We all have our own top restaurant picks and the beloved dishes we keep going back to. We asked some of Cebu’s self-confessed gourmands for their top 3 go-to dishes in their favorite watering holes, the ones that make them just skip over the menu and with full conviction ask for it from the server. Here they are:
Shigejiro Onda, 39, entrepreneur-food lover
1. Ears of Cang’s Lechon
Need I explain? Living in Cebu means nibbling the ears of the beautifully roasted beast. It’s a shame that they grow only a pair.
2. Azuma-Don at Banri, Mactan branch
A bowl of rice with tuna sashimi dipped in soy sauce, wasabi-zuke and spring onions. I don’t think this is anything special, but somehow this is the dish I order most frequently in Cebu. That must mean something.
3. Tymad’s Caramel Crepe
When I had this for the first time, I literally froze for a moment with a fork sticking out of my mouth.
Carina Sala, 27, restaurant manager
1. Tymad’s Crepe Bigoudine
It’s chocolate-y and warm, and the ice cream just melts into it. What’s not to like?
2. Blue Bayou’s Chicken Etoufee
Tasty chicken in a thick, slightly spicy soup. It’s the perfect meal.
3. Lamb Curry from Garden Café of Cebu City Marriott Hotel
Tender pieces of lamb cooked in real Indian spices make for a really hearty meal.
Holly Dychangco, 22, interior designer
1. Anzani’s Yellow Fin Tuna with sesame seed, served with vegetable tortilla rolls and flavored with sambuca sauce
Categorized in Anzani under the hot appetizers, this dish is simply gastronomic. The lightly seared tuna with sesame seed has a texture that just melts in your mouth. It’s made even better when dipped in my favorite sambuca sauce, which is a rich and creamy homemade sauce that has the perfect sweet and tangy taste with a hint of spice. The vegetable tortilla rolls make this dish a complete meal.
2. Lemongrass’ Taoho Sawaei (royal fried beancurd)
Although I’m not big on fried food, this dish I make an exception for. The golden fried tofu on a bed of native watercress is soaked in an oriental flavor of lemongrass sauce, giving it that extra oomph. This dish has a great balance of protein and vegetables, so it’s a great choice for vegetarians who crave for the solid texture found in meat.
3. STK Ta Bay’s Grilled Tuna Belly
Anybody can grill, but this dish is simply irresistible. Marinated in a thick homemade tangy barbecue sauce, this dish is perfect in every bite. The tuna is so fresh, the juice oozes out of its belly. Drizzled with calamansi to seal its flavor, this dish is a favorite of the Filipino palate.
Jandrick Climaco, 28, proprietor, Fushu Shoes
1. Beef Teppanyaki at Yumeya-Kihei Japanese Restaurant
This mouth-watering dish is served on an iron plate, where the sauce sizzles with the bean sprouts that the steak sits on, giving the sprouts the same great taste. This would probably be my favorite restaurant mostly because of this dish. It’s what I crave for every time I feel like rewarding myself.
2. Cha DolBak Yi at Chosun Galbi Korean Restaurant
The Cha DolBak Yi (beef brisket) is this restaurant’s winning dish. I don’t know how everyone else eats this dish, but I take a piece of purple lettuce then put in a strip of the brisket, which I enjoy cooking myself. Then I put in numerous add-ons—kimchi veggies, eggs, garlic, rice, etc., and top it all off with Samjang sauce.
3. Beef Salpicado at Rica’s Café
I love everything about this restaurant, actually. The great personal service, the classy ambience and its tucked-away location give Rica’s the secret hideaway feel away from the busy streets of our little city. The dish that keeps drawing me back to this pleasing restaurant would be the beef salpicado. I have no words to say about this marvelous dish, which always gets me craving for more. I obviously love beef!
Monique del Gallego, 32, home baker
1. Ipar’s Paella Negra
I love how the rice really absorbs the flavor of the squid ink, and how the aioli sauce complements the dish. The only downside is smiling for the camera after eating!
2. Arano’s Spicy Tenderloin Tips
It’s just got this homey taste that you can’t seem to find anywhere else but in Arano’s. This dish, with its side order of asparagus salad and garlic rice, hits a home run.
3. The Pantry’s Bingen’s BLT Sandwich
When I’m craving a lighter bite in the form of a sandwich with all the good stuff in it—veggies and a generous serving of bacon—this definitely hits the spot!
Pia Echevarria, 28, magazine managing editor-financial advisor
1. Ramen Kamekichi’s Chashumen
I had never been a ramen fan, but Kamekichi Ramen’s Chashumen made me a self-professed convert the first time I tried it, and it has since satiated my late-night cravings after drinks with friends. I like the earthiness of menma or simmered bamboo shoots in the soup, as well as the delicate slices of pork that are like silk in your mouth. This comes in three spicy levels, and though I have a penchant for hot food, spicy level number two already does the trick for me.
2. Café Elysa’s Dinuguan
I’m usually iffy about the preparation and the aroma of this local delicacy since it is essentially pig’s blood, face and offal, but Café Elysa prepares theirs with ground pork and an expert blend of sourness from kamias and vinegar, heat from green chili peppers and an unexpected zing from basil. It is a perfect match for steamed rice.
3. Cyma’s Roka Salata
In spite of being the type to ignore salad bars in buffets, I can’t get enough of Cyma’s Roka Salata. It’s just a heavenly mix of romaine lettuce, arugula, sun-dried tomatoes and candied walnuts. All this, topped with parmesan shavings and drizzled with special Greek vinaigrette—which, by the way, I’ve had many a failed attempt at recreating at home—is a great appetizer any time of day.