Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Welcome Back (Isla Sugbo) Seafood City!

Ah, Seafood City! Brings back childhood memories!

In the 90s, whenever my parents had visitors, we'd always go to Seafood City in Lahug. I remember walking into the huge restaurant (because of my size, the place seemed really huge), and my siblings and I would go straight to the aquariums to look at all the creatures while our parents chose some of these (un)lucky creatures to be put on our plates.

The return of this impressive seafood restaurant of the 90s as Isla Sugbo Seafood City is joy! Though the new Seafood City at the ground floor of the Grand Convention Center of Cebu is not as huge as my memory of the old one, Isla Sugbo Seafood City can seat 300 guests.

Isla Sugbo Seafood City
Ground Floor, Grand Convention Center of Cebu
Archbishop Reyes Avenue, Cebu City
(032) 260 8000
Lunch 11AM–2PM daily
Dinner 6PM–10PM daily

Isla Sugbo Seafood City sticks with the same concept as its ancestor: fresh catch laid out for your choosing alongside sea creatures swimming in aquariums not knowing how it'll end up on your plate—it's your choice how it should be cooked. If you have no idea how you want your fish or prawn or crab or whatever you have chosen cooked, ask the servers for the different cooking styles. Prices of dishes depend on the weight of the seafood/meat plus the cooking fee of Php 40 per 100 grams. A one page menu lists just drinks (for available desserts, just ask the servers).

Eeny, meeny, miny, moe, which ones should go (to the pot/pan)?

Isla Sugbo Seafood City opened about a month ago and barely three weeks old in their new home, I was invited by a friend to their media launch. Seefood diet, here we go!

Look closely. A part of a land creature snuck onto the table: (grilled) pork belly. The pig was probably found swimming in the sea, the people around the table joked. But, really, Isla Sugbo Seafood City has chicken, pork, and vegetables, too. All (including the seafood, of course) cooked to your liking by their chefs from Hong Kong.

I will not describe each because I have a very poor foodabulary. With my limited adjectives for food, I am picking the most used: delicious! My favorites were the sole fish fried with garlic butter sauce, deep fried blue crab with salt and pepper, and the prawns with lemon butter sauce. Oh, and the desserts were delightful, too!

The buchi is from Tsay Cheng, the Chinese restaurant next door.

It's time to bring my parents to Isla Sugbo Seafood City—just like old times but with reversed roles. All the same, we'll be there for the same reason the family has frequented the old Seafood City: the excellent seafood!

Friday, April 25, 2014

Siopao is Boring... Or Is It?

What is siopao? I believe it's the Filipino spelling for xiaobao 小包, which means "small bun" in Chinese. Sure you've heard of siopao. Sure you've eaten one (or dozens in your lifetime). White bun with meat and egg inside. The meat can be asado (pork barbecue) or bola–bola (meatball).  Boring but always good for a snack.

If you take the literal meaning, then this here, is not a xiaobao. It's a dabao 大包 or big bun! (The siopao around the Philippines are really dabao 大包, only a few have the small buns.) And what's inside makes it, in my opinion, a hen dabao 大包 (very big bun). But enough about the Mandarin lessons.

Why did I say it's a big bun? Because it is about 10 cm in diameter (well, wiki says a dabao 大包 measures 10 cm in diameter). And why "very big bun"? Because this siopao—Taitong's Special Siopao (Php62)—has not one or two but five fillings: asado, bola–bola, Chinese sausage, plain siomai, and salted egg. Boring it certainly isn't. Taitong's Special Siopao is a fiesta in a white bun. Hen hao chi 很好吃—very delicious!

 Taitong Steamers Foods
AS Fortuna St. (beside AA BBQ), Mandaue City, Cebu
(032) 316 2438 / (032) 316 0327
Lunch 10AM–2PM daily
Dinner 5PM–10PM daily

Taitong offers not only siopao—the "Foods" in Taitong Steamers Foods clearly says so. Taitong also has a bunch of dishes up the chef's sleeve. Check out the menu below.

 Click photos to enlarge

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Haiku for the Hungry: Ofuku–san

Heard a stomach growl...
May I suggest Japanese?
Go to Country Mall

There's Ofuku-san
A worn and faded facade
Treasures hide within

Many moons ago when Ofuku–san was still new

Treasures in boxes
Red and black bento boxes
Complete meal inside

Craving for porkchop
Have a tonkatsu bento
Perfectly breaded

Php 270
kakiage (vegetable tempura), sweet and spicy anchovies, tonkatsu (breaded pork cutlet),
 tamagoyaki (scrambled egg), macaroni salad, rice

Is fried prawn your thing?
Try ebi furai bento
Served with chicken, too

chicken teriyaki, ebi furai (fried prawn), agedashi tofu, rice

Something bacon-y?
It's perfect for you

Php 270
kakiage (vegetable tempura), sweet and spicy anchovies, buta shogayaki (thinly sliced pork),
 tamagoyaki (scrambled egg), macaroni salad, rice

Complete bento meal
Comes with miso soup and fruits
Surely make you full

But try others too
Like agedashi tofu
or Cali maki

Kind of expensive
But worth it I must declare
Exit with a smile

Gaisano Country Mall, Banilad, Cebu City
(032) 232 5036
Lunch 1130AM–230PM daily
Dinner 530PM–1030PM daily

What is a haiku? Haiku is a short form of Japanese poetry consisting of just three lines with 5, 7, and 5 syllables. The other two characteristics of a haiku are kigo (word/phrase that symbolizes the season) and kireji (word that cuts the stream of thought)... both of which I don't know how to apply :))

Monday, April 21, 2014

To Texas, Cowboy!

