Zubuchon Restaurant: Where to find the Lechon that Anthony Bourdain raved about
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How time flies. I first tasted Zubuchon more than a year ago while on a stopover in Cebu. My online friends told me that I just had to taste it. It isn’t the Cebu Lechon I am used to, perhaps because rosemary and other herbs were added. Not that Zubuchon didn’t taste good either. It has its own distinct taste. My daughters who are used to Manila lechon loved it though and didn’t add lechon sauce on the Zubuchon.
It is not surprising that Market Man planned a restaurant not only for Zubuchon’s loyal customers but for the Cebuanos as well. In his Zubuchon restaurant update on May this year, he announced that he was opening two “simple lechon restaurants where customers can enjoy our lechons sitting down at a table, rather than having to take them home to eat. Our simple objective is this, when people (tourists or locals alike) have a hankering for lechon and related dishes and they say, “where should we go to eat good lechon?” (without having to buy a whole roasted pig), we hope they will choose to come to us. For a city so famous for lechon, there aren’t that many comfortable restaurants where you can enjoy lechon as the main event, supported by a supporting or complementary cast of dishes. ”
It is true, there is no restaurant similar to Lydia’s Lechon in Manila serving lechon and other dishes. My late brother who used to own a lechon business near Redemptorist church usually just offered take out lechon.
Zubuchon restaurant at One Mango is simple and clean indeed. Market Man says his Escario branch has “a very clean, modern look, a lot of grey, stainless steel, glass, white and red accents.” What impressed me most about this restaurant is that it was born out of Marketman’s enthusiasm with cooking and experimenting dishes which he generously shared to his readers. Now, we get to taste it right here in this restaurant. I find that so amazing. Though I did not ask the reasons for opening a restaurant, I believe there was a great demand for the Zubuchon lechon. I also find it amazing that (indirectly) the Zubuchon restaurant came about because of his blog especially how Anthony Bourdain contacted him during his food tour to the Philippines.
( I don’t agree with Market Man in some of his criticisms against bloggers on blog monetization because I believe each blogger is unique in their approach to what they do with their blog. )
The visit to Zubuchon restaurant was arranged upon the invitation of general manager Joan Danao (who used to work at Radisson Blu Hotel). Together with travel bloggers Melo Villareal, Nina Fuentes and Stratworks PR Chele Mendozo, we were eager to eat the famed Zubuchon lechon. But first we took photos of the restaurant.
I noticed a group eager to dine but our table was reserved for us. They managed to squeeze them in though. For a thursday night, the restaurant was full of customers.
There are some dry goods at the shelves. Chicharon at 90 pesos for 100 grams and 170 pesos for 200 grams. Upon close inspection, I notice there is some meat attached to the pork rind that is similar to the popular Carcar chicharon. Their chicharon does not contain MSG.
There is also Mango jam (180 pesos), Kalamansi Marmalade (180 pesos) and Chile in Olive oil (80 pesos).
I didn’t know what to order. Besides I don’t eat pork, or beef but I was willing to taste a bit of each dish on the menu. Looking at the menu, the prices are mid-ranged. Filipino food favorites are in the menu and on the counter to choose from: chicharon bulaklak, chicharon, shrimp sinigang, kalabasa soup, utan Bisaya, lard-fried chicken, slow-cooked adobo, fried chili shrimp, sizzling bangus Tampalen. As for veggies and salads, there’s a tomato, salted duck egg and bangus tinapa dish, seaweed platter vinaigrette, Zubu pickle platter, eggplant salad, nangka salad, adobong kangkong with chicharon, and lumpia ubod. Joan ordered the dishes for us instead.
I noticed the Zubuliempo (380 pesos), pork belly cooked Zubuchon style.
Before the main dish arrived, the pickle platter is served first. I tried out the pickled green mango which is a favorite of mine.
The chicharon with vinegar was good too. Just one bite.
Other than Zubuchon lechon, the Iba (or kamias) shake is so good. I think it is an excellent way to neutralize that fatty sensation on the stomach.
Another drink that Melo, Nina and I raved about is the Santol drink.
The lechon arrived, neatly cut and served with the crisp lechon skin. The lechon meat is not fatty at all. It is tender and tasty though not the Cebu lechon taste that I am familiar with. Joan told me that Market Man sources his pigs from local growers that raise pigs in their backyard. It is one reason that the pigs do not have excess fat. They buy their pigs and let them eat organic food before they are slaughtered.
I like the idea that Zubuchon restaurant sources their pigs from the locals. I wish more businesses buy directly from the source and cut the middleman.
Mongo guisado with lechon at 180 pesos is a favorite soup of mine. I usually don’t add lechon though but it was still good.
I took a taste of their dinuguan (190 pesos) which contains pure Zubuchon meat without any innards. It would have tasted better with puto but an alternative was white plain rice to share with my friends.
This five pork fried rice contains drippings from the roasted lechon. I forgot the other ingredients but I am guessing it contains lechon meat. I had hope there was the Lechon Sisig rice in the menu.
This slow cooked adobo is premium pork belly cooked in a clay pot over charcoal for 3 hours. This could be similar to his best pork adobo a la marketman. I like this adobo version since it does not contain soy sauce. This is the adobo version that mom used to cook during my childhood days.
I forgot to take a photo of the Squid stuffed with Lechon sisig . The sisig is unlike most pork sisig, since these came from their already roasted pigs. Market Man describe the recipe as ” lechon sisig with aromatics and seasoning stuffed into a medium to large-sized squid that is grilled over charcoal or a cast iron plate. There is the slight chewiness of the squid combined with the rich but tasty filling.”
And for dessert, we get to try Joan’s leche flan and the best tasting biko from a vendor in Mandaue. You should try these two desserts. Joan said that some customers just order biko and coke for merienda.
I can imagine what it must be like this coming Christmas season. There is also an Escario branch where the ” centrally positioned glass showcase features our lechons, and you can watch as the lechon is chopped up… Freshly cooked lechons are typically delivered at 11am and again at 5:30pm”. They try to have fresh lechon up until about 8:00 PM.
The Escario store also has a full line of their frozen and refrigerated Zubuchon products. One can load up on “pasalubong” goodies that are packaged in boxes just prior to your trip back to Manila, your home province or elsewhere in the world.
I wish Market Man the best for his business. I love seeing SME’s like these succeed into larger ventures as these are a boost to our local economy and the backyard growers of raw materials.
I am sure his business will expand and I anticipate a demand for franchise in the future.
ZUBUCHON Mango Avenue branch
One Mango Mall
Mango Avenue, Cebu City
Zubuchon Escario Branch
731 Escario Street
corner Clavano Street