Cagayan de Oro’s Cucina Higala
The relatively new Cucina Higala is one of the very few restaurants in my hometown that I’d highly recommend. It is located along Capistrano St. in downtown Cagayan de Oro.
I chanced upon the restaurant thanks to my highschool classmates who suggested this for our impromptu get together not too long ago. I’ve been told that a Thai place used to occupy its current location, but the same owners probably thought of focusing on a cuisine that’s closer to home.
By the way, higala means ‘friend’ in the local dialect. It’s no wonder then why the restaurant was named as such because Cagayan de Oro is affectionately nicknamed as the ‘City of Golden Friendship.’
Modern casual interiors
Compared to the restaurant’s facade, its interiors exudes a modern casual vibe. The choice of furniture also continues on this theme of mixing the old with the new. Behind the counter is a colorful mural that depicts CDO’s various icons such as the the San Agustin Church, the timeless motorela and white water rafting.
From the get-go, it’s indeed hard to nitpick anything at Cucina Higala. Even their washrooms are clean and very Instagrammable.
Heritage cuisine with some twist
Aside from the usual Filipino fare, the restaurant’s menu also highlights some of the beloved dishes in the region – the humba (slow-cooked pork belly), Camiguin’s surol (chicken stew in coconut milk), Lanao’s rendang and the kinilaw among many others.
But Cucina Higala executes each dish in a manner that would honor traditional local recipes and at the same time deliciously introduce each to a wider audience, especially those who have never set foot in this part of the Philippines. For example, their kinilaw comes with candied dilis for sweet contrast and crunch.
I am very biased towards our hometown’s version of the kinilaw (fish ceviche) as we use the fragrant biasong (a local citrus) and the tabon-tabon (Atuna Racemosa). The extract of the latter removes the langsa and also adds a welcome hint of tart to the raw fish dish.
The easy bestseller in our group was the Sizzling Binaki – on a hot pan is a corn cake drizzled with caramel sauce and then topped off with sliced almonds. This was so numbingly good that we had three orders during the entire meal. It was indeed a perfect calorie-laden excuse to pair our cup of joe.
Perhaps Cucina Higala’s only downside is its very location. It could be a nightmare to drive through and around our Divisoria’s one-way mazes such that by the time you reach the restaurant, you may not have a parking slot anymore.
But even that becomes a non-issue especially when you have old, good friends gathering over honest, good food.
222 Capistrano St. Cagayan de Oro City
Opens daily from 11:00 AM – 2:00 PM, 5:00 PM – 10:00 PM
For reservations and inquiries: +63 88 881-1570 / +63 917 794 6118