When In Manila, one could go “cray-cray” (crazy) with the enormous selection of Chinese Restaurants in their Chinatown district. Some people go everyday and yet the Fried rice and Noodles never get old. But When In Cebu, minus the hustle and bustle, there are only a handful of really good restaurants spread out over the city which make choosing a little less overwhelming for the newbie. So say one had an appetite for something beyond the “day to day” China buffet or Dimsum, that’s when he or she would go to this blog site and look up the title above.
Mark Co, a co-owner of Choi City Seafood Restaurant in Cebu meets me after this great TripAdvisor review I write about his restaurant and we get to know each other over dinner. He tells me as I notice the spark of an adventurer in this businessman’s eyes that he is probably the only one he knows who knows exotic food the way one should and was wondering if the self-proclaimed explorer, me, would like to try some one day. Here I am thinking “Okay I can handle frog legs and escargot” but then what he offered was something a little more, well… not frog legs, not escargot… rather Braised Lizard, Pigeon Brain and their specialty Python, instead.
Fast forward to much awaited tasting night, we first get served with what was earlier a 5-Kilo live Snake, now reduced to one deep fried dish in Salt and Pepper, garnished with stem onions and green chilies. It was, delicious. No, it did not taste like chicken, nor frog, heck we could not even tell it was the evil Jungle book character itself. As the first snake dish served that night, it was pretty reassuring that we would live through the night without letting our imagination eat us alive. This dish on the contrary, had it’s own special protein filled flavor. We were strictly instructed not to eat any of the dishes served that night with rice as rice or any other carbohydrate condiment would have washed out the taste of the exotic meal and one would be deprived of experiencing the distinct flavors.
Next up came Adobong Snake Skin. Now this, this was what we had earlier imagined we would be eating. Snake skin in all it’s glory. For the faint at heart, you just had to close your eyes and imagine you were eating something else with a similar gelatinous consistency. My remedy was to chant “eggplant eggplant eggplant” in my head. Surprisingly this striking dish, ended up becoming the group favorite. It was the juiciest, tastiest, and most entertaining dish served that night.
Following the Snake Skin, came, Snake in Abalone Sauce. If you have ever tried “Pata-Tim” or any heavy meat cooked in Abalone sauce, this would be a Snake Dish you could relate to. This dish was filling. Snake meat contrary to Pork and Beef is a lighter meat but is probably a weight class above Chicken and Fish.
After the Snake dishes, came the Braised Lizard. This was a sautéed dish with ginger and peppers and had a similar consistency to that of pressure cooked Ox tail. This tasted more familiar to the palate. I could not tell you why. This was my personal favorite. A bit slimy and the sauce was scrumptious.
Mark then treated us to Roasted Pigeon, which is a regular item on their menu. If you think Chicken or Duck is tasty, Pigeon ups the ante. It is much tinier than either and packed with taste. What does make the experience exotic is when you are done chewing through the bird, you crack open the skull, pick on the brain and stick it in your mouth. That is what Mark will dare you to do.
If you’ve never eaten reptiles before, the exotic tasting at Choi City will be a strange introduction to your stomach. However, it isn’t harder on it than if you were to go have local street food. Also unlike other exotic food found in the Philippines, you know what you are eating at Choi, is prepared clean and safe. This is thanks to Chef He from Hong Kong, one of the few if not the only legit exotic food chef in the region. When you are done with your tasting, make sure to walk up to him and commend him for the meal. Have Mark translate your thanks into Mandarin as Chef He does not speak Filipino or English.
To reserve an exotic tasting, call Choi City at least three days prior to your preferred date, and be prepared for a daring, delicious, and downright fun culinary highlight, When In Manila, when in Cebu.
Choi City Seafood Restaurant, at G/F South Arcade, Banilad Town Centre Gov. M. Cuenco Avenue, Banilad, Cebu City 6000, Philippines, 63-32 239 0999, Open Daily from 11:00AM -2:30PM and 5:30-9:30PM