Review: Zubuchon Restaurant
I have finally visited a Zubuchon restaurant in Cebu City one Sunday morning last July. There are actually two of such restaurants – one is located at One Mango along Gen. Maxilom and the other is along Escario. My former colleagues and I had a get together lunch at the Mango branch.
These restaurants by the way, are owned by Joel Binamira who is fondly referred to as ‘Mr. MM’ (MarketMan) by the followers of his blog, MarketManila. He is a well-respected food blogger in the Philippines, whose passion for anything edible is manifested on every glorious pixel and mouth-watering account of a latest recipe, a mysterious ingredient or anything that may have recently caught his fancy.
The Zubuchon lechon (roasted pig), was one of MM’s creative pursuits back in 2008. He wanted to recreate the Filipino staple sans the artificial flavors and seasonings or just like the way it was cooked before. The painstaking research, numerous trials and a dash of imagination eventually paid of when Anthony Bourdain (No Reservations host and a Top Chef guest judge) proclaimed it as ‘the best pig ever.’
Just like the famous artisan lechons, the newly opened restaurants also underwent the same rigorous conceptualization and trials with regards to its over-all look, interiors and menu offerings. The Mango branch had a sleek and minimalist feel with the careful combination of the red and white color palettes. The Zubuchon logo on the place holders and as a glass tint added a playful and personal touch to the modern look. The menu chalk board with its exquisite typography, almost stole the limelight from the wonderful flower arrangement at the counter.
For our lunch, we ordered Squid Stuffed with Lechon Sisig, Adobong Kangkong with Chicharon and the Five Pork Fried Rice. We were supposed to include the Slow-Cooked Adobo, but since it was not available, I opted for the Lechon Sisig instead. Each dish come in servings that are also good enough for 3-4 hungry persons. But we were unable to wipe off everthing that time probably becaused we ordered too much or that we were watching our waistlines. Although most in the menu are Zubuchon-inspired, there are also some dishes for those who are cautious about their cholesterol levels.
The main star of the event was undoubtedly the kilo of Zubuchon we ordered. My good friend called in advance to reserve a cut from the belly which is a prized portion in most lechonrestaurants. But the waiter told us that there were no more belly portions that morning. This was quickly addressed by the supervisor when she learned of our prior reservation. It was also the first dish that was served on our table which I thought was a very welcome surprise. I have experienced waiting for almost an hour just to get a lechon serving elsewhere. Our other orders were then brought out of the kitchen one by one in just a matter of minutes as well.
The stellar service could be because we were the first to arrive that morning. It could also be attributed to the small size of the Zubuchon Mango branch, in comparison to the more popular fastfood franchises in the vicinity. My former manager would later remark that the limited space made perfect sense as the restaurant would only experience crunch times during lunch and dinner. The orders would then be manageable during these frenzied periods as the crew could only attend to a specific number of guests. The waiter-to-table-ratio, if that metric even existed, is then exemplary in Zubuchon’s case.
There was a confusion with the complimentary lechon sisig that would be given if there are at least 4 diners in a group. A waitress clarified that it would only be given out on the next visit. But a few minutes later, the supervisor informed us that we actually qualified for the promo. I requested that the extra sisig dish be packed for take out since we already ordered one earlier. There might be some minor instructions that were lost or misinterpreted in betweeen those times. This misfire however, did not mar our lunch in any way.
Over-all, it was a memorable gastronomic experience for me for two good reasons. I was able to catch up with my good friends in a restaurant that has a great ambience and that serves good yet surprisingly affordable food. I also consider it a reward to some extent to have finally tasted some of Mr. MM’s recipes which I only get to drool about and read online. Indeed, my brief and otherwise hurried visit to one of my favorite cities in the Philippines was rightfully capped with this Sunday lunch at a Zubuchon restaurant.
Zubuchon One Mango
One Mango Mall
Mango Avenue, Cebu City
Mon-Sat 10:00 AM – 11:00 PM
Sun 9:00 AM – 11:00 PM
+63 32 2395697
2017 update: Zubuchon Restaurant has now 10 branches all over Cebu and 2 in Metro Manila.