Lutong Daza goes to Cebu City (Part 2)

RAZZLE-DAZA - Pat-P Daza - The Philippine Star
Lutong Daza goes to Cebu City (Part 2)
This writer’s ultimate chicken chicharon from Sunburst Fried Chicken.

(This piece about my recent Cebu food trip is the second of the two parts. Part 1 was published last Monday, Oct. 9.)  

On our last day in Cebu, the cast and crew of Lutong Daza travelled to Talisay --- about an hour away from Cebu City --- to try its famous Lechon Cebu. As has been said, Lechon Cebu is to Talisay as La Loma Lechon is to Quezon City. 

At Carmen’s Lechon along P. Burgos Street, we met Aling Carmen herself and granddaughter Princess, who helps run the small eatery. Carmen’s is open only on Sundays from 5 a.m. till 12 noon, or until all their lechons are sold out.

With its crispy balat, the Cebu lechon is flavorful, mouthwatering and addicting!

Every Sunday, Carmen’s sells an average of five lechons at P9,000, each one good for 15 to 20 people. Customers can also opt to buy a kilo of lechon for P800. Aling Carmen’s lechon is exceptionally flavorful because she uses only native pigs with lean fat.

She also puts lots of lemon grass in the belly to enhance the flavor and aroma. My cousin/co-host Sandy Daza and I actually had to wait some 20 minutes for our lechon to arrive. When it did, we requested a kilo of ribs and lots of balat, then immediately devoured it. The best way to eat lechon is with your hands, and that’s what Sandy and I did. The first bite was crunchy, flavorful, heavenly and addicting! I couldn’t stop…I dipped my lechon into vinegar with sili to ease my guilt for all the lechon I ate. Sandy, on the other hand, saw no need for dipping sauce, and enjoyed it as it was. 

Jill Urbina Viado of Cafe Laguna, Ullis, Parilya and Lemon Grass restaurants.

After eating, we hoped to walk off all the calories we ingested. So off we went to SM Seaside Cebu, across the Nustar hotel and casino. But on our way there, we saw the newly-opened Cebu-Cordova Link Expressway (CCLEX) and decided to drive through the beautiful and imposing bridge instead. At nine kilometers long, the CCLEX is now the longest bridge in the Philippines, overtaking the San Juanico bridge. And for P99 one-way, it sure is worth the ride!

Lola Carmen and granddaughter Princess sell at least five lechons every Sunday.

When we arrived at the mall, Sandy dropped by Cebu Goes Culinary 2023, a competition for culinary practitioners from hotels, restaurants, resorts and schools. As he said his hellos to some of his chef friends, I window-shopped to my heart’s content, which was no mean feat since the mall is humongous and the largest in Cebu!

After an hour, Sandy and I met up and then drove to Ullis, a restaurant that specializes in Asian cuisine. Located at Il Corso Lifemall on Cebu South coastal road, Ullis is part of the group of restaurants owned by the Urbina family. Their matriarch, Julita Urbina, opened the first Café Laguna 30 years ago, and it now has multiple branches in the Visayas and Mindanao regions. Aside from Café Laguna and Ullis, they also own Parilya and Lemon Grass restaurants. They are also the biggest catering company in Cebu.

Sandy and I were welcomed by Jill Urbina Viado, daughter of Julita. She made us try the laksa noodle soup, rou bing (Taiwanese meat roll), bahn mi, bibimbap and chilled taho. I particularly loved their version of run bing, which varies from the very similar Chinese lumpia thanks to the presence of pork char siu with peanuts, tofu, cabbage and shrimp. I also enjoyed the laksa and found it comparable to the laksas I’ve tasted in Singapore. But the sweetest surprise was the chilled taho, which Jill proudly revealed was homemade. It wasn’t too sweet, and the sago balls were chewy, just the way I like them. The taho was the perfect ending to a wonderful lunch.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t stay longer because I had to fly back to Manila early that evening while Sandy and the crew were set to leave soon after me. But before I went to the airport, I made a quick stop at Sunburst Fried Chicken restaurant to get my daughter her bilin: chicken skin chicharon! Whenever I’m in Cebu, I always make sure to get this particular cholesterol dose of chicken ass and chicken skin! No “ass” and “butts,” this is simply the best chicken chicharon for me, seasoned just right and ultra-crispy. It makes the perfect appetizer or pulutan! 

Overall, my trip to Cebu was a gastronomic delight, even though the 48 hours spent there and the seven staple meals were hardly enough to sample all the dishes that were recommended to us. I guess Lutong Daza will just have to make another mouth-watering food trip to the Queen City of the South real soon.

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