Saturday, May 23, 2015

Third at the Kuizine

You've probably only known Jo's Chicken Inato and Jollibee across The STRIP in Osmena Blvd but what you are unfamiliar of are the nearby small dining hole-in-the-walls. One of which is Kuizine. There is nothing aesthetically fancy about the restaurant except their brand that is sophisticated and painted or glued like a wallpaper. I have to be honest that I, like most, have glanced, once or twice, then just walked past it many times before, except one time when I and Laagholic ran out of new finds around Capitol site.

We entered the restaurant with a little hesitation fearing that we might be disappointed because there were no other customers besides us. We sat at the corner thinking and browsing through the pages of the menu slid in plastic page holders. I am always uncomfortable at the slightest sense of pressure which is why i dislike waiting attendants standing at the back. I think it is really self-induced. I understand that it is part of their job but my melancholy always gets the best of me. I overthink and sometimes, even assume their thoughts. In order to free them from getting irritated by slow customers like us and also save myself from "overthinking", I engaged them into a chat, went straight for that one question that narrows choices down to just 1 or 2 ---- "What are your bestsellers here?" It works 90% each time I visit a restaurant for the first time. The very patient waitress said: Tinabal and Baby Back Ribs.

Baby Back Ribs is the younger generations' pop choice. And because I am young (not lying), i took that while my friend ordered tinabal. A few minutes passed and the orders came one after the other.

Tinabal is famous in Philippines' Visayas region, particularly in Leyte. This is no easy cooking because preparing it involves a delicate process and not to mention hours of waiting. Parrot fish is scaled, eviscerated, split (maybe deboned too) and soaked in brine solution for 2 hours. Afterwhich, it is removed from the solution, re-salted, and then put in a plastic pail for 24 hours. Remove the fish and dry by patting salt onto it again. Ferment by storing it in room temperature for 1 or 2 weeks.

I wonder how they do it in restaurants when orders keep coming in. Perhaps they ferment several kilos of fish ahead of time to make sure they wouldn't run out of stocks.

I couldn't, for certain, say that Kuizine's version resembles the authentic ones but even if it didn't I would still say with much delight that theirs did not run short of "wows" and "oohs" from us. I particularly like how the fermented fish was cooked such that the outer layer is crisp while the inside was still juicy and tender. The presentation of the dish looked well thought off. The color was festive and vibrant. It was salty but I guess it wouldn't be tinabal if it wasn't marinated in salt. Sauteed tomatoes, ginger, onion, and garlic gave it superb flavor. It was very evocative of my dad's cooking except that his version used sun-dried salted fish.

Baby back ribs, on the other hand, has invaded Cebu quite vastly. It is spelled in bold and sometimes italics in almost every restaurant. It has gone too mainstream such that they almost just taste alike. Kuizine's version certainly has joined the awesome band wagon and sits well in it.

For me, however, tinabal definiteIy makes Kuizine distinctive. And I will remember their chef and crew for serving that indisputable delicious treat.

First visit: with Laagholic
Second visit: with my Baby
Third visit: with tinabal (solo)
I've come face to face with that parrot fish (tinabal) thrice this year: first with Laagholic, second with my baby, and the latest, by myself. Each time, meaningful: laughter, love, reflection. The last being introspective and spiritually boosting. Other than Jeremiah 29:11 and Psalm 37:4 (scriptural verses on flower pots), I caught sight of a wall piece that read:

I left thinking when my 4th will be. Just crazy!!

Kuizine's owners are from Leyte and they also sell their homemade "Bahalina" - the type that could take down "sukang Pinakurat" (which now sadly tastes very commercial).

Wallet Watch: P165 to P250

The Art of Comfort Food
Centero Arcade, The Boulevard Complex,
Osmena Blvd, Capitol, Cebu City
Tel. No. 2544640


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