Sunday, March 29, 2015

A Restaurant called No. 9 - Close Encounter with the Eclectic and Delectable

"Where to, sir," asked the taxi driver. "Number 9," I replied, "along E. Benedicto Street". He paused for a second and asked again. That's the name of the restaurant that's barely 6 months old. In fact it opened September 2014. In that short span, it has managed to make it as Trip Advisor's no. 3 best reviewed restaurant in Cebu City, just behind 2 hotel buffet diners. This one's a la carte dining.

Situated in a quiet neighborhood in the heart of the city, just beside the building occupied by the Belgian and Romanian consulate, No. 9 is a 50 year old ancestral home of the Martinez family turned into a restaurant. The patriarch's son is a chef, the joint's think tank, who's conjured relatively few, albeit well chosen dishes.

Few? Let me elaborate. Main course has been divided into "Small Plates" and "Big Plates", where the latter category would suit two persons. I froze when I learned that their popular "Fideo Negro" falls under "Big Plate". But there's just me dining. Hmmm. "It's a big serving," assured the waiter who patiently went through the dishes while I was finishing my order, and he continued in a hush, "But, personally, I could finish a plate of Fideo." Big enough to finish huh? I like that. Fideo Negro it is.

Fideo Negro is, this early, stuff of legends and has to be tasted. It's a gastronomic serving of broken noodles with squid, chorizo, aioli and soaked with squid ink enough to taint your morning-after (pardon the term) bowel movement with tar. You'd think that something like the fideo would eventually overpower your gustatory senses, right? The delectable concoction makes you want to empty your plate. No wonder my waiter couldn't recommend it more than necessary. He did emphasize on the restaurant's exquisitely tender pork strips marinated for a day, the "pork belly" with wild arugula and salsa verde. However, I only have a single stomach. So I resisted.

But I wasn't done. I was there to try what most of their customers talk about. On their "Small Plate" menu is "Morcilla y Calabaza", which is blood sausage and pickled apple. A household dish in Ecuador, Panama and Colombia, the restaurant's morcilla is complimented perfectly by the admixed garnishing of pickled apple and pumpkin. The first taste is tangy; there's a tender sweetness with a bit of a bite creeping all over my tongue. I thought I'd gone to heaven. If you think I've taken to hyperbole again, go try. Who'd have thought of pumpkin tasting this good?

I had to order dessert - "Pina y Coco", which is rum cake, caramelized pineapple (which you hardly notice), whipped coconut, and cashew nuts. This is a must for those who love their sweets. I ordered the No. 9 iced tea, though if you wanted wine, they have Riesling (PhP165 per glass), the Argentine Los Cardos Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, the Spanish Cava, Cabernet, Monastrell, Merlot, or maybe a Pinot Noir from Greg Norman Estates. Others talk about the ox tongue and the arroz con pollo. But they're just some of the reasons to return to No. 9. If the address and name of the restaurant are very telling, there are, in fact just 9 dishes in the small and big plate menu. How's that for a thematic concept? Does that mean I need to complete 9 pilgrimages to No. 9?

My solitary gastronomic adventure wasn't inexpensive; it cost me PhP1,150 (about $30, inclusive of tax) but it was worth every morsel of food. The restaurant could be enjoyed at the garden or inside where there are two halls. There are big red photo of the patriarch's children at the loft, and a long, if seemingly misplaced table at the back. Though there are taxis plying the road outside No. 9 (usually on their way to SM or the airport), I wasn't able to get one, I had to walk to the next block where the Travelbee building (below) stands.

I was supposed to go to Maya (another popular Spanish Restaurant famed for their tacos, among others) but ended up here. Boy, was I glad. The next time you're in Cebu City, hop into No. 9 for your eclectic, delectable Spanish cuisine.

This is the Eye in the Sky!    

Fideo Negro

Fideo Negro after the big mix.

Morcilla y Calabaza tasted like dessert.

Pina y Coco

No. 9 Iced Tea

I came in 15 minutes before the night crowd started coming in.

For more information, please visit their website: and contact them @ (63-32) 253-9518.

Travelbee building at the next block.

No comments: