is ideally dunked in a vinegar-onion-garlic sauce.
The thin, crispy skin is easy to tear off.
Price: P695/kg; P5,300 for 14-15 kilos (20-25 persons); P6,300 for 19-22 kilos (30-35 persons); P7,300 for 24-28 kilos (45-55 persons); P8,300 for 33-38 kilos (60-70 persons); P4,300 for lechon de leche (10-15 persons). For pickup and delivery. Fee depends on location.
Contact: Hecky’s, 3/F, Unit 201 Cyber and Fashion Mall, Walk 2, Eastwood City, Brgy. Bagumbayan, QC; tel. 3595596, 0922-8462536.
Eastwood Café Crispy Lechon
Palate teaser: Lechon lovers should trek to this hotel for its unique lechon, which is part of the buffet spread. The meat is seasoned in cumin, cilantro and lemongrass, while the skin is bathed in milk and sprinkled with rock salt.
Executive chef Patrick Obia has tweaked and improved the lechon recipe by adding his own combination of spices and herbs. The thin- to medium-thick skin is nice and crunchy, while the tender meat pairs well with either the vinegar-garlic-onion-chili sauce or the sweetish liver sauce made from chicken liver and giblet sautéed in garlic and butter.
Price: P1,080 for lunch or dinner buffet
Contact: Chef Patrick Obia Jr., Eastwood Café, Eastwood Richmonde Hotel, 17 Orchard Road, Eastwood City, Bagumbayan, QC; tel. 5707777, 0908-2610211.
Jun & Jun’s Cebu Lechon
Palate teaser: This lechon has tender, flavorful meat and crunchy, roasted brown skin, surprisingly devoid of any oil. In fact, the skin easily separates from the fat. Owners and good friends Jun Quilicot and Jun Pelaez pay close attention to details, from raising and choosing the right native pigs (sourced from Masbate, Cagayan and Aparri) to butchering, basting and broiling them. The meat itself is lean, juicy and succulent even without additional seasoning, though you can dip the meat in freshly made liver sauce if you find the flavor too intense. Jun & Jun’s Cebu lechon doesn’t use lemongrass because “it creates a bitter aftertaste,” says Quilicot. Instead, anise, garlic, salt and pepper and spring onions are used. The owners also employ a secret way to caramelize the skin without using sugar.
Price: P175/plate (good for three people); P3,800, de leche; P4,800, lightweight; P5,900, middleweight; P6,890, heavyweight; P7,990, jumbo. Order a day in advance; during the holidays, three days in advance. For pickup and delivery. Fee starts at P300, depending on the location.
Contact: Perfecto O. Quilicot Jr., G/F, DLA Bldg., 32nd St., Justicia Drive cor. Bonifacio Blvd., Global City, tel. 8159540; and Unit KO4 Food Village, Tiendesitas, Pasig City, tel. 7062602. Also call 0918-9125798 and 6645918.
Casa Armas Cochinillo
Palate teaser: This is one of the most succulent lechon you’d find in the city. The cochinillo—45-day-old suckling pig—is tenderly done, with golden-brown hues. If you order it at the
restaurant, the cochinillo is cut into smaller portions using a small plate and served on a bed of cabbage. It’s the highlight of many a meal at Casa Armas, and a great conversation piece among diners. The suckling pig is oven-cooked for five hours on very low heat, and intensely seasoned with salt, garlic and other secret spices. It’s tasty enough, so traditional liver sauce is unnecessary.
Price: P4,352 (good for eight to 10 people). For pickup and delivery. Fee depending on the location. Casa Armas also offers catering services.
Packaging: Carton gift box ideal for gift-giving. Call five hours in advance. Open 10 a.m.-11 p.m.
Contact: Lorlyn Lim and Lorraine Lim-Aguila, Casa Armas: G/F, The Podium, 18 ADB Ave., Ortigas Center, Mandaluyong City, tel. 6873663, 6873370 and 6873665; G/F, Greenbelt 2, Ayala Center, Makati City, tel. 7574996 and 7574961; 132 Jupiter St., Bel-Air Village, Makati City, tel. 8973542, 8973605.
Palate teaser: Elar’s is a haven for those hooked on lechon with smoky, bronzed crispy skin and moist, salty and flavorful meat. The presentation of the lechon on a bamboo tray is quite charming. As for the dish itself, there is none of the greasiness or overpowering pork taste.
What you get is seasoned tender meat infused with lemongrass, salt and pepper, spring onions and Elar’s secret spices and herbs. As you remove the skin from the lechon, only a thin layer of fat clings to the back of the skin. What makes this lechon so great is how well it works with the lechon sauce, a light sweet gravy with liver and pepper flavors. Established in 1970, Elar’s has remained among the top lechon sellers all these years.
Price: P680/kg; P5,300 for 15 kilos (20-25 persons); P5,800 for 20 kilos (25-35 persons); P6,500 for 25 kilos (30-50 persons); P6,800 for 30 kilos (35-60 persons). For pickup and delivery. Fee depends on location, starting at P200. Order a day in advance; three days for bulk orders. It also has catering services.
Contact: Josefina Lontoc, 151 Quezon Ave. cor. Speaker Perez St., Sta. Mesa Heights, QC; tel. 7317551, 7317552, 7324116, 7433657.
