No. 9 Restaurant Cebu

Love Potion | No. 9

Feeling quite European from sitting through a string of movies at Cine Europa 2014, we were surely not wanting anything mall-outlet for dinner. Off we went for some Mediterranean and Latin at the succinctly named, No.9.

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The renovated ancestral home glowed white along the generally dimly-lit E. Benedicto Street. A warmer glow came from the large glass doors from where you could see a considerable attendance for a new place still in soft operations. Old friends and some acquaintances milling about the foyer and seated inside bolstered the warmth. We felt right at home.

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“Ohai!” “Hellllo!” “Howareyou?” “First time?” “Oh, we love it here!” “Try the squid ink pasta. It’s really good!” “You’ll love the pork.” “And that eggplant salad.” “Do try their cocktails.” Greeted with effusive personal reviews and recommendations, taking our pick from the menu proved easy and the items were guaranteed quite failsafe. Excellent and informed service only made the experience more pleasant. I just love it when the wait staff really know the food they serve.

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Grilled eggplant swam with piquillo peppers in roasted tomato sauce and topped with a 64-degree egg in our opener, the Escalivada. The traditional, ember-roasted Catalan dish gets the molecular treatment with the 45-minute, controlled egg prep. The runny yolk bathed the vegetables when I defiled the custardy doneness of its white with my fork, balancing the veggie tastes, the acid from the tomato and the pungency of the onions and garlic. I could imagine this with buttered, grilled mopping bread pieces as a complete meal and I’m sure rice-eaters would appreciate it as a rice-topping.

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Simply labeled Pork Belly, Bahllahmmbahnn (kooky radio ad reference) liempo coming to mind, this dish is anything but just that. The twelve-hour sous-vide, beating another upscale joint’s eight-hour beer-stewed in prep, is given a quick char on a charcoal grill before a dousing of salsa verde and a cover of wild arugula. The almost melt-in-your-mouth, buttery-soft meat was left unadulterated with only the lightest of infused seasonings leaving it still unmistakably porcine. The salsa verde and the arugula gave the whole dish a zippy punch.

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Quite literally black noodles, Fideo Negro has broken noodles tinted and made pleasantly savory, think umami, with the squid ink. Strips of squid take it further into seafood territory while chunks of Spanish chorizo anchor it shore. A garlic aioli rounds out the rest of the flavors with its slight pungency. With moans of agreement, much pleasurable eye-rolling happened before we looked up from our plates sporting rather Goth lip color. It was understandably their bestseller.

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I’ve had way too many drinks of questionable alcohol content over the past two weeks to think the next one couldn’t be more potent than my daily teaspoon of apple cider vinegar. Just light rum and calamansi, their signature drink, No.9, had quite a great kick, both from the booze and the strong, citrusy sours. I took the “light” label quite, er, lightly until I was reminded that I get a pretty bad Asian Flush. So I stopped. At two.

Finally able to peel ourselves off our spots, it was hard to resist having yet another one from their bar for the road. The view of the manicured garden through the floor-to-ceiling window also had its pull. Old world charm and tradition meets modern methods and innovation. The perfect combinations in this love potion No.9.

No.9 is located at No.9 E. Benedicto Street, Cebu City. Bar opens at 5PM, restaurant at 6PM.

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