Friday, November 28, 2008

A Native Feast

japanese, korean, chinese, mexican - i've munched on a pretty wide selection the past few weeks (there goes the diet) because ivan and darryl are bent on having dinner (practically every night) with family and friends before they fly back to london. good thing i really can't join lunches otherwise it would be an eating binge the whole day.

am just about ready to say "no" the next time they called for an invite but dinner last wednesday was special. you see, they wanted to get together family members and friends in cafe laguna.

local food. i realized i haven't written anything about local restaurants although majority of my favorites are the ones that serve the naytib kind. and cafe laguna is one that no one should miss if they get the chance to visit cebu. the formula is old, the menu a bit of a cliche but it's something you'd want to do again, and again. and again.

start off with crispy kangkong (swamp cabbage leaves) dipped in tartar sauce to whet the appetite then follow up with a slightly tart halaan soup (salt water clam) that has a strong underlying ginger taste. pakbet (local stir fried mixed vegetables) is perfectly bitter and seasoned with bagoong (salted fish / shrimp paste). after getting my "healthy" dose, i got the tagalog bistek (tenderized beef slices simmered in soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, pepper corns and topped with sweet onion rings) and enjoyed the tender meat with every mouthful of rice.

the waiter laid down a dish of laing (minced gabi leaves with green and flaming hot chili simmered and cooked in coconut milk) that is best eaten with a bit of the bistek and rice. it visually looks unappealing but the riot of taste that bursts in the first mouthful is guaranteed to make you dip in again. seafood came next with sugpo sa buko (shrimps with young coconut flesh cooked in coconut milk and flavored with long green chili and just a hint of bagoong).

the animal farm is not complete without pandan chicken and lechon kawali to complete the list of animals parading before our plates. if there's any disappointment, the lechon kawali (pork belly cuts deep fried to a crisp) is just so so with the skin not popping up in crackling bits.

i loved the interiors of the place which is a take-off from the usual native or local restaurants that feature bamboo, nipa and wooden furniture. the new cafe laguna spelled luxury and used monochromatic shades of flesh, white and off white.

this is a recommended place for people wanting to enjoy home-cooked meals in a classy laid back environment. call ahead as this place can get really full (click on read.more for restaurant details)

Laguna Garden Cafe
Garden Row 1
Biliran Road, Cebu Business Park
Cebu City, Philippines
Tel #: 032-2338600
Fax #: 032-2338602
email: lgc@cafelaguna.com

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