Mizu | The Ramen Seven

Instant noodles, among a lineup of instant everything, form a great part of the Filipino diet. Nissin was my introduction to ramen and it took some time for several tsunamis to wash some real Japanese ramen chefs ashore. The origins of ramen are a point of great debate as it can be argued that it is the Japanese pronunciation of the Chinese lo’mien. This argument would support a simplification of the Book of Genesis where, in The Beginning, God created China then China took care of making everything else. The Nine-Dash Lined dish made its way South to the Philippines and even further down to the Queen City where it was highlighted of recent at Waterfront Cebu City Hotel & Casinos’ Japanese culinary diadem, Mizu. Mizu’s Flavors of Ramen series come in definite characteristics as in Kurosawa’s Seven.

Mizu's Flavors Of Ramen Series

Mizu’s Flavors Of Ramen Series

The classic, rich Pork Bone Broth,Tonkotsu, serves as the base for Pork Spareribs, Egg and Ramen Noodles in the Tonkotsu Ramen. The broth, milky from the hours-long boiling of pork bones is not a far cry from the Pinoy Pochero only that it boasts of pork’s sweet meat flavor versus the heavier beef and has Japanese elements of Chasyu and Narutomaki.


Hokkaido takes the stage in Mizu’s Miso Ma-Botofu where the salty, sweet, earthy, fruity, and savory flavors of the soy ferment bathe Ground Beef, Tofu, Egg, Sweetcorn, Beansprouts and Ramen Noodles in its Miso Soup. Chasyu and Naruto, again, tie into the theme.


The subtlety of Torigara, a chicken-bone soup stock, allows the creaminess of Coconut Milk to marry the briny flavor of Prawn to the relatively clean taste of Squid in the Seafood Milk Ramen.


The Japanese invasion of Korea gave birth to the Ramyeon, the name arguably the Korean pronunciation of Ramen; tying up that Oriental loop. Perhaps in reference to that time of war and eventual peace, Mizu’s Spicy Kimuchi Ramen engages the fiery spice of Korean Kimchi –or, in yet another ligual twist, Kimuchi — in a treatise with Chasyu, Egg and Ramen Noodles in Tonkotsu Soup.


Green jokes were traded at the table at the mention of Stamina Ramen. It, thankfully, favored protein-packed but tamer cuts of beef versus the expected aphrodisiacal with the Ramen Noodles, Tonkotsu Soup and the unifying Chasyu and Egg.


The all-too familiar breaded pork cutlet, Pork Katsu, sits on top of Chasyu, Egg, Ramen Noodles and Tonkotsu Soup with Curry Powder for a touch of earthy, spicy depth in what was the heaviest of the series.


Grilled Beef Patties with a good, smoky char; like the Katsu above; figure into a bowl with Chasyu, Egg, Ramen Nooodles and Torigara Soup in Mizu’s Hambago Ramen. Torigara was the perfect pair to allow the beef patty flavor through. Naturally appealing to the burger addict in me, I guess this makes the Hamburgero a Hambagolo.

Mizu, meaning water, represents fluid, flowing things adapting and changing. As the restaurant, Mizu, relaunches with resident Japanese Chef Ken Imamura’s renditions of ramen, it reaches into unique adaptations while keeping true to core traditions. Presenting, The Ramen Seven.


Mizu is located at Waterfront Cebu City Hotel & Casinos. For inquiries and reservations, please call 232-6888 local 8603.


Jolly Panda | Pandamonium

Ask for Chinese and locals would most likely pout-point to any of The Island’s old dragons, identifying with these as the standard and would most likely be turned off by other presentations of authenticity. Having had the luxury of an immersion , Chinese food is now a largely cerebral experience. I enjoy it even more because of what I know on top of the instant gratifications on my tongue.

Chef’s Kurt and Barbs of Carnivore excitedly referred us to one of their food finds. The native-Chinese noodle chef of the Radisson Blu Cebu apparently dropped his Mr. Nice Guy gig to set up shop on his own. I understand the Chinese’s love for their national animal but how that seems to be a brand requirement for some local Chinese food shops of recent is beyond me.

Jolly Panda was a portkey to every eatery I’ve been to in Beijing. Save for some quintessential quirky Chinese wall decals and hangings, it was a pretty straightforward kitchen and dining area setup. The menu was endearingly handmade with literally cut-and-paste photos which already had me salivating in excitement.


The classic Tomato and Egg with Rice is a very simple, classic, all-day stir-fry favorite which takes on the qualities of Ambrosia when one has had too many Tsingtao‘s.  Sweet vegetal sours from the tomatoes meld wonderfully with the taste of eggs, the resulting flavor of which both pops out of and marries the plain plane of the rice it is served with.


Their Sichuan Noodle dish brought me back to this roadside mom-and-pop’s with its delicious heat from the chilies and Sichuan peppercorns. A slow-boil gives the broth a savory heartiness to go with the freshness of the hand-made noodles.


