By Michael Karlo Lim
ONE dictionary’s definition of change is “a new or refreshingly different experience.” Perhaps that best describes the new menu of Circa 1900 Casa Uno.
The other half of the Shrimski tandem, Eya, shares that Chef Steve, with a little more confidence in his understanding of the local market, has decided to cook the way he wants to and to do the dishes they would like to eat themselves. With a focus on taste and tasteful presentation, they lean even more into their belief that food must contribute to the balance, health, and well-being of their guests.
The proof was in the items served at their recent family-style degustation, and new menu reveal. Balancing the number of meat and fish dishes, the selections included in it reflect the food culture they want to promote.
We began with what seemed the requisite green salad. The surprise was in the umami that miso added to the herbals of asparagus and the mixed vegetables. Black Sesame Flaxseed Dressing brings about an earthy and nutty layer instead of the usual sour profiles in vinaigrettes.
Accommodating the ever growing vegetarian market, they present a weightier starter with a chew that would also appeal to the more meat-inclined. The Minted Pea, Cannellini and Red Kidney Bean Croquettes with Peppered Sour Cream and Olive Oil Sauce was still undoubtedly all-veg but just delicious enough to sit well on the carnivore’s palate.
Lobster sheds the shell of pretense to sit on a more rustic open Beetroot Lasagna. Herby aromatics of saffron join the nutty, sweet and peppery flavor of atsuete in a cream binding all the ingredients in a fresh and tasty dish.
Onboard the locavore trend, locally available snapper is only grilled to a perfect flakiness. Couscous is made more interesting if not refreshingly fruity with orange, feta, date, and mint.
Catering to a large percentage of Japanese guests, Circa serves a Japanese-inspired Warm Seaweed and Soba Noodle Salad. This is topped with a Pistachio and Lemongrass Encrusted Salmon — a favorite fish among the Japanese that is also very relatable for the locals. Natural flavors are highlighted by the barest of treatments to allow these to be best appreciated.
“I know you Cebuanos love your pork, but you have to have more of the lamb first,” said Chef Steve as he pulled back one of two dishes served simultaneously. Much of the “gaminess” was removed from their Lamb Shanks in a move to appeal to a wider audience. Braised with artichokes and lemon in a creamy Spanish-style sauce, this fall-off-the-bone dish is rounded off by a potato mash.
Pork Belly is crispy-fried in a familiar treatment and glazed with caramel vinegar for a modern twist. Cauliflower puree flavored with star anise was a surprising and rather tasty placeholder for your usual starch while the pickled green mango Asian salad stood for the classic achar.
“We are so busy looking after the small details that we lose the big picture which is so important.”, Eya declares. Now able to clearly articulate the food culture they believe in, Circa 1900 Casa Uno rediscovers itself. As they come to a full circle, they invite you to come into it, too.
Circa 1900 Casa Uno is located at Sanjercas Ville Ext Rd, Cebu City, Cebu. www.circa1900cebu.com