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Cebu

By June 2004Comments

San Antonio’s most exotic new dining venue, Cebu looks utterly American, with sponge-painted walls and Ella and Louis on the sound system. But open the menu, and you’re in a whole other country: the Philippines, to be precise. Are you ready for kinilaw na manga? I was, especially when the waiter set before me a beautifully arranged platter of mango slices accompanied by a shocking-pink paste made from fermented salted shrimp. The fruit went down easy; the shrimp paste—well, imagine biting into a hunk of Gorgonzola if you had never even heard of cheese. Luckily, various culinary comfort levels are accommodated by chef and co-owner Ronald Brennan, a native of the Philippines who learned his craft at his grandmother’s knee. My date wanted no surprises, so he ordered crisp-tender seared salmon filets topped with a sweet green-mango cream sauce. I felt semi-daring, so I plunged into posit, hipon, at tulya—a lovely island bouillabaisse with shrimp, squid, mussels, and taro root in a rich coconut-milk curry. Next time I’ll let co-owner Steven Harris, the restaurant’s affable front man, lead me into uncharted territory. Challenges are good.

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