Ulcing’s, The Original Cebu Lechon
Palate teaser: The crispy skin glistens and the smoky, salty, juicy meat is exceptional and filling. The golden-brown skin easily crumbles to the bite, even with a thick layer of fat attached to the skin. In fact, even if the skin is an hour or a day old, it manages to retain some crispness. Lemongrass, garlic, salt, spring onions, pepper, laurel leaves and other secret spices are infused into lean flesh, such that liver sauce is not even necessary. Owner Teresita Javier, who hails from Talisay, Cebu, and is a registered nurse, has been roasting lechon since her teens. She came to Manila in 2004 and started offering her Cebu-style lechon. Her clientele now consists of politicians, former presidents, social figures and celebrities.
Price: P600/kg; P5,500 for 6-7 kilos (15-20 persons); P6,500 for 9-10 kilos (25-30 persons); P7,500 for 13-14 kilos (40-50 persons); P8,000 for 16 kilos (70 persons); P4,000 for lechon de leche (10 persons).
Delivery within Makati is free.
Contact: Teresita Enjambre Javier, A-Q6 Jusmag Area, Southside, Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City; tel. 8106408, 4977957, 0919-3613291, 0908-9331414.
Palate teaser: Pepita’s variants are very original, among them: lechon with fragrant truffle rice and mushroom stuffing; lechon with garlic bulbs and marble potatoes; lechon with chestnuts and cashew; lechon with sisig; and lechon with laing. The pork is tender and succulent, the juices mingle well with the stuffing inside the belly, and the golden-brown skin immediately excites your appetite and invites you to dig in with your hands.
Owner Dedet dela Fuente roasts the stellar dish in a pugon-style oven. The pig is cooked whole, after all the entrails have been taken out, and the hollow part stuffed with a lovely blend of spices, herbs and other flavorful ingredients, such as nuts, rice, veggies, meat. For those looking for stronger meat flavors and would like to try other unique flavors in one sitting, Dela Fuente regularly holds lechon degustation in her house, serving appetizers, desserts and three to four kinds of lechon, depending on how big your appetite is.
Price: Lechon with stuffing: (Pinoy) Sisig Paella, P6,500; Binagoongan Rice, P6,500; Laing Rice, P6,500; Bicol Express Rice, P6,500; (French) Truffle Rice, P7,000; (Chinese) Rice with Chestnuts, Cashew and Mushrooms, P7,500; and (German) Garlic bulbs with Marble Potatoes and Herb stuffing, P6,500. Pepita’s also offers Birthday Lechon with Pancit stuffing, P6,500. Pepita’s only cooks one size for lechon. For pickup only, with three days’ notice.
Packaging: Lechon is placed in a carton box covered with Manila paper to maintain its crispness.
Contact: Dedet dela Fuente, No. 6 San Pablo St., Magallanes Village, Makati City; tel. 0917-8660662, 4254605.
Palate teaser: This much-awarded lechon has stood the test of time. Consistency is the key, with matriarch Antonina Ilagan Cesario, now 81, still hands-on in the family-run business, which started in 1973. The lechon is cooked fresh every day, flavored with salt and pepper, spring onions, garlic and lemongrass, among others. Through the years, the seasoning and stuffing have become more varied—paella, wine, lechon manok. When you order the lechon and eat it right away, the skin is crisp and crunchy, with a salty, smooth, caramelized flavor. This is the original lechon many people grew up with.
Price: P600/kg; P4,000 for 12-14 kilos (good for 20 persons); P4,400 for 14-16 kilos (30 persons); P4,800 for 16-18 kilos (40 persons); P5,200 for 18-20 kilos (50 persons). For pickup and delivery. Fee depends on area. Order a day in advance.
Packaging: Placed on a bamboo tray and wrapped in aluminum foil and thick brown paper.
Contact: Dr. Elizabeth Cesario Reña and Milagros Cesario, 69 Calavite St., La Loma, QC; tel. 7814406, 7814117, 7416872, 7814272, 7415403, 7314193, 4109411, 4109421.
22 Prime Cochinillo Asado
Palate teaser: Havin’ a blah day? Try this Cochinillo Asado—slow-roasted suckling pig cooked to crisp, tender perfection. The big fat slab of cochinillo asado, ordered a la carte and served
on a wooden chopping board, offers impressively crispy skin, with tender and juicy meat underneath. Cured for 20 hours, the pork is seasoned with a combination of sugar, salt, cumin, coriander seed, cloves (very evident in the dish) and nutmeg (for that distinctively earthy flavor). This dish is ideal for working up both the appetite and one’s tolerance for spices. After curing, the meat is placed in a vacuum bag, given a bit of a back pat, sealed and dropped into hot water controlled by the sous vide machine, to keep it cooking at a constant 84°C. The meat comes out ideally moist. Chef Luis Chikiamco, who studied and worked in France, says this cooking process is less tedious compared to the traditional charcoal roasting on an open pit. “With gentle heat,” says Chikiamco, “the meat is kept unstressed and unstrained, so it’s softer and releases more flavor.”
An order of cochinillo asado comes with garlic-roasted potatoes, mushrooms, green spring asparagus, herbs (rosemary, tarragon, oregano) and homemade peach chutney as the cochinillo sauce. The chutney lends the sauce a refreshing sweet-sour taste that complements the smoky flavor of the dish.
Price: Good for two people, P1,850+, inclusive of freshly stewed Spanish Garlic and Pimenton Soup and a sampler of desserts from the pastry kitchen.
Contact: Chef Luis Chikiamco, 22 Prime, 22/F, Discovery Suites, 25 ADB Ave., Ortigas Center, Pasig City; tel. 7196822, 7196888; e-mail email@example.com.