Restaurant Review: Bharat Spice
Bharat Spice does not look like most Indian restaurants in Cebu. There are no posters of the Taj Mahal plastered across its bare walls. They also don’t play catchy Bollywood tunes.
From the getgo, you wouldn’t suspect that this unassuming corner in IT Park could serve one of the most satisfying Indian meals of your life.
I came across this restaurant thanks to my good friend Bee’s drool-worthy Facebook posts. These got me very curious such that I ditched my prior lunch plans and then invited her and a fellow foodie to join me one afternoon not too long ago.
Very filling appetizers
Save for two staffs, Bharat Spice was deserted when I arrived a few minutes before noon. I found us a good spot and then ordered a cup of chai (milk tea) which was served in an ornate metalware. Vijay, the resto’s owner, would later tell us that these tea cups came all the way from India.
I then asked why he named the resto as such. He explained that “Bharat” is how Indians would affectionately refer to their beloved country. It is probably similar to our “bayan” in our local language.
Aside from the tea, we started off with complimentary pakoda (Indian-styled onion rings) and chicken samosas. The latter was filling enough to be a meal by itself. It was then a wise decision that we held back on the remaining pieces. We needed to reserve spaces in our stomachs for the other items we ordered.
The ‘most authentic’ biryani
Vijay shared that he wants Bharat Spice to serve the most authentic Indian dishes in this side of the world. He doesn’t want to compromise the flavors he grew up with or make these more accessible for the local palate.
For instance, they only use Basmasti rice in their biryanis. This variety costs at least twice the Ganador which is readily available here in Cebu. “It’s cheaper but it won’t absorb the spices in a typical recipe,” he added.
It did not came as a surprise why the Special Mutton Biryani was one of the runaway hits. While the lamb meat was not quite fork-tender, the biryani‘s rich aroma and flavors more than made up for it. For Bee, this was the ‘most authentic’ she had so far and came very close to the many she had in the UAE.
This also reminded me of the humble platter I enjoyed in Myanmar (the backstory of which is subject for a future blog entry).
The takeaway here is that authenticity, when used to describe a particular cuisine, is only useful for context and not necessarily validation. While you can have a forgettable biryani even in India, you can also have a good one absolutely anywhere – in Dubai, in Yangon and even here in Cebu.
But the palak paneer was something else
The delicious surprise had to be the savory palak paneer – spinach, homemade cottage cheese, chilies and maybe 10-15 other spices I don’t know.
We wiped it clean with their freshly made rotis – the butter naan and pulka. If you know someone who doesn’t like his vegetables, this is one dish that will hopefully make him change his mind.
I wished I had enough room for the gulab jamun dessert but I did not leave the restaurant without trying their lassi. It’s not the sweetest finish to a proper Indian meal, but this yoghurt drink is good enough.
There were 3 more diners by the time we left. Vijay did mention that Bharat Spice is usually packed at night with Indian nationals (most are medical students I presume). While the restaurant already has a captured market in that regard, I do wish they’d put up a better signage soon. The rest of the city must know this little culinary gem exists.
The ‘clearbook’ menu needs some improvement as well. In the absence of photos, a knowledgeable ‘Front of House’ staff would be very helpful for first timers to Indian cuisine. I guess we were lucky because it was the owner himself who walked us through the menu.
But if you should find yourself at Bharat Spice soon, I sincerely hope that you won’t go wrong with the food I featured in this blog post. You can also tone down the heat to your preference. And while you’re at it, throw in a massala or something unfamiliar to your taste buds for good measure.
CJRS Point Building, Cebu IT Park
Opens daily 11:00 AM-2:00 PM, 5:00 PM-11:00 PM
+63 32 4120630