More than 60 mostly local Cebuano dishes are featured on top of the regular buffet spread of Marco Polo Plaza Cebu’s Cafe Marco up to January 21, 2015.

Cafe Marco is holding Sugbusog 2015 to feature Pagkaong Inato, well-loved local recipes, in a five-star restaurant setting and amid the festive atmosphere of the Sinulog Festival 2015.

Kinilaw nga tanguige.
Kinilaw nga tanguige.

On a given day up to January 21, the pangpagana or appetizers and salads station can display gay salad (sweet potato leaves in vinaigrette dressing), kamatis og itlog maalat with pinakurat vinegar, kinilaw na sunlutan (sea cucumber salad), eggplant salad, kasahos na baka (dried beef tapa), kinusit-kusit na nokos (flaked dried squid), kinilaw na tanguige, fern salad, or pepino salad.

The boiled cardaba (kind of banana) and kamote (sweet potato) that came with spicy ginamos and green mango with hipon were just too good to resist. I ended up having seconds.

Grilled saang.
Grilled saang.

Sinulog fiesta fare

From January 9 to 21, as Cebuanos celebrate the month-long Sinulog Festival in honor of the Señor Sto. Niño de Cebu, the buffet dishes at Cafe Marco reflect your typical Cebuano fiesta fare.

There’s Cebu lechon – as no Cebuano feast is ever complete without one, inasal na baka (roasted calf), inasal na manok (roasted chicken), sinugbang isda, crispy pata at the carving station. Off the grill, there’s chicken, pork BBQ, pork belly, tuna panga, atay-batikon sa manok, chorizo, salmon head, saang (a kind of shellfish), assorted small fish.

Other offerings include beef steak bisaya, humba, adobong baboy pinauga (Cebuano adobo), kinamatisan na bulad (dried fish in heavy tomato salsa), balbacua (ox tail and knuckles in peanut sauce), adobong kangkong, bam-i, crab relleno, puso (hanging rice). You name it, and Cafe Marco probably has it in the buffet.

A very typical Cebuano dish is the adobong mais kan-on (corn grits), as Cebu is probably among a very few places in the Visayas that serve it.

Kan-on mais is a favorite among many Cebuanos.
Kan-on mais or corn grits is a favorite among many Cebuanos.

Bisaya bread, ice candy

During these days, local Cebuano breads also take center stage: bahug-bahug, coco bread, mongo bread, hopia, pig pie, everlasting. These are baked in-house with the great attention to taste that characterizes Cafe Marco recipes.

Marco Polo Plaza Cebu e-marketing manager Yumny Mariot, who invited us to lunch at Cafe Marco, said the buffet usually carries international bread but makes exception for Sugbusog 2015, the restaurant’s iconic culinary journey that seeks to highlight well-loved Cebuano recipes.

As she explained the Sugbusog concept, a restaurant staff in a typical Filipino kimona and long skirt came by carrying an ice bucket and offered us ice candy. It was too good an opportunity to pass up having a favorite childhood snack.

The humba is a favorite local pork dish.
The humba is a favorite local pork dish.

Native food treats

What really excited me were those native desserts that I love so much. There’s puto paired with sikwate (hot choco drink made from cacao beans) and mango, polvoron, linusak, biko, bingka with salted egg, masareal, and saging minatamis. I had to have a little of everything.

On some days, the panghimagas (Cebuano for desserts) display carries cassava cake, turon, yemas, budbod, leche flan, siakoy, binignit, pichi-pichi, palitaw.

Panghimagas or desserts. Masareal, polvoron, puto bumbong, puto, biko.
Panghimagas or desserts. Masareal, polvoron, puto bumbong, puto, biko.

At the trolley section, there’s balut #18 with salt and pinakurat, which I lacked the courage to try. The popular street food taho finds its place in a five-star restaurant.

All these and more for the net price of P1,099 for the lunch buffet and P1,395 for the dinner buffet in Sugbusog 2015 at Cafe Marco. It’s truly an iconic culinary journey.

(Disclosure: Marco Polo Plaza Cebu is a partner of our start-up InnoPub Media. They are a sponsor of our Cebu Guide and we were the ones who created their app.)

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Marlen is the editor of and co-founder of Cebu-based journalism startup InnoPub Media.

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