LIKE YOUR MAMA’S, BUT FANCIER
At Etta’s Eclectic Food + Drinks, the usual home-cooked dishes gets a twist
Dining at Etta’s is like coming home to your mother’s cooking—after she’s had a monthlong training at some fancy culinary school and is visibly excited about the new things she’s learned, rolling out her old dishes in their new permutations.
Case in point: the Salmon Bellysioso. It’s your favorite inun-unang isda, which is traditionally made with bangus. Cooked in vinegar, garlic, and salt, the Cebuano version of paksiw is a breakfast staple (my father has this almost every day) and conjures many happy memories of growing up on this island. But Etta’s invests in a risky upgrade: the fancier salmon is arranged delicately on the top lip of the serving plate, followed by the blanched vegetables—tomatoes, garlic, peppers—forming their own rows, creating an unusual line-up for the usual suspects. Even the salty-sour soup, which always makes my mouth water, triggers my taste buds to call out for rice, is perfect to bahug (a Cebuano term for pouring sauce or soup over rice), is served “on the side,” a Western dining concept that used to be alien to Pinoy cooking.
Etta’s experimented with the good old French fries as well, sprinkling them with parmesan cheese and flaked pork pieces—the dry kind, done the Cebuano way—then serving them with truffle ketchup. The humba, a red-braised pork dish borrowed from our Chinese heritage and is another Bisaya favorite, is served with a different carbohydrate: noodles instead of rice. A pancit dish with an eclectic twist is the pancit negra blackened by squid ink, as if your nokos nga naay ata suddenly took a trip to China and cheated on a bowl of rice with glass noodles.
Derek Dytian’s fourth restaurant brand following Chika-an, Big Mao, and Brique, and also the 19th branch to open across the VisMin area, Etta’s Eclectic Food + Drinks pays homage to his mother Loretta, who is one of my favorite people in Cebu.
The throng of people coming in and out of the restaurant suggests brisk business. But then again, Cebuanos will always check out a dining spot at least once if it is new, and it is too early to tell if the re-imagined traditions at Etta’s will click with their equally eclectic crowd of diners. But I can tell you one thing: I ate my fancy salmon the way I did when I was five, the soup spooned over steaming hot rice and the fish and vegetables dunked into the bowl of soup “on the side.”
I might sporadically say “Lit AF,” but I’m old like that.
RIGHT: ETTA’S ECLECTIC FOOD + DRINKS ADOPTS A MODERN, INDUSTRIAL LOOK. BELOW: PANCIT NEGRA; SALMON BELLYSIOSO.