When you have the pork dish that a world-renowned chef and TV personality proclaimed as the best one ever, you’d certainly be feeling the pressure to continue living up to that honorific.
Judging by its continued success years after Anthony Bourdain sat down and had a plate of lechon, Zubuchon has risen up to that challenge quite admirably. The restaurant serves an average of 2,000 people a day, ranks a cool 5th out of 547 restaurants in Cebu, and has garnered over 700 reviews—more than any other restaurants in the city.
So what’s the secret? Joel Binamira, author of respected food blog Market Manila and the man behind Zubuchon, breaks down their formula to success: “We have remained true to the original recipe of the lechon which Bourdain tasted.”
Lechon being, of course, the deliciously sinful roasted suckling pig that might as well be the Philippines’ national dish. Cebu’s version is a standard of its own, bursting with so much flavor that additional seasonings—with the exception of vinegar, maybe—are completely unnecessary (what Mang Tomas?).
“Lechon is an ultimate Cebuano indulgence,” adds Joel. “It takes a long and careful process to be able to produce that succulent taste that you get from a whole roasted pig from the selection of backyard raised pigs, feeding them with a “cleansing” diet of fresh vegetables and organic feeds, stuffings of natural herbs and spices, and proper roasting.”
Zubuchon’s lechon comes from backyard-raised pigs acupunctured with fresh local herbs, which are roasted over charcoal by traditional lechoneros. They take pride in being all natural, with no MSG, soy sauce or food colorings added.
One thing that also contributed to Zubuchon’s popularity is that it was one of the very first in Cebu to serve lechon in a full service restaurant with a nice ambiance—somewhere that you can easily bring your guests to for their lechon fix. “Our branches have simple, bright light airy and modern designs,” Joel says. “It offers a casual and clean dining experience to customers.”
General manager Joan Danao is quick to add that Zubuchon is also more than lechon. “Our salads and vegetables are the perfect pair with our meat and seafood dishes,” she explains. The restaurant’s menu includes local favorites such as pinakbet, slow-cooked adobo, smoked bangus with salted egg and tomato salad, among others. And of course, no pig out session at Zubuchon is complete without a chilled glass of kamias shake.
From small takeout kiosks to nine branches, a lechon drive-thru and pasalubong center near the airport, and three Zububelly kiosks, Zubuchon has come a long way and shows no signs of stopping. In 2017, Zubuchon is set to expand to Metro Manila, with an outlet opening in Makati City in February.