With surprisingly low prices for a city location we may have gone over our heads with a third dish of a Mushroom Fish Casserole. We realized we did when the large hot pot arrived packed to the brim with Glass Noodles, Fish pieces, Fish Cakes and Black Chinese Mushrooms. Onions and other vegetable aromatics rounded out the flavors of the fish stock.

I squeezed out whatever is left of whatever little Mandarin I had to begin with to give the chef our compliments after the meal. Beijing-native Arvin Lee was quick to engage in conversation and gave us more to look forward to in our next visit which came barely a month after that. Chef Lee and his wife Amy welcomed us back like we were their longtime friends.


The second run had us started with Bacon and Bokchoy Stir-fry. Slightly thick bacon cuts add robust flavor to the greens with its crisp, delicate leafy flavor brought out by salt and garlic. Green chilies give it a barely there hint of heat with onions bringing a touch of pungent sweetness.


Fresh, hand-pulled noodles were the perfect substrate for the generous ladling of sesame paste in the deceptively simple but very flavorful Cold Sesame Noodles. Sesame paste has a smoky, buttery, slightly savory flavor quite close to natural peanut butter which was well appreciated in the starkness of the starch.


Jolly Panda’s Pork Dumplings were packed tight with minced pork and vegetables almost bursting in its dough wrap. As with the amount of filling so was it packed with the natural sweetness of pork that I often mention. Seasoned ever so lightly, it allowed the enjoyment of the meat’s flavor while a roasted chili dipping sauce balanced everything out with smoky spice.


A meat trifecta of Beef, Pork and Chicken Gizzard is joined by an international favorite, Spam, in their 4-in-1 Casserole. Well rendered cuts of beef and pork get a bit of offal taste and texture from the gizzard and is brought back to the familiar with the Spam slices that had the saltiness tempered by the boiling. Packed as the Mushroom Fish one, it was good enough a meal for two


While the food comes heavily flavored with my own memories, the unfamiliar would discover joys in these, as well. Perhaps the sweetest finish would be in the bill coming up only to half of what one would pay for the same number of items elsewhere. That and everything else maybe explains the Jolly Panda name. Surely, this one is — me.


Jolly Panda is located at APM Mall, Reclamation Area, Cebu City.

I, Carnivore

Nature calls one to kill or be killed. The curious caveman discovered the joys of animal protein in what would have eaten him and that put the hunter before the gatherer in the social order. Surviving into the new millennia has done nothing but intensify his taste for meat, what with the variety of cooking methods, sauces and treatments — never mind that we all now roll the word quinoa off our tongues and can keep a straight face. It could not have been more easy for the white-collar, buttoned-down carnivore of today. This island is rife with permutations of meat preparations on every corner but none have recently been more exciting, if not spot on along with its name, as Carnivore.

A grey exterior bearing their white signage opens up into a stark, no-frills space. The same logotype, Carnivore, is echoed above a woodcut-syle illo of a wild boar on the glass door. A bar borders the open kitchen and grill space. Meat cut charts of animals adorn the mezz wall. The most menu-knowledgeable local restaurant staff I’ve met to date made ordering a breeze if not for the want to try everything on the menu. There was not much wait time between ordering and the service. Our dishes were set in front of us with much caution for heated plates — a wonderful touch to help keep the food warm without going to the sizzling plate or stoneware extreme.


The Carnivore Burger had strong but welcome bite from the mustard that went well with the zippy Lilo-an Romaine lettuce. Fresh, red tomatoes and white onions added some acid and pungency to the mouthful before giving way to the lightly house-smoked Cheddar cheese and the well done Bukidnon Kitayama Wagyu and US Angus beef patty. Noticeably fresh lettuce, cucumbers and alfalfa sprouts were showered with a light vinaigrette in the House Salad as a rather generous side.


Lean Turkey Ham meets creamy-crumbly Goat Cheese in an artisan flour tortilla in the Greek Salad Turkey Wrap. All-natural Romaine Lettuce, Salad Tomatoes and Olives come in with vegetal nuances of bitter, tart and earthy marrying the mellow pungency of the Garlic Aoili.


Their best-selling Pork Porterhouse has already undergone a reinvigoration from the first incarnation with fiery Gochujang rub to a sexier 9-hour Bourbon Demi. The porcine sweetness of the succulent Asturias Pork slab is echoed by Spiced Granny Smith Apples and Apple Puree. An Edible Mum Salad accompanies for unconventional greens.

chop and marrow

An Asturias Pork Tomahawk is paired with local Kitayama Wagyu Beef Bone in the cheeky Chop and Marrow. The pork is seared to a juicy medium well then finished with a special house rub allowing great appreciation of the natural meat flavor. The bone is cut crosswise for easy spoon access to the marrow and done only with a roasting and a coarse-grain finishing salt that brings out its buttery richness.

sous vide beef cheek

Molecular Gastronomy comes into play in their Sous Vide Wagyu Beef Cheeks where Local Wagyu Beef is cooked 36 hours en sous vide then quickly finished on the grill. A Demi Glaze compliments the red meat flavor balanced by the earthiness of Organic Oyster Mushrooms and the pungency of Garlic Confit and Garlic Foam.

