SUTUKIL is a food preparation that Cebu is famous for. The words “SU” “TU” and “KIL” stands for Sugba (Grilled), Tula or Tuwa (Tinola/Soup) and Kilaw (Kilawin / Ceviche). Normally what you do in sutukil restaurants is you check out their fresh catch of the day, chose your seafood which could be a combination of different fishes, squids, shells, shrimps, crabs etc, and then decide on how you want them cook. For those who can’t decide, you can just say “i-sutukil” lang which means you want your ordered seafood to be portioned off for grilling, soup and kilawin. You can also just have them all grilled or have them all cooked in vinegar para kilawin. It really is up to you, you are the boss so to say. The best place for sutukil are the restaurants nearby Mactan Shrine as the view of the sea completes the sutukil experience. If you have been to Cebu and you have not tried sutukil yet then you have one more reason why you should come back to our island. You got to have a seafood feast sutukil style!
I would hazard a guess and say that SUTUKIL is also the inspiration for this popular Cebu seafood restaurant STK Ta Bai sa Paolitos Seafood House, or what we Cebuanos simply call ‘STK Ta Bai’. Cebuanos love to shortcut words and in the case of this restaurant, it’s very understandable because the complete name of the restaurant name is a mouthful. Heheh. Paolitos is not really hardcore sutukil resto with an open market for seafood just like those you will find in Mactan. They are more like the regular restaurants in the city that offers seafood and grilled dishes but yes, they do offer lots of seafood viands.
You can find STK Ta Bai in the area between Fuente Osmena Circle and Cebu Provincial Capitol. You can scroll down to the map at the end of this blog post for direction tips. The first time I dined here was for a birthday celebration of a friend almost a decade ago. This restaurant has a following even then. Now, after the Cebu food trip episode of the GMA News TV show of Rovilson Fernandez “Ang Pinaka” with topic “Ang Pinaka Yummy Sa Cebu” STK Ta Bai’s popularity shoot to the roof! Rovilson and team listed down the best restaurants in Cebu and STK Ta Bai was No. 1 on their list. Now, that is something! Do you agree with their judgment?
STK Ta Bai is very proud of this accomplishment, I would too if I was the owner. There is this big tarpaulin that details they are “#1 Ang Pinaka Yummy in Cebu” restaurant.
When my friend Julie texted me that she’s coming for a short business trip to Cebu, we agreed to met up over dinner. I suggested STK Ta Bai. She texted me back excitedly “I saw Rovilson eat the kilawin! I want to try that’. Simple as that, our dinner date was set.
It was close to 6 pm when we got to the restaurant, the main dining area was full so the waiter ushered us in to one of the inner rooms. On previous visit I really have no idea that there are inner rooms so I was really surprise too! They have expanded this restaurant and open other areas of the house that were close after Paolitos become more popular.
Mannn this house turned restaurant is huge! Must have belong to a very rich family especially with the antiquities that greeted us when we got inside the room we dined at. Long tables, lots of chandeliers, saints, old batirols, musical instruments from previous era, paintings, bridal gown of the owners?, lots and lots of plates and chinaware! This place is a museum!!! Julie muttered this place looks like Yap-San Diego House with all their saints and antiquities. And I do agree!
Ornate chandliers one after the other =)
Inside their conference / meeting room. Yep, you can bring your whole team to STK Ta Bai and have a working lunch or dinner. Call for reservation especially if you are a big group.
We were joking around and coming up with ‘dona’ and ‘don’ stories, wandered about the lifestyle of the owners, where they get this santo or who created the different paintings of Cebu Cathedral etc, how none of us desires to spend the night at this restaurant/house with no light on.
On Julie’s first visit to Cebu, we had a walking heritage tour and the ancestral house turned museum of the Yap-San Diego left a lasting impression on her so it keeps popping back on our conversation. Our thoughts also lingered on the question if the STK family know the people at Yap-San Diego House. Everything surrounding us during this dinner date was making us inquisitive. Which is a great thing for it only means not only will this restaurant in Cebu fill you up with good food but also invites you to be curious, to think and to reflect about the past. Exploring the ante-room of STK Ta Bai is like peeking into the lives of people from decades ago which I find interesting. \o/
All these antiques are prominently displayed on glass cases.
Surprisingly despite the presence of old things, the ambiance at STK Ta Bai sa Paolito’s Seafood House is homey. It’s relax dining with a vintage twist. This restaurant is great for celebrations and big gatherings with family and barkada because this way you can try many of their dishes. Their menu is generally priced affordable too.
If you are claustrophobic you might not like the room we dined at, it’s better to ask for a table elsewhere. We occupied the table on the right side of the pic below.
Lots of these long wooden tables too
Cebu Food Trip at STK Ta Bai!
But hey we came here not for what is inside the house turned restaurant, we came down for the food! We wanted to try out dishes from STK Ta Bai menu! Of all that Rovilson tempts us on his tv show, we made sure that we will have this kilawin with gata=)
Gata is “coconut milk”
It looks so good that I who doesn’t eat raw fish, who doesn’t eat kilawin, gave in and tried it. I took just a spoonful with lots of the green mangoes. Surprise, surprise I was able to eat it hahaha. But my companions dived into this kilawin like there is no tomorrow. There was really nothing left save the garnish on top and some bits and pieces of onions. Thumbs up!
