I have always been an adventurous food lover. Thankfully, when I started to develop this hobby, restaurants in Cebu have become diverse. A wide variety of choices now abound, from the usual Filipino and Chinese, Cebu now has Thai, Spanish, Vietnamese, Korean, Japanese, Fusion, Greek, Mexican and Italian.
I just cannot vouch for their authenticity though. It is not uncommon for some of these restaurants to start out by branding themselves as one thing (for example, Mexican) and when you order you end up with something else completely different. Either the chef clearly has not tasted the real thing or they try to adapt it to the “Filipino tastebud”, most of the time with the food ending up greasy or sweet.
I am a true blue Cebuano who’s been here all my life, enough for me to know where to find the real good places to eat. My favorites include Japanese and Thai, occasional Spanish apart from the usual Filipino and Chinese. When eating out, I usually alternate between these choices. I particularly like to visit the small, out of the way, but cheap and authentic restaurants in Cebu. This is because they tend to be non-commercial and hence, taste better and more likely than not, authentic.
It is because of these restaurant visits and the recent media hype on culinary arts, that I also grew an interest in cooking. Now, I have always cooked at home since I learned the skill from a cousin when I was in 6th grade, but apart from the usual home fare, nowadays I also try to copy and experiment with recipes and menus from the food trips I make.
I find it to be easy, fun and fulfilling, especially when chow time comes and the rest of your friends and family enjoy the food. Most especially, I find it to be way cheaper than eating out.
It is because of this discovery that now, I look at restaurants in a different light. I am particularly referring to Filipino restaurants.
When going out to dine, my colleagues usually prefer Filipino. Nothing wrong with that but when you eat Filipino at almost every occassion, end up ordering the same thing everytime, that is a whole different story altogether.
Understandably, we have our own favorites, and these are usually the Filipino comfort food that we like at home too. These would include, crispy pata, adobo, calamares, sinigang(shrimp or pork), sauteed water spinach(adoboong kangkong), pinakbet, tahong, ginataan calalabasa, gabi or monggo with seafood, and ofcourse the grilled seafood and pork belly. All of these I can cook at home!
I just think the following restaurants are overpriced and overrated:
1. Hukad and Golden Cowrie – plus the wait is starting to be annoying.
2. Chikaan – bad service.
3. Abuhan – pochero is overrated. Many people will vouch for the taste, but I guess these people never had the real thing. I personally think their pochero soup tastes like the powdered flavouring in instant beef noodle soups. Mack me if you want to know where to get the best pochero in Cebu.
4. Cafe Laguna – nice ambience, but again, overpriced and overrated. Service is average as expected.
Many restaurant reviews tag Filipino restaurants as great places to eat with fair to cheap prices , especially when the writer is a tourist. However, if you are a local, and you know how to cook and you are familiar with your price, you know in you, that the prices are marked up to 150% to 300% . Ofcourse, this is business. Ofcourse, there is the service and ambience and convenience you pay for. Ofcourse.
But when dining in a Filipino restaurant, do you really get the best service? At most, you will be met with service just meeting expectations.
I can only wish that Cafe Adriatico(Filipino) and Sol Y Luna(Spanish) were still in Cebu. For they had the best service in town. Close runners up are Hola Espana and Casino Espanol which are not Filipino restaurants but are still in business. Dencios/Dencias in Davao (Filipino) also offer great service and great food with fair prices, but they are not in Cebu. Boosog also is up and coming, I especially enjoy thier mung beans and seafood with coconut milk, a twist to the usual ginataan munggo and the paksiw ulo ng salmon, fermented salmon head with coconut milk, again a fresh make over of the usual fish paksiw.
I guess my point is that, unless I am dining on either exotic, sophisticated, technically hard to prepare authentic food or Filipino food but coupled with exceptional service, I am not willing to pay for glorified Filipino home fare.