Man has long set down his flint weaponry for the commercial cleaver. While we no longer hold rank or revel in the kill and the me-man-me-eat-meat trope would invite much debate, no man would deny finding pleasure in a hearty steak. Meet meat. Meet Carnivore.

Carnivore is located at Unit 6, The Gallery, Mabolo, Cebu City. Open Tuesday-Thursday 11AM-9PM, Fridays and Saturdays 11AM-10PM, Sundays 11AM-9PM. Closed on Mondays.

*as published in Zee Lifestyle July 2015 Issue

Ampersand | And More

And. Conjunction. Per se. Intrinsically. And. Per se. Ampersand.

And so it began with a series of dinners called by one of and attended by a congregation of this Island’s Sex and the City spinoff characters. Way beyond ingénue but far from over the hill, mostly single, possibly attached and godmother to innumerable, hence, Tita. And this Tito is all too happy to tag along the Ultimatita on account of the food and drink involved. And The Glamarazzi assembled the group on short notice at this new haunt, Ampersand.

And the former Formo opened up to a beautiful deli-resto-bar chimera with a modern take on an old-world look. The long bar on one side promised a long night and next to that, a truly open kitchen — the first of its kind on The Island, promised epic epicurean delights with a deli display bordering the far end.


And our gracious host, owner Chandra Mercado, immediately lubricated the guests with cocktails. I was handed a lowball of their Cebu Sour with Bourbon, homemade cardamom syrup, egg white and a local twist to mix by way of mango juice and a dehydrated green mango garnish. Ball ice kept it cool throughout without watering the drink down. Bacardi 8, Calamansi Shrub and Calamansi Liqueur came together in their pleasantly aggressive K9. Hendricks Gin, Basil, Mint and Strawberries combined to come out like an English Mojito with the rather sweet & fruity flavor appealing to the largely female group.


And with the drinks came Salmon Tartare in cocktail spoons. The chopped, raw salmon gets a bit of a “cook” from the Dill-Shallot Vinaigrette, itself very mellow and only slightly herby still allowing the rich fish flavor, with Sous Vide Egg White as a counterbalance.




And soups quickly followed, first, with the smoky puree of local squash in the Roasted Kalabasa Soup. The earthy pungency of the Truffle-Scented Mushroom Cappuccino extended to the substance of the soup with its almost meaty taste.


And when came the mains they did and in a number and succession of one even more awesome than the previous. Southeast Asian, Indian and Mid-Eastern elements and flavors made the otherwise safe choice of poultry rather exotic in their Lemongrass-Turmeric & Ginger Chicken. A base of vegetable julienne and a topping of crunchy fritto misto added texture while some Baba Ghanoush helped temper the spice.


And a parade of Chardonnay-glazed Salmon, Prawns, Squid & Tuna came crowning their creamy Seafood Risotto. Quite spectacular, the rice and toppings’ flavor did not fall short of the presentation with a bit of the sea in every bite.


And a swath of beet sauce on a plate echoed the equally daunting color of the lamb done medium in the Thyme & Cumin Roasted Rack of Lamb. But any more heat would have killed the sweetness of that tender flesh. The minutely grainy couscous offset the richness of the meat though the green tea infusion was a little lost among the intensities. Vegetals cut through from the Ratatouille.


And 32-day dry aged, corn-fed, US Prime Angus Rib Eye steaks came with assortments of sidings: Creamed Spinach, Garden Salad, Steamed Jasmine Rice, Mashed Potato, Pomme Frites. The steak was, again, and as it should be, done medium keeping it gloriously juicy on top of its marvelous marbling.


And finally an assault of desserts to finish. A Citron-Green Tea Cheesecake eased us from the savories of the mains with the weight and creamy tartness of the lemon-glazed, yogurt cheesecake infused with a refreshingly faint hint of Green Tea

And a light and airy Pavlova held up under the weight of a pile of fresh Strawberries and Mango slices — the sweetness of icing and the sweet-sourness of the fruit bound by a syrup drizzle.


And a Chocolate Ganache Cake came delightfully heavy as sin in the mouth. A piping hot cup of brewed coffee was called for then and in preparation for the death strike.


And a Double Chocolate Fudge Brownie had us all keeling from the table. Crusty fudge coated an uber moist brownie bar.


And drinks poured. And the night went on.

And. Conjunction. Per se. Intrinsically. And. Per se. Ampersand.



Ampersand / & is located at Banilad Town Center.