It is not only Mustachio's short legs that like to travel, his stomach does, too. Mustachio's stomach travels around the world while staying in one province, Cebu. While in Cebu, his stomach has been to Vietnam, France, Mexico, China, Malaysia, Japan. And today, USA. Texas, specifically.

AS Fortuna St., Mandaue City, Cebu
(032) 236 8201
Lunch 11AM–2PM daily
Dinner 530PM–930PM daily

Expectation: A handful of BBQ dishes.
Reality: An extensive menu that took Mustachio a bit of time to decide. He ended up with bacon beef meatloaf. After tearing his gaze away from the menu, it got caught by the dessert display, and banoffee cake was added to the bill.

Click to enlarge.
Menu images from Texas Rex BBQ's facebook page.

Expectation: The singer of "I'd Do Anything for Love" covered in bacon, and served with rice.
Reality: Smaller than the singer, but a bigger portion than hoped for. Plus it came with some peas, carrots, and corn. And a glass of drink.

Clockwise from top left: Bacon beef meatloaf, the restaurant, and a slice of banoffee cake.

Expectation: For the cake to taste like bananas and chocolate. And for the food to taste like real Texan food.
Reality: The cake was very chocolatey with bits of banana...which is good for the chocolate monsters, but not for the banana monsters. As for "real Texan food", Mustachio can't say—he has never been to Texas! His bacon beef meatloaf was more beef than bacon (strips of bacon was on top of the meatloaf), and for someone who is not big on beef, this might have been the wrong choice (and a case of selective reading: bacon). But if Texas smelled like grilled meat, then Mustachio feels like he just walked out of Texas.

PS. On his next visit to Texas in AS Fortuna, Mandaue City, Mustachio might go for something barbecue (considering this place is named Texas Rex BBQ) or something Mexican (the name shortened as Tex Rex is a play on words to sound like Tex Mex), like a burrito. For those who have been to Texas Rex BBQ, what would you recommend?

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Three Little Pigs Prequel: Lubu

Once upon a time there were three little pigs. Each of the piggies lived in his own little pigpen and was not aware that there were others of the same kind. Each one was satisfied with his own cool little mud pool and with whatever food was tossed his way (yes, pigs really do eat anything).

Then technology knocked on the pigpen gates. Through the wonderful worldwide web, Pig #3 (Pigstachio) discovered two more pigs. He found Pig #1 (Babe for Food) while searching for food on the web and Pig #2 (Baktin Corporation) while searching for mud pools with a view.

It wasn't until three years later when the chance for all three pigs to meet presented itself in the form of food: Babe for Food invited Pigstachio and Baktin Corporation to have dinner with her and her BFF on another island. The pigs were excited, especially Baktin. He kept asking what to wear. (You can wear a bow tie, Baktin. And don't forget to put gel on your hair.)

Just kidding. The pigs may wear whatever pigs wear. Dinner will be at Lubu, a casual restaurant serving seafood and Filipino cuisine. Lubu is in a commercial complex called Seaport Village in Punta Engaño, just before Mövenpick Hotel.

Seaport Village, Punta Engaño, Mactan, Cebu
0917 610 1866 / (032) 492 7824
Daily 11AM to 10PM

The day came for the pigs to rendezvous. "Baktin meet Babe for Food (BFF) and BFF's BFF. Babe for Food and BFF's BFF, Baktin." Pleasantries were exchanged and stars shined...on Baktin's eyes (haha, somebody got pigstruck).

At the restaurant, the foursome met the owner of Lubu, Mr Stephan Luthi (Luthi + Cebu = Lubu). Menus were studied (Pigstachio studied his menu a bit too long because nothing caught his fancy; everything on it seemed ordinary). Recommendations were given (by Mr Luthi) and orders placed (Pigstachio let the other pigs choose; he will eat anything): kinilaw na tangigue, lechon kawali (Filipino, check), spicy prawns with rum, grilled lobster (seafood, check). Plus, BFF's BFF's choice: sizzling calamari with bacon in garlic oil.(Why this, BFF's BFF? One word: Bacon!)

Kinilaw na tangigue (Php 240) and lechon kawali (Php 280) 

Spicy prawns with rum (Php 340), sizzling calamari with bacon in garlic oil (Php 280), and fried lobster (500g, Php 950)

Well, well, well, this shall teach Pigstachio a lesson: do not judge the food by its simple menu description. Pigstachio was joyfully taken by surprise by the flavorful spicy prawns with rum, the tangy calamari with bacon, and the fried lobsters sitting on a bed of alugbati (Ceylon spinach). Oh, the fried lobsters. Drool. Pigstachio just wishes the food was as friendly to his pocket as it was to his palate.

