48 Hours in Cebu (Part 2) here
There’s a lot of eating that can be done in just two days.
Armed with my list of where to eat and what to eat courtesy of the excellent recommendations of DCF readers, I land in Cebu. It’s the heat that hits me first. Why does the sun seem more merciless here than in Manila? Good lord, it feels like summer. But what a city this is! Bustling with more cars crammed into a smaller space, I’m awed by the hotels and numerous restaurants that dot this dynamic landscape.
Sunburst is a ubiquitous fried chicken chain and its Chicken Skin platter is the first thing I eat in Cebu. Fried at an optimum temperature so it’s not at all greasy, its deafening shatter precedes a mouth feel that blooms with a deep chicken flavor. There’s a vinegar dipping sauce garnished with leeks alongside but I like the feel and taste of bare skin. There couldn’t be a better welcoming dish than this one.
House of Pig
A few steps away is Zubuchon, one of the ultimate must-eats during my Cebu trip. It’s such an appealing space made more attractive with the artisanal products on offer. I grab a jar of the calamansi marmalade (terrific with melted Brie) and I’m ecstatic to see packs of leaf lard in the freezer. These make exceptional pie crusts and scones.
Though Zubuchon is open at 9am, the pig doesn’t make its debut ‘til about 11. Noted on Zubuchon’s illustrative place mat is “Best way to eat lechon … when there’s still steam rising from its rear end!” [exclamation theirs] That’s what I see in this pig in front of me and the lechonero makes quick work of slicing the head off first and then niftily portioning out orders.
Locals have told me that they consider Zubuchon lechon as “really good roasted pig, but not traditional [Cebu] lechon.” Whatever it may be, the meat is juicy and moist with a suggestion of lemongrass and salt. Because it’s still hot, the globules of fat under the skin shimmer like pearls, a sight to admire before hearing the crunch of skin when eaten.
Five Pork Fried Rice is a wondrous dish, a product of great creativity. A mingling of many pork and pork offshoots (chicharon, pork drippings, etc.) it’s finished off with shrimp paste and shavings of green mango. No wonder it tastes like a variation on Thai bagoong rice.
The best way to handle a high fat meal is to hit it with plenty of acidity. The Zubu Pickle Platter is ideal with its selection of singkamas (turnip/jicama), papaya, and green mango, which is my favorite.
Kamias is one of those things with extreme pucker power. It makes a memorable shake not just because it can be adjusted to be salty and sweet but also because it’s what I craved for and made when I was pregnant — after forcing my Bin to climb our neighbor’s kamias tree. Zubuchon’s Kamias Shake is sweet on first sip, the fruit’s characteristic sourness creeping in later. For those who prefer sweet to sour, the calamansi shake (foreground) suffices nicely.
I don’t think they have a website but here’s the most complete store listing I found.
A quick spin through SM City Cebu lands us at Golden Cowrie. Though it’s been barely an hour since we’ve had lunch – okay fine, it was an early lunch, we share a plate of the Baked Scallops for old time’s sake. It’s one of the dishes that my Bin enjoyed eating when he was based here in Cebu years ago. The scallops are soft, mimicking the texture of the cheese which is meltingly hot. A salty fillip at the end rounds this off.
Okay, so maybe it’s a bad idea to walk through the supermarket after eating at Golden Cowrie because the next thing I know, we’ve been influenced by the long line at CnT Lechon and we’re lining up to get more pig. Maybe it’s because Cebu is lechon land and “pigging out” is a prerequisite to enjoying one’s stay. Whatever it is, I join my Bin at the counter where we eat lechon (again), our hands wrapped in plastic gloves because there are no utensils. I haven’t had puso since my last visit to Cebu in 1999, so I’m thrilled to be eating it again. I’ve forgotten how compact it is, a result of being compressed in this pouch of woven palm leaves. It reminds me of lontong, an Indonesian rice with a similar texture.
1377 Rama Ave, Guadalupe, Cebu City.
(6332) 254.4249, (6332) 254.6641
Cebu’s Tsokolate Store
Tablea Chocolate Café reminds me of Xocolat and Tsoko.Nut. Both stores are paeans to the not-so-humble Filipino tsokolate. At Tablea, everything offered is made from local cacao. Some of the better treasures here are the Buck-Eyes (above), mashed up Choc-Nut or a facsimile thereof and then dipped in chocolate; I love this. Then there’s my Bin’s favorite, the Marshmallow Clusters (in foreground), gobs of marshmallows held together with chocolate and some crisped rice thrown in for crunch and excitement. Like any self-respecting store devoted to chocolate, Tablea has an excellent line-up of hot chocolate beverages. I like the Sipping Dark Chocolate (above right), a mix of Belgian chocolate and tablea. It’s steaming hot and just sweet enough to savor the smoothness and bite of both chocolates.
Tablea Chocolate Café
Bevy of Brownies — in Cups!
“If you are a dessert person, then you must go to La Marea and eat all the desserts there,” I read in one Cebu food blog. Sounds good, so off I go. This dessert spot is famous for one product, its Brownie Cups. Really an undercooked brownie – hard not to love, really – it’s then topped with ice cream which immediately melts into this molten mass upon contact with the cake. In the photo above are the Chocolate and Peanut Butter Brownie Cups. While I wish that the brownie could be softer, these were quite solid with none of that oozy glory I’m expecting, they’re quite good. Out of all the patisseries I visit in Cebu, I like the ambience of La Marea the best and I’ll have to say that I prefer their desserts as well as those at Café Georg (to be featured in Part 2 of this series).
No official website that I can find but this has the most complete information.
Best croissants in Cebu
In the two hours that I sit in Tymad Bistro, I watch as French and Korean expats come in to buy their daily supply of croissants and rustic bread loaves. Since its opening in June 2011, its croissants have earned superlative praise from no less than Jason Hyatt, the managing chef-partner of the eminent Cebu-based Abaca Restaurant Group. Tymad’s croissants have some bite to them unlike other counterparts that seem to disintegrate on contact with teeth. Warmed slightly, they beg for jam which is given upon request.
The bistro is owned by Frenchman Philippe Estienne, a chef in his native Provence and prior to coming to the Philippines ran a restaurant in the Côte d’Azur. Before it was overrun by the croissants in popularity, Tymad’s stars were its galettes. Made with buckwheat flour, thus their tanned exteriors, their crispy edges cradle a variety of fillings. My Bin and I enjoy the Forestiere, a combination of ham, cheese, and mushrooms cloaked in a béchamel sauce. It’s so good and skillfully made that I can’t recall enjoying a crepe as much as I enjoy this one. Truly delightful too washed down with sips of their hot chocolate (photo above with croissant) made from a 70% dark chocolate bar. Service is very slow here however, so I recommend you linger. That won’t be difficult since it’s such a relaxing place with a view of the display case and the open kitchen where Monsieur Estienne is seen cooking.
The pastries at Tymad are no less spectacular. We’re torn among several choices but restraint reigns and so we decide to go for something quintessentially French: a tarte tatin. Beautifully browned, the apples are carefully caramelized so their gentle sweetness and cinnamon seasoning comes to the fore. Paired with a crust that’s neither crisp nor soggy but just right, it’s true what the Cebuanos say about Tymad Bistro: you close your eyes and can almost believe that you’re in France.
On Facebook: Tymad Bistro