Kinilaw with gata P130 per serving
I love scallops, almost all the time whenever I am in a resto I order a plate of this appetizer. STK Ta Bai scallop is baked in butter. I enjoyed this but I know I would enjoy it more if the scallops were baked with lots of mozarella cheese, my idea of heaven on a shell. But looking at this picture of the scallop now, parang gusto ko ulit sya kainin hehe.
Baked Scallops STK Ta Bai style, P145 per plate
The baked tahong was just so – so for me.
Baked Tahong at P85 per serving.
Cebuano household doesn’t cook sinigang. Yep, that might come as surprise to you especially if you are from Luzon. Not once in my life did my Lola, my mom, my aunts or anybody I know who is a Cebuano cook this very popular Filipino dish. We just don’t have sinigang, ‘parang panis’ is the common complaint. I only learned to love sinigang when I was assigned in Laguna. So it is very rare when I can have sinigang in Cebu and our visit to STK Ta Bai was one of those times I get to taste this dish again.
STK Ta Bai pork sinigang is highly, highly recommended. The meat was tender, the hot soup ay may tamang asim sarap. Mann I sound like a sinigang pork cube commercial here hahah but it really is good. If you visit and dine in STK Ta Bai, have this pork sinigang as your soup.
Pork Sinigang at P14o per bowl
One of the last dish I tried was this version of Calamares. I took one slice with my fork, took a bite. ‘Oh Jeeezzzzz’. It’s hot, hot and hot. Lol. I love hot foods but this one is really hot and spicy, I have to gulp their iced tea while trying to savor this calamares. I have mixed feeling about this dish, I like that the squid meat is big but I found the hot and spiciness doesn’t really mixed well with how they cook the calamares. If you ask me if I will recommend this, sadly no.
Hot and Spicy Calamares at P130
Their pork barbecue was tender and good just like most of the restaurant bbqs I’ve tried. If we did not order lots of other seafood, we would have chosen grilled Inihaw na Panga ng Tuna and skip this barbecue. But as it is, we want to try variety off the STK Ta Bai menu and the panga ng tuna was a bit on the more expensive side at P400+ per panga so we skip it. We are marking the panga for next visit.
Pork Barbeque at P17 per stick
This was one of the recommended shrimp dish that our waiter recommended. For me, the only thing going for this dish is that they are of good size but I just didn’t like the overly sweetness of the garlic sauce. Bummer. I am thinking now, it might have been better if we just ordered gambas.
Shrimps in Garlic Sauce
Cup of rice – P15
Pitcher of Iced Tea – P135
Overall, we enjoyed our whole experience in STK Ta Bai. Prices are reasonable and the food is okay. Not ecstatically good but good nonetheless. It’s their ambiance that would make me recommend this to first timer in Cebu. Service too was excellent. We were there on a Tuesday and there were lots of waiters around and our food was served fast too. I don’t know if the excellent service we experienced will hold during peak days like weekend and holidays.
When we left the place, it was jam-packed If you plan to dine there on a Friday night or holiday, might be better to call STK Ta Bai for reservation. The main problem I am seeing is if you have a car, parking can be difficult as I don’t think they have dedicated parking space for guests.
poised, before ‘the attack’
When our orders started coming in, we thought we ordered more than we can chew but well, at the end of our visit in STK Ta Bai, there was literally nothing left of our food except the few bits of radish on our pork sinigang soup, the garnishes and the shells. It was an enjoyable dinner especially that we were friends catching up on the happenings in our lives. We left STK Ta Bai so full that we decided to walk to Rose Pharmacy along Osmena Bldv and from their ride to Ayala Center. We were hoping the walk will help bring back our tummy to normal size but it didn’t hehe.
Did we enjoy this STK food trip in Cebu? Yes =)
Will I say this place is really the No 1, the yummiest in Cebu just like in Rovilson’s show? My answer is no but its worth visiting especially if you are first timer to Cebu and if you love to see antiquities. For food alone, there are other Cebu restaurants that offers more delicious dishes. STK’s ambiance uniqueness is their selling point for me.
Also, I have not tried and tasted all other restaurants on that Rovilson Fernandez Ang Pinaka “Cebu best restaurant” list.
Will I be able to try those other restaurants? Yes if may pera hahah. Those other restaurants who made it to GMA News TV ‘Ang Pinaka” list are on the expensive side and not for budget travelers and those of us who wants yummy but affordable food trips. There were only 3 restaurant entries on that list that I deem affordable and STK Ta Bai is one of them.
Have a wonderful time in Cebu!
Map Direction to get to STK Ta Bai
Please Note: The major landmarks are highlighted with blue stars Crown Regency Hotel / Summit Circle Cebu (Cebu Midtown) / Fuente Osmena Circle / Chong Hua Hospital / Cebu Capitol Building. If you are nearby Fuente, you can just walk to STK Ta Bai. If you don’t feel like walking the few blocks, take a taxi as there is no jeepney that passed by the area. Or you can take any “Capitol” bound jeepney and get down in Rose Pharmacy just before Cebu Doctor’s Hospital then walk to Climaco Street.
Our trio met up in SM Cebu and then we just took a taxi to STK Ta Bai, taxi fare was only P85.
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