By Michael Karlo Lim
SAY Chinese and you’re often assaulted with Orientalia. Stylized scrolls, gold finishes, bamboo incorporations, ink paintings, brushwork and red, red, red. Fourteen years into serving Filipinos with their traditional Chinese and signature dishes, Big Mao pulls a “big Mao” with a new look. Their Ayala Center-Cebu branch was completely renovated to give their customers a look at modern China with blonde wood and greys dominating the space and the reds limited only to their logo.
With this cosmetic upgrade comes over twenty new dishes. Beef Hotpot with Radish was filling and comforting with the heft from the meat and the pungent, peppery flavor of the radishes cutting through slightly sweet in the cooking. The briny sweetness of shrimp is played against by the herbals in the broccoli in their Crystal Shrimps with Broccoli. A similar flavor profile is introduced in their, albeit “meatier,” Asparagus with Scallops. The especially aromatic Truffled Pork and Mushroom Noodles does not disappoint with its earthy and garlicky aroma extending into its savory profile. Of the salted egg trend, their Salted Duck Egg Squid presents a more substantial vehicle than potato chips and is a tastier variation to the usually battered calamari.
Their all-time favorites remain on their menu for their longtime patrons to continue to enjoy. The Min Min Prawn Roulade is still an exquisitely subtle starter and remains my personal favorite. Lamon-Lamon with Garlic Overload is always quite the roasty garlic and fish fix. Two different fowls amalgamate in the delightfully savory and rich Salted Duck Egg Crusted Chicken. Mixed Seafood Hotpot with Beancurd rounds out the old menu with the fruit of the sea on the blank slate of tofu.
With a string of other local institutions under their belt, namely, Chika-an, Brique, Ettas and Big Daddy, and a collective twenty years in the local food industry, it isn’t quite a stretch for the Creative Cuisine Gourmet Group to have called themselves so. With these variant restaurant concepts and the variety each one offers, these sure have become some of the Cebuanos top dining considerations.
Big Mao reopened to the public last Sept. 15. It is located at 2F Ayala Terraces, Cebu and is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.