Sunday, March 24, 2013

Golden Cowrie in Cebu -- familiar favorite

Cebu is my happy stomping ground for food -- local restaurants abound, big or small, old or newly opened, hole in the wall or fine dining place ... you are sure to discover delicious meals.
An old favorite of mine is Golden Cowrie, a well known institution in the Cebu restaurant scene. Today it's been overtaken by all the new places that have opened and have generated a lot of buzz.
But as it is with restaurants that take genuine pride in what they do -- Golden Cowrie may not be the latest hotspot but they have been consistent with both food and (very friendly)  service through the years.

I was in Cebu for a quick working trip two weeks ago and I was with someone who loved to eat but admittedly had very little knowledge of the Cebu dining scene.  Finding ourselves with free time at dinner -- away from the clients --  I decided to take her to Golden Cowrie -- at its original site in Lahug.

My friend does not eat meat but we both found this sign for the famous Cebu lechon so amusing. Pinoys really have a way with words!  Unfortunately, since I'm vegetarian -- I guess I can't vouch if the lechon at Golden Cowrie is indeed "unbelibaboy".

Golden Cowrie serves traditional Filipino food -- a mix of both Tagalog and Cebuano favorites.  The place setting is a banana leaf on a wooden tray. Rice is "eat-all-you-can" ... someone comes around to ladle as much (or as little) as you want on your banana leaf plate.

It's hard to be go strictly vegetarian when out of town, specially as I cannot resist Golden Cowrie's famous baked scallops.  So we order that plus boneless daing na bangus ... and another Golden Cowrie specialty ... fried tuna fingers.
Don't laugh  -- but this is a very good dish.  The tuna is fresh and there is no oily after taste at all.
I had to convince my friend to order it since it seemed so incongruous with the rest of the "native" offerings.
And just as I thought, after she tried it, she agreed that it was a great choice.

Imbao is a type of clam which is very popular in the south.  The clams are a bit bigger and very flavorful.  In a simple broth -- the sweet freshness of the imbao is just heavenly!  
For all that we ordered (which we finished, not a fish finger nor a scallop wasted) our bill came to just P900!  Such an abundance of good and fresh food for a very reasonable cost.  
It's just one reason why after all these years, Golden Cowrie continues to hold its own among the many restaurant choices in Cebu.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Duck and Yam Rice at Yu Kee and other pleasures of Liang Seah Street

I was in Singapore for a meeting two weeks ago and as meetings go, it had been a long day.
It was 9 pm and I had yet to have dinner.  I was meeting an ex-colleague  who was sitting patiently in the lobby of the Stamford Hotel about to have a lackluster sandwich.  Snatching it out of his hands, I marched him out of hotel food hell and out into the humid Singapore evening.

Down by North Beach Road, just a ten minute walk away is Liang Seah street.  Right across Bugis Junction mall, this short alley has become a favorite late night destination for locals who want good, fast, cheap meals.  The street is lined with restaurants on both left and right sides but since we are both famished, we settle on the first one we see.
Right at the corner is Yu Kee Duck Rice, my Singaporean friend says it's been around since the 60's and is a very popular place.

Since it's way past 9 pm, duck aficionados have come and gone and we have the restaurant pretty much to ourselves.  There are no menus save for a well lit board that lists the specialties -- basically, it's just duck, duck and more duck.  I mentally say a temporary good bye to sticking to my vegetarian diet for tonight.  

The tables at Yu Kee practically hog the sidewalk -- the formica tables are sticky from accumulated duck grease.  Plastic stools are perched precariously at the edge of the sidewalk.   I must be careful or I'll fall right into the street.

The duck kway teow and the mixed plate of duck, tofu and boiled peanuts are all awash in a dark sweetish gravy.  I was expecting a drier cantonese roast ala Hong Kong and was not prepared
for duck soup!  Perhaps I should have asked for the sauce on the side.

My friend  ordered yam rice for me and it was perfectly color matched with the rest of the food.  Steamed, sticky rice with bits of yam and minced duck mixed in, it was surprisingly good.   I could have stayed on course with my vegetarian diet if I had just eaten this.  Such a savory treat -- so yammy! I finished every last grain on the plate!

This was our mixed duck plate -- according to the menu board, this is meant for sharing but it wasn't really a lot of food.  I could barely tell which was the chopped duck and which were the tofu skins since they were all awash in the dark gravy.  Boiled eggs and peanuts and cucumber slices came along with the dish.

I thought the duck kway teow would be a version of char kway teow, oily but dry.  
This seemed more like maki when I saw it in the bowl.  Sliced duck breast and flat noodles along with bean sprouts were floating in the same dark soy sauce based gravy.  

Across Yu Kee is the Tong Seng Coffehouse directly underneath the Ah Chew ( bless you!) Hotel where I've enjoyed nasi lemak breakfasts on previous trips.  
There is a good sized crowd at 10 pm, still chowing down on such favorites as fishball soup, laksa, hainanese chicken rice, lor mee, prawn mee, sliced fish noodles.  
Shall we have some late night laksa after that duck, I ask my friend and he laughs because he thinks I'm joking. He obviously doesn't know me very well.

We need to walk off the duck and take the long way back to Stamford.  We go from one end of Liang Seah street to the other -- the coffee shops and small restaurants are still brightly lit and the food scene is very much hopping at 10 pm!

An interesting name for a chicken rice place -- Fat Bird!  I can imagine how plump and juicy the chicken must be!

Ah Chew again -- and bless you!  This is a famous place for chinese cold and hot desserts.  The line is always long and we don't feel like queuing up just to indulge in some pomelo mango sago -- their best seller and best tasting dessert.
We walk past temptation and out onto Beach Road.
See you next trip, Liang Seah!
I have found my perfect place for late night hunger attacks!