Whether you’re planning a family reunion or a barkada get-together, a good restaurant is an essential. For the flourishing Cebu food landscape, the more than one decade old Kuya J Restaurant stands out in offering a universal taste of the Filipino cuisine; thus, a nice spot to sample local flavors.
Kuya J started as a hole in a wall but was turned into a restaurant and now a chain scattered around the country. For gatherings, don’t ever forget to order their bestsellers that really capture the basic flavors of the cuisine you grew up with. On a Monday noon, our group met at their branch located at Tojong Street corner N Escario Street.
Compared to SM Cebu branch I’ve tried months ago, the interior of the Escario branch is less bright yet cozier. I was the first to arrive and I was accommodated immediately by a crew. After knowing our number, she led me to a table right away and handed a menu.
In terms of selection, Kuya J’s menu has a lot: a dozen of appetizers, sets of salad and vegetables, hefty bowls of soup, sizzlers, grills, noodles, their house specialties, desserts, and drinks. My friends gave the go signal to order, but with the options laid out on the menu, it was really hard to decide.
When the group arrived, we individually pointed every dish we wanted to try: Grilled Scallops (Php165), Crispy Pata Regular (Php380), Sinuglaw (Php180), Crispy Kangkong (Php65), Sizzling Sisig with Egg (Php185), Seafood Soup (Php215), Humbagoong Rice (Php195), and for desserts, Tablea Coffee Flan (Php65), Leche Flan (Php45), and Fried Halo-halo with Ice Cream (Php110).
The group tried to catch-up with some travel plans in the coming months but the people at the kitchen were working double time because our food were served after 15 minutes.
We started the enjoyable meal with the Crispy Kangkong and Sinuglaw as appetizers. For the Sinuglaw, you can still relish the juicy grilled pork belly served on top of the fresh Tanigue fish soaked in a creamy-sour sauce. At first, I perceived the Sizzling Sisig to be just a normal entrée but I liked the fact that instead of using pig ears, they used crispy and crumbly pork belly.
Humbinagoongan Rice is surprising with the right amount of saltiness of the fried rice. The pork humba meat, green mangoes, bell peppers, and onions on top added a unique aroma to the rice. I was ready to shed some sweat since the Seafood Soup is spicy as per the menu. I was a bit saddened when the soup didn’t meet my expectations. Savory broth though.
For their house specialties, Grilled Scallops is to die for. I consider their scallops as one of the best in Cebu with the cheesy garlicky butter topping. Last but not the least is another house specialty, Crispy Pata. The deep-fried leg has a super crispy and crunchy skin and a juicy meat that goes perfectly with the soy dip.
Dessert is the most intriguing part of the lunch as we imagined how they put a twist on the usual Filipino desserts. Leche Flan is fine with the typical sweet custard but the Tablea Coffee Flan is a different one. It’s more of a pudding though with the bitter-sweet flavor of the Batangas tablea. The dessert was drizzled with coffee caramel syrup and dried desiccated coconut.
If you’re wondering how they fried the halo-halo, the common ingredients of the cooler were bundled in a spring roll wrapper, and then deep-fried. The dessert was served with whipped and ice cream on the side.
Overall, Kuya J Restaurant doesn’t serve food to impress but for their diners to remember the food tradition that is familiar to them. Food is appetizing and hefty servings at reasonable price while restaurant crews are very attentive and accommodating. “Dahil sa Kuya J, salo-salo ang sarap!”
KUYA J RESTAURANT
Tojong Street cor. North Escario Road, Cebu City