Cebu eats: A foodie/chef’s guide | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

Cebu eats: A foodie/chef’s guide
Soba Kamakura grilled eel rice bowl

When it comes to delicious dining destinations in the Visayas region, Cebu is one province that doesn’t fail to deliver, given the many options the city has on offer. Bacolod and Iloilo both have their fair share of memorable dishes and eateries, but what Cebu has working in its favor is the sheer variety—from street side sugbaan to award-winning brands.

Here are a few places worth a trip now:

Kusina Clasica

Cebu eats: A foodie/chef’s guide
Kusina Clasica “pochero”

A lot of Cebuanos swear by this place when it comes their favorite pochero. The Visayan style of this dish is akin to bulalo in that it’s a beef shank that’s boiled until tender and the result is an almost clear broth, with vegetables and a lovely lemongrass scent. The Tagalog version is tomato-based and has saba bananas and beans, the kind I had growing up.

Kusina’s interpretation comes two ways: traditional with wilted cabbage, and sizzling with a smothering of gravy. Both call for rice, and the meat is so massive that, along with the prized marrow, it can happily feed a party of three to four per order.

Expect a crowd, especially on weekends when they’re open for longer hours, to accommodate late-night cravings or bar goers wanting a decent meal before heading home.

Parr’t Ebelle Tinola

Who can resist the aroma of sizzling fat dripping on live coal? It’s a scent that whets the appetite. For grilled cravings, Cebuanos go to this street-side eatery found across a shopping mall.

The system is frills-free. Place an order with the men running the grill. Get your unlimited rice, soup and condiments from the self-service area. Then take a seat while you wait for your sugba.

They have a range of proteins available—from chicken and pork belly to an array of seafood, including catfish, malasugi (marlin), and the prized halwan tasik (cobia), which is less oily than salmon but is flaky and meaty when cooked.

The discarded parts of the seafood are thrown into a vat with leeks and tomatoes to be turned into a light and flavorful soup.

Soba Kamakura

Cebu eats: A foodie/chef’s guide
Soba Kamakura grilled eel rice bowl

This is one Japanese restaurant I’ve long been a fan of. With only a dozen seats available per shift, guests must call to reserve and preorder. And there’s a good reason for that: chef Hiroyuki Sakata wants the meal to be timed and the dishes prepared in time for your arrival.

Soba noodles are made by hand and cut 20 minutes prior; rice is washed twice two hours before; and the vegetables for the tempura are sliced, soaked in cold water, then drained 30 minutes before they are battered and fried. Even the item everyone comes here for, the eel, is prepped 70 minutes before service.

Sakata’s meticulousness allows for the best quality of food. And for that extra bit of service alone, I’ll gladly book a flight to Cebu to eat there.

The Pig and Palm

Cebu eats: A foodie/chef’s guide
The Pig and Palm gnocchi —PHOTOS BY NINO ANGELO COMSTI

I’ve always been impressed with this Jason Atherton joint. Tucked in a building corner, behind a row of bushes, is an inviting space that offers modern European plates designed by the Michelin-starred chef. It’s Atherton’s 16th restaurant worldwide and we’re lucky to have one on our shores, thanks largely to his wife Irha, who hails from Cebu.Choosing from the menu can be a challenge, as there’s only so much food my appetite can take—even on an empty stomach. Apart from the attentive staff, what I particularly love is how they can turn vegetables into veritable entreés. Such is the case with the chargrilled miso carrots with baba ghanoush and pesto. Even the cocktails and desserts, most notably the soufflé, are not to be ignored as they will definitely end your meal right.

Mott 32

Cebu eats: A foodie/chef’s guide
Mott 32’s Signature Iberico Pluma Char Siu

Nustar Resort and Casino holds an ace up its sleeve, and it comes in the form of a multi-awarded Chinese restaurant that’s renowned and celebrated all over the world. With locations in Hong Kong, Vancouver and Seoul, among many others, Mott 32 uses modern and innovative techniques to create memorable Cantonese dishes. They’re successful at doing minor tweaks and substitutions on time-honored recipes to make them a lot better and appealing to today’s market.

Take the case of their signature 42-Day Applewood Roasted Peking Duck, for example. Their hoisin is swirled with a peanut sauce to add an earthy dimension to the rather sweet condiment, as well as brown sugar to cut through the richness of the fatty and crispy duck skin. They have a har gow made with Nova Scotia lobster, and their roasted barbecue uses Iberico pork.

The restaurant design is noteworthy, the service is alert, and the sea view outside is calming, be it day (they’re now open for lunch) or night. There’s simply a lot going for it that it would be amiss not to include it in your food itinerary. (See related story.)Turning Wheels Craft BreweryHoused in a shipping container, the Turning Wheels bar has definitely evolved a lot from where it started back in 2014, operating simply in the owner’s house. It now has a space on P. Almendras Street where it can welcome guests to sample any of its variety of taps, from the grapefruity Mountain King West Coast IPA to the refreshing Rippin Red ale that has hints of nuts and caramel.

Next to the bar is Sal’s Kitchen, which has a menu that perfectly complements beer—from house specials like chili cheese dog and braised pork belly bun to tacos and for-sharing snacks like fried pickles and shrimp poppers. Having these two next to each other is the answer to how many happy hours should be spent in the city.

Follow the author @fooddudeph on Instagram.

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