And how did these simple sounding dishes fare to the other three? They all drooled and squealed happily all the way home. (For a detailed review, read how Babe for Food squealed with delight.)

And that, my friends, was how the pig pack was formed.

The end.

Not! This is just the beginning.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Hola! La Lucha Taqueria

This little taqueria (taco shop) has been around since December 2012 but has been acting like a jumping bean. It first opened in Banilad, near Banilad Town Centre, as La Lagrima Taqueria (La Lagrima means "the teardrop"), then after a few months it transferred somewhere in Elizabeth Pond, which I never got to visit. After almost 10 months of burrito-deprivation, I lured my friend to their new shop, this time called La Lucha Taqueria (La Lucha means "the struggle"), near Baseline. (Why the name? Is it because they have been struggling with getting a good and permanent location?)

La Lucha Taqueria
Juana Osmeña St. (across Boosog/Baseline), Cebu City
0930 635 8488
Daily 10AM to 10PM

We got a burrito. Not just an ordinary burrito, but a Super burrito (Php 230). And a Super corn quesadilla (Php 100), too. The super burrito is stuffed with everything: beans, rice, salsa, cheese, sour cream, guacamole, and your choice of meat (we got the carne asada—beef). The super corn quesadilla has the same stuff in it minus the rice and beans (we chose chicken for the meat). (We were wondering what the difference is between the super flour quesadilla and the super corn quesadilla, aside from the flour/corn and the price. The answer? The size. The flour quesadilla is 12" in diameter while the corn quesadilla is just 6" in diameter.)

Doesn't look enough for two persons? Do not judge, eat it.
And you will see that it is just right for two.
Unless you have a huge stomach space.

Drench your burrito with jalapeño and tomatillo sauce.

What was missing during this visit was the horchata, a drink made with rice, vanilla, milk, and cinnamon. A cup of this would cost Php 50. Kind of expensive but I would have gladly given up my 50–peso bill to drink this small cup of sweet concoction.


Click to enlarge menu.
(Disregard the address on the lower right.)

I have yet to meet Jorge Barita (the Mexican owner of this little joint, who, I hear, has a nice ole mustache like mine!) to thank him for bringing Mexican food to the city (Fact: Señor Barita's family owns a taco shop in California called La Victoria) and to ask him why the name La Lucha... and maybe to ask him to lower the prices a bit (hehehe).

Señor Barita, if you're reading this, in appreciation for the food, I have come up with a song. Please sing to the tune of La Cucaracha.

La lululucha, la lululucha (The struggle)
Bigote-io no puede caminar (Mustachio can't walk)
porque le fatty, porque no tiene (because it's fat, because it doesn't have)
espacio en estomago! (space in the stomach)

So it doesn't really make sense, but the point is La Lucha Taqueria has good Mexican fare that's got Mustachio so stuffed, he is struggling to get off his bum.

Hasta luego, amigo! Burp!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

A Little Piece of Cafe in Guadalupe

M Veloso St. Guadalupe, Cebu City
0933 954 5009
Tuesday to Saturday 4PM–9PM

This little piece of cafe is a good place for a little piece of...

ALPS Cafe is tucked in a peaceful neighborhood in Guadalupe.

We were the only ones there on a Saturday afternoon. Could it be because we came in at opening time?
Or has this place remained a secret? (ALPS Cafe has been around for almost a year.)

The cafe's theme is travel. Photos and memorabilia the owners have collected over the years of traveling the world are on display in the cafe. 

ALPS Cafe has more than a dozen items on their menu. Salad, sandwiches, pasta, waffles, brownies, juice, coffee, milk tea. 

We were drawn to green that day. Everything we ordered had something green in it. Popeye's Dip (Php 105) is pesto dip with wheat bread. Matcha Waffle (Php 105) is waffle with matcha (green tea) ice cream and chocolate chips. And a pitcher of Tito Lemonsito (Php 155), which is moringa (malunggay) juice with cucumber and lemon.

The green food we had was nothing great, but it did not make us turn green either. The Tito Lemonsito, though, was positively refreshing and did not have that bitter moringa/malunggay aftertaste. I could down a pitcher of it. Or maybe two pitchers on a very hot day!

Remember there are more than a dozen items to choose from and we only tried three. Do not let my opinions keep you from having a little piece of... 
ALPS Cafe.
A Little Piece of Sky Cafe.

A little
Spotted just a stone's throw from the cafe is Uncle Noodles! Found out that Uncle Noodles has taken his business home after disappearing from Mango Avenue and from Food Choices in Ayala. Indeed, a very happy find! I will surely be back for my two uncles: Uncle Noodles and Tito Lemonsito!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Wisdom from the Road #14

On magic words
Not abracadabra.
Thank you.
You're welcome.
Those are magic words.

Those words will always be appreciated. (Please, of course, is also included.)

When a jeepney conductor handed me my change, he said "you're welcome" when I said my thanks. When I got off that same jeep, he again answered "you're welcome" to my "thank you." Not too many people answer back with a "you're welcome" and that definitely made my day.

For more lessons from the road, please visit Go Learn.