In my seven years in Advertising, five years were spent travelling back and forth to Cebu for all sorts of different reasons – trainings, events, holidays. There have also been so many misadventures in those travels, but on the whole I would say they were never really geared towards discovering what Cebu had to offer besides Otap, dried mangoes, and quaint 3-star hotels.
So today, in an effort to “rediscover” Cebu, I set out on foot in search for the best bbq in town (so they say) – Larsian.
Larsian was a restaurant in the 70s, and the name was retained long after it closed shop. This place is lined with MANY bbq stands. And when I say many, I really do mean many! Chorizo, pork belly, chicken, liver, isaw – name it, Larsian’s got it all for you. The place is open 24/7, and while it was practically empty at 3pm today, on regular (read: peak) hours, I assume it would feel like an SM Department Store, only with a lot of smoke.
Still hesitant to explore the grilling compound (no, it’s not called that; I just thought it was an apt description), I ordered my meat from the first restaurant I saw — May’s BBQ.
I’d normally gasp in awe at the sight of skewered meat, but part of me was thinking “I could end up in the hospital for this”. But since “I’ve been to paradise, but I’ve never been to” Larsian, I was (in essence) game for just about anything — as long as I didn’t have to watch how my food was prepared. Like this –
I’m also a carbo girl — I love rice! And of course I had to have rice with my grilled meat. And yes, Coke too! Because Larsian is Cebu’s version of hawker dining places you find across the globe, white rice from a rice cooker was something completely out of the ordinary. They serve you what’s called puso’ — I still fail to distinguish whether it’s “normal” rice or sticky rice, but it’s intricately wrapped in dried banana leaves, and shaped like a cone. (Read: In the Philippines, puso <depending on which syllable the emphasis is> literally translates to “heart”)
I sat all by myself in a long table lined with neon pink linoleum. For a good while, I just sat there and watched people go about their grilling duties across the many bbq stands around the place. On the next table sat one of the (mujerista) workers on break. I watched as he carefully peeled his puso’ and invitingly took it in his mouth with a slice of pork belly, with its red marinade dripping down his chin. I thought — “well, this shouldn’t be so bad”.
So as Larsian is a hawker dining place, expect not to have spoons and forks on the table. You eat with your bare hands. You’re given a small plastic bag, and it’s not for your take out! You put your hand inside the bag, take the food in your hand and into your mouth. As unhygienic as it sounds not to wash your hands before or after eating, it’s your best (and maybe only) option at Larsian. Condiments are also nestled (hehe) right in front of you — pinakurat, toyo, suka, sili — everything that goes well with bbq. As for me, I preferred not to “waste” the marinade and ate my bbq as it is.
While enjoying my meal, I constantly thought to myself — “is Larsian supposed to be a tourist spot? Or is this as normal as it gets in Cebu?” In Manila, hawker dining spots that operated 24/7 are normally lugawan (porridge), pizza parlors, and of late, hole in the wall Persian restaurants. It would be nice to have a (cleaner) version of Larsian in Manila.
I wouldn’t say that the bbq was all that special — in fact, I’ve had better bbq from roadside grills across tutoring centers in Manila. But for 4 sticks of grilled pork belly, 1 puso’, 2 Cokes, and for a grand total of Php85 (that’s less than $2!) for a complete meal, I’d say “not bad”.
I’d also say that while I went to Larsian to try something different, no reason is bigger than that I don’t remember how to get to Kan-anan ni Kuya J, which is supposed to be somewhere near the capitol. But would I go back to Larsian? Probably. On the condition that they start serving normal white rice like I know it.