Beloved and I had dinner at Zubuchon a couple of weeks ago. This happened because I was annoyed with the queue for the bus and we were supposed to go home, towards Cubao area. This was also after when we already had dinner at nearby Shangri-La Plaza mall (part of which was chicharon). This lechon-specialty store is deemed inferior by Cebu friends, but based on other reviews we’ve watched, tourists seemed to like it better. For the uninformed, lechon is essentially whole pit-roasted pig—a specialty of the country. Seeing as it’s a rare time for both of us to be in Mandaluyong, where the closest Zubuchon is, we took the opportunity to try it out.
Upon getting seated and looking at the menu, we realize that Zubuchon seemed to be a fancier version of a lechon place at a food court; basically a sit-down version of what you can find at food courts. They serve their lechon in small, medium, and large sizes, presumably similarly weighed at quarter, half, and whole kilos. Since we already ate, we ordered their Original Lechon (small) (290 Php) and a cup of rice. I also got their Zubu Pickle Platter (180 Php) because it seemed interesting.
Their Zubu Pickle Platter was an interesting plate. It has the “usual” pickled papaya or atchara, but it also has a couple of unusuals—pickled singkamas or jícama/Filipino turnips and pickled green mangoes. The tomato skin, while pretty, wasn’t pickled, unfortunately, but still edible. Anyway, the pickles were amazing—for me at least. They were quite tart and a bit sweet, but the underlying ingredient’s taste was still present and heightened. Sour-hating-except-sinigang Beloved wore her “bleh, too sour” face upon trying out a bite of any of these. I was quite happy with all of them, the green mangoes being my favorite, and gave me some ideas on what to pickle once we get our own home.
Their Original Lechon was… interesting. I was disappointed on the first bit I tried, because it wasn’t crispy. However, it was quite flavorful, with a garlicky and mildly spicy taste, perhaps not as flavorful as what I’ve had in Cebu before. It had quite lean meat, possibly explaining why the skin wasn’t crispy. I let Beloved try it out, and she liked the meat, and didn’t care for the skin too much.
However, the next part I tried was crispy like the familiar lechon I’m used to. This was the point when I found out that Zubuchon’s serving gives you lechon from different parts of the pig. The meat here was still a bit lean, but, flavor-wise, was the same. The next one had a lot more fat in it, making the meat juicy and moist. Finally, the last bit was the fattiest and crispiest, with its skin almost like crispy pork crackling and its meat quite juicy and tender.
I started to understand why tourists prefer Zubuchon over what our local friends recommend, like CnT or Rico’s in Cebu. The gradient of textures and tastes in their lechon and the familiar sit-down environment might be the deal-makers. Also, taste-wise, they aren’t as strongly flavored, which a lot of foreigners seem to prefer; and, in retrospect, I also prefer. In this case, though, I found this too similar-tasting to what I can get for something a bit cheaper in lechon-serving food courts stalls in Manila, so there’s that, I guess. Also, they do offer many different styles of cooking and flavors—boneless, spicy, sizzling, sinigang, et cetera. Perhaps ironically, I enjoyed their pickle platter more than their lechon and makes me want to try out their other appetizers and ensaladas moreso than their other lechon variants. Still, if you want to experience a gradient lechon experience, Zubuchon is the place to go.