Someone tipped me that there is this karenderya somewhere in Naga, a third class city in the province of Cebu, that serves very affordable seafood. When I heard about it, I wanted to pay it a visit immediately. However, aside from the fact that Naga is a bit far from my place, my informant also forgot the name of this food stall.
It was only very recently that I was able to gather more helpful information about it. A co-worker happens to know the place and even offered to drive both of us there. I was not surprised since this guy also shares my passion in looking out for these open-air eateries. One random afternoon not too long ago, thanks to him, I finally found myself at Carbill Seafoods Haus.
This eatery is named after Carolina and Billy Reponte, the couple who still oversees its daily operations to this day.
At first glance, it has everything that I love about karenderyas:
- Plastic tables and chairs. Check.
- Spoons and forks dipped in small metal buckets. Check.
- And a method (that they only seem to know) to the ensuing frenzy during service. Check.
Unlike most eateries that I frequent, Carbill does have a beautiful seaview, albeit obstructed by the newly reclaimed area of Naga. A portion of that area, I’ve been told, was once the site of their 13-year old business.
They are now located at the backyard of a property owned by one of Carolina’s relatives. It’s right along the highway too, a few meters before the only Jollibee store in these parts.
When we arrived at Carbill, we were greeted with plates of freshly steamed shrimps, lambay, grilled fish and squid. Joining the incredible display are some kinilaw (ceviche) options – fish, sunlotan and bat. Completing the seafood ensemble are the usual exotic fare such as the ubod and bakasi.
“Brad, kanang mahurot ra nato ha,” I told my companion. I then left the burden of choosing from all these mouth-watering array to him.
At the back of my mind, I wished though that we tagged along 2 more persons so that we can sample additional dishes, especially that lapad of local sea urchins.
My colleague got us a big alimasag (deep-sea crab) and a platter of local sea conchs called bongcawil. Piping hot bowls of fish tinuwa broth were served shortly. They are free and refillable as well.
The crab was very sweet which means that this particular catch was textbook-grade fresh. Aside from the gata, the larang na pagi had an interesting layer of flavor, which I failed to identify even after we finished our meal.
The kinilaw was my least favorite in the group as it looked and tasted like it had been drenched in the vinegar-based sauce way too long.
Nonetheless, we were still satisfied with our lunch. I can’t complain since this spread (and the 5 cups of rice too) cost us just a little over Php300 only.
Happy meals like do not happen often, so I am really grateful to my colleague for becoming my willing accomplice that afternoon.
I use ‘happy’ by the way to describe something that is extremely gratifying and very memorable – like uni sushi or Disneyland or your first kiss.
Carbill, in that regard, is indeed one happy place, simply because I had a very happy lunch there.