Rustic Spanish-influenced food at No.9

BROTHERS Iñaki and Pepin belong to the prominent Martinez family of Cebu.
They both grew up enjoying good food cooked in the Martinez ancestral home in the old neighborhood along E. Benedicto Street. Both in their 30’s, they decided to share their love and passion for good food by converting their ancestral home into No. 9 Bar & Restaurant, after the house number.

The 50-year-old house has retained its period look with a modern lighting system and floor to ceiling glass walls that reveal the old garden with lush trees. A well-stocked bar dominates the center of the dining area.

While Iñaki handles business matters, Chef Pepin takes over the kitchen.

Proudly homegrown, Chef Pepin is a graduate of the International Culinary Arts Academy of Cebu (ICAAC) with a Diploma in Two-year Culinary Arts Chef’s Program. He worked with the Hilton in Mactan Island to gain experience and decided to do private dinners. His passion for cooking started at a young age when he lived in Davao with his maternal grandmother who exposed him to the rudiments of traditional cookery. No. 9, Bar & Restaurant opened its doors in September 2014.

The homegrown menu pays tribute to the food they grew up and fell in love with, melding elements of old world and modern day techniques. I like the straightforward menu, which has four sections: Tapas, Pintxos, Plates for Sharing and Postres or Desserts. While Chef Pepin prepared the courses, Restaurant Manager Christine Boiser introduced the Bar Manager Julius Conde who mixed the signature cocktails for us: No. 9-light rum with calamansi, Sangria-–red wine, fruits, curacao liqueur, and Cocojito, their take on mojito made with Malibu rum, coconut, lime, soda water and mint leaves. The cocktails were all very refreshing, especially for a humid summer evening.

For starters, we had an attractive bowl of Pulpo with crunchy potato chips and generous red Adobo Sauce spread on the sides of the bowl. Adobo sauce, Chef Pepin explained, is a marinade or sauce made of paprika (powdered sweet bell peppers), vinegar, garlic and olive oil used as a preservative and enhance flavor. We all know that adobo is a method of cooking in the Philippines. Chef Pepin’s Pulpo (octopus) is rendered flavorful with his homemade adobo sauce.

From the Plates for Sharing, Chef Pepin’s signature dish “Fideo Negro” is delicious angel hair pasta rendered black with squid ink, topped with slices of squid, homemade chorizos and a dollop of aioli. This dish reminds me of Paella Negra, which I cook at home. The saltiness of the chorizo compliments the seafood flavor of the squid. We all nodded with approval as we enjoyed the blackened pasta.

Pork Collar with clams, chorizo and green peas was cooked “ sous vide” for 18 hours. Sous vide, French for “under vacuum” is the process of sealing food in a vacuum-sealed plastic bag and cooked in a temperature-controlled water. The pork was tender with rich flavors retained, having been cooked in its own juices. Chef Pepin loves his adobo sauce and served “Adobo-Rubbed Mahi-Mahi “ cooked in banana leaves. Here Chef Pepin uses Spanish and Filipino techniques of cooking.

TAGS: food, Spanish
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