Dessert Comes First

An obsession with dessert and other unabashed opinions of a food writer

Magnum White King

48 Hours in Cebu (1st of 2 Pig-Outs)

posted by in Food Tripping

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.


Nostalgia Scallops

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.

Golden Cowrie


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.

Faint hearted need not apply. The splatter shield at the CnT Lechon restaurant where many pigs are sliced and served.

CnT Lechon
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).

La Marea
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.

Tymad Bistro
On Facebook: Tymad Bistro

19 Responses to “48 Hours in Cebu (1st of 2 Pig-Outs)”

  • Great finds! Looking forward to part 2 =)


  • Dammit, I want lechon now.


  • Didn’t get to read your previous post on Cebu recommendations but glad you went to most of those I would have suggested so myself.

    If ever you’re craving for Sunburst’s chicken skin, you can head over to House of Lasagna along Wilson St (across Ristra’s). The owners are relatives of Sunburst’s owners so they have the same recipe for the chicken skin and for their fried chicken, of course.

    Next time you’re in Cebu, also try visiting any of the Abaca Group’s restaurants — they’re all good! My personal favorites are Maya (one of the best Mexican places in PH, in my opinion) and the newly-opened Tavolata trattoria that makes the best freshly-made pasta and pizza.

    Makes me miss my hometown!


    Lori Reply:

    Hi MAC,
    Thanks for the tip about House of Lasagna. Have always been curious about that place and now I can get chicken skin there too! Am aware of the restaurants in the Abaca Group but ran out of time — and stomach space! Something to look forward to on my next Cebu trip.



  • missed Sunburst when i went there last week.

    zubuchon – skin still crispy 4 hours after purchase. love it.

    thanks for this list. wish i can try La Marea the next time i visit cebu.


  • awesome article as usual Lori. Sunburst woohoooo!!!! that place rocks! i remember we were in cdo for a night once. we had lunch and dinner in sunburst on the same day hehehehe.


    Lori Reply:

    Thanks, JayP! I have you to thank for the Sunburst tip. :) Was thanking you with every crunch.



  • hi, its my first time to comment here. seriously,i fell in love with cebu through the food! especially the golden cowrie scallops. my fiancé is cebuano,so i know this will be my second home.i should try those pastries at tymad bistro in my next visit.


  • I wanna go to Cebu just by reading this :)


  • Hi Lori! Glad you’ve tried Tablea Chocolate Cafe. :)


  • My family and I now refuse to eat any lechon that’s not from Zubuchon. We love the fact that they don’t use MSG! We travelled to Cebu just to try their lechon and we were not disappointed.


  • Hi, Lori! If you have time, hope you can feature how to use the Calamansi Marmalade. I just bought a bottle from Zubuchon and it’s been sitting in my ref for quite some time now. Greatly appreciate the advice, thanks!


    Lori Reply:

    Hi Wence,
    I hope to be able to feature it but for now use it as a side for rich meat dishes to fight the cloy, spread on toast that’s been smeared with melted queso de bola, or use as a glaze. It’s really quite versatile.



  • Hi Lori! Know more about Zubuchon in Marketman’s website Marketman owns Zubuchon :-)


  • Hi Lori, I just came across your website literally because I was eating Dessert First before having lunch. I was skimm thru your site and was in heaven. I, too, love to eat out at different restaurants depending on my cravings. I also love to take pictures my food – I give credit to those in the kitchen creating these fascinating food presentation.

    I saw this picture you took from Cebu. Small world, I actually went to college there. WOW! you went straight to the Good Stuff —> Lechon and Puso. :)


    Lori Reply:

    Hi CharM,
    Welcome to Dessert Comes First! I hope you’ll always find a reason to come back :)


  • OH my! Drooling just by looking at the pictures. =)


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