Can you handle four restaurants in the course of a dinner?

Crimson Resort and Spa Mactan wraps up the Cebu Food and Wine Festival with a one-of-a-kind dine-around concept

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Photo shows (L-R): Saffron dining room with pool views, Spanish beer at Enye and Aka Private Room

Cebu is always a good idea, if you want sun, sea, sky, and sand without leaving the city, without really being away from it all. It’s a good weekend breather, whether for a two-day break or an overnight trip, whether to do nothing at all or, if you’re the type who like to hit two birds with one stone, to do nothing all day except for soaking up the sun and, in the evening, to partake of something like the recently concluded monthlong Cebu Food and Wine Festival (CFWF), whose wrapup was hosted for the fourth time at the beachfront tropical paradise Crimson Resort and Spa Mactan, sprawling at six hectares on the coral island of Mactan on the Mactan Channel in Cebu.

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THE CRIMSON CREW. Crimson Resort and Spa Mactan general manager Didier Belmonte (second from  right) with in-house and guest chefs, from left: Masahiro Kinoshita, Javier Garcia, Naoki Eguchi,  Daniel Johnston, Fernando Alcala, Allan Barios, Chele Gonzalez, Rose Hudson, and Andrew Simpson

At Crimson, CWFC was pure bacchanalia, a one-of-a-kind dine-around concept, themed “A Feast for the Senses,” and a first for the four-year-old festival. The whole idea, even for me, was level-up gastronomy, in which the guests, for no more than P3,500, dined in four concept restaurants within the resort in the course of a single meal.

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“We wanted to showcase all the signature restaurants we have, three of which—Azure Beach Club, Omakase by Naoki Eguchi or what we fondly call Aka, and Saffron—we recently just opened. Our guest chefs were carefully selected as well so they could complement the concept of each dining outlet,” said Crimson general manager Didier Belmonte.

Cebu’s style set and foodies, as well as gourmets, gourmands, and food and wine lovers, even epicures from across the Philippines showed up. Why not? Not only does Crimson Resort and Spa Mactan offer a getaway so paradisiacal with 40 luxurious villas, each with its own plunge pool, and 250 well-appointed guestrooms all just a hop, skip, and a jump away from an inviting private beach, a two-hectare marine reserve, and an infinity pool that is the best on the island, it’s also becoming more and more a hub for luxury dining.

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Chele Gonzalez

Plus, for half the cost of a dinner in a single fine-dining restaurant, we, on a fine day in early June, thanks to the CFWF, got to try all in-house restaurants, not to mention a drink-all-the-champagne-and-other-drinks after party at Azure, replete with spectacular fireworks and dancing.  

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Cebu Lechon tacos

First stop was at the newest addition to Crimson’s culinary destinations, Aka, a traditional Japanese restaurant designed for omakase, although there is also an ala carte menu, according to the Japanese chef at its helm, Masahiro Kinoshita, who prepared on the kitchen counter for every guest to see only the freshest sashimi, and nigiri, chawan mushi, zaru udon, yakitori, wagyu beer shabu-shabu, butakakuni, and lapu-lapu saikyo. Fresh tempura was just as much a hit with the no less than the Japanese restaurant’s consultant and curator Naoki Eguchi manning the tempura station offering lightly battered prawns, white fish, and sweet potato.

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Paella de setas and Salmon Ceviche Aguachiles

Enye by Chele Gonzalez soon took its turn, where a trio of chefs, Cantabria-born Chele included, together with guest chef Fernando Alcalá, Chef Revelacion at the Madrid Fusion in 2019 and owner of the restaurant Kava in Malaga, Spain, and Enye chef de cuisine Javier Garcia, whipped up a spread consisting of Chele’s lechon tacos, grilled pulpo, croqueta de jamon, and paella de setas trufa y cerdo while Javier Garcia showcased the brava potato, salmon, ceviche, and slow roasted squid stuffed with callos. Also served were yellowfin tuna tataki, grilled mackerel in laksa, bouillabaisse, and—a certified hit among the guests—sweet tomatoes in sweet and sour gazpacho.

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Roasted squid and Tempura at Aka

Next was dessert, which led us all to Saffron Café and its decadent chocolate offerings, especially the Victoria Amores Chocolates by guest chocolatier Rose Hudson, a Filipino based in Tokyo, who founded the artisanal luxury chocolate brand in 2018. Inspired by Filipino desserts, the first flavors carried such names as puto maya and latik, turon, mango tango, and the crowd favorite, to Rose’s delight, chili and calamansi.

Eating chocolates after this exceptional, extraordinary meal, hopping from one restaurant to the next, gave us the energy we didn’t think we still had, so then Azure called us all to the beachfront with fireworks over it, cocktails, dance music, and a whole evening under the velvety sky to remember.