One of the indelible impressions that going around Cebu City left me is that Cebuanos simply love to eat. I’ve visited this so-called Queen City of the South every year for the last four or so years and seeing new eating places coming up just amazes me. The last time around was for another work assignment when we went around and saw signages on lampposts advertising either lechon (roast pig) and pochero, a kind of beef soup.
Hmmm, our group didn’t have have the opportunity to try Cebu’s version of the pochero but we got to sample delicious fare here and there, some more worth remembering than the others. We’re really just scratching the surface of the Cebu foodscape here but what the heck, it’s my modest contribution to the online literature extolling the flavors of the city’s food offerings and celebrating the Cebuanos’ love affair with food.
Sutokil? No Problem!
Oh, you probably knew where the tongue-in-cheek name came from — Sugba (grilled), Tinowa (stewed in sour soup base), Kilaw (cooked not with heat but vinegar or lime juice) — so I wouldn’t dwell on it. We arrived at No Problem Restaurant to eat a very late lunch at 4:30pm due to a rather hectic itinerary but I, personally, wouldn’t want to miss this chance. No Problem is no frills, with a dining area that sits on stilts over a mangrove area. There’s cheap plastic covering the long wooden tables and the creaking wooden floor oftentimes yield sea roaches but remember that you came here for the food.
It’s hard to believe this restaurant is over two decades old but I guess the come-ons of unpretentious preparation, freshly-cooked flavors and low prices are time-tested alternatives to the pomp and frills of the restaurants that has come and gone during those years. We chose from the array of fresh fishes and seafood at the entrance and feasted on Shrimps in Sweet and Sour Sauce (P375/kilo), Lapu-lapu in Soy Sauce(red grouper) and Grilled Scallops in Lemon-Butter Sauce (P320/kilo) while our loquacious servers regaled us with tales of love found and love lost. Hmm, the way we were eating the past days, it seemed we in turn have tales of pounds found and pounds we must lose.
This is the birthplace of the famed Lechon Bisaya so it’s understandable that the locals I’ve spoken to were hard-pressed to say which lechon (roasted pig) is the best. Our group heard of Rico’s in Talamban and knew we had to put this to the taste/test. We had to wait for over an hour as Mang Rico’s young hands roasted a pig to a wonderful crisp. As usual, the skin is very much coveted but I must say the laman (meat) was fully cooked and flavorful owing to the stuffing — a motley mix of tanglad (lemongrass), other kinds of leaves, salt and seasoning, the composition of which is a guarded family secret. Certainly not everyday fare but a very worthwhile indulgence (Prices from P2,500-P5,000 depending on size of the pig).
From streetwise to swanky.
I wish we could have come on a different night to Abaca in Punta Engaño Road in Mactan so I could have taken even a shot of the glorious food as it was dark when we got there. But even so, I feel it’s worth a mention here. It’s not-for-nothing that it’s one of the latest, must-eat-here places in Cebu, the good food is personally prepared by Jason Hyatt who has worked with Wolfgang Puck. His pizzas are paper-thin (the way I like them). Why, even his salads are laced with his plump and fruity heritage tomatoes. The dining area overlooks a view of the private jetty and the sea, lit with candles and wall scones which makes the place ideal for convivial dining with friends or romantic dates. One of the benefits of going on a business trip is foregoing paying a hefty bill which costs upwards of P1,600 per head for a full course meal.
I’m not a party-goer but going on an after-dinner trip to Formo in Banilad is worth it even just for the taste of the Sweet and Spicy Home-made Potato Crisps. Thinly-sliced and delicately-flavored, they go well with the Mojitos (available in 5 fruity flavors) or in my case, the ever-reliable iced tea. There’s also the original salted variant but I prefer the sweet and spicy one.
After a filling day, a sweet ending.
A sweet way to cap the day will be at Cafe Georg, also in Banilad, or its smaller but no less cozy store, Oh Georg! at the Ayala Center. They have a wide selection of desserts but don’t forget the Tiramisu — it’s certainly worth the trip to Banilad even if you happen to be based in Mactan. Go ahead, order one or two dessert item to go along with your java.
No Problem Restaurant
Mactan Island • (6332) 495.8101
Hiway 77, Talamban • (6332) 344.0119; (0971) 407.2033
Punta Engaño, Mactan Island • (6332) 495.8546
Banilad Town Centre (6332)420.7070
G/F MILD Bldg., Banilad • (6332) 234.0887
Level 1, Ayala Center • (6332) 233.4735