Thanks to the local Filipino-Chinese community, you can get authentic Chinese food in abundance. Lately, the trend in Cebu is freshly caught fare that is prepared while you wait.

The Ching Palace on Salinas Drive is perhaps the most opulent restaurant in Cebu, if not the entire Philippines. As China soars towards economic might, the overseas Chinese community has grown in confidence and power; the Ching Palace is testament to the vitality and strength of the rising red dragon. Mammoth arowanas swim around in giant aquariums, garish birds of paradise with huge beaks gawk at diners from their cages, and most tables in the tastefully designed restaurant hall - the decor is mint green and frosted glass - seat no less than 20 persons.

Emperor's Bowl, on A S Fortuna, Ocean Wok, on F Cabahug Street, and Lai Garden, at Crossroads, provide Ching Palace with a little competition, in food if not decor. Live fish, prawns, and eels squirm in aerated aquariums; pick whichever wriggling creature you fancy and meet it on your plate a short while later. At Emperor's Bowl, where overall service is superb, you can even wander outside and watch your fish being hacked to bits by the cooks; the goings-on of the kitchen are visible through a window facing the street. Lai Garden, meanwhile, sports a huge cartoon-like logo of a lion eating with chopsticks; perhaps the owner is it targetting a less formal market.

In case you're a returning visitor to Cebu, you may be interested to know that the Ching Palace put both Talk of the Town and Seafood City - which were both within spitting distance and neither of which provided live fish in aquariums - out of business.

Of the traditional Chinese restaurants, White Gold House is perhaps the most austere. Located a couple of blocks from SM, this old dame is famous amongst Cebuanos as the grandest Chinese restaurant in town. The equally large A Taste of Mandarin, meanwhile, is popular with tourists, or rather tour operators. Tour buses often disgorge throngs of Japanese and Korean visitors outside Mandarin's end of the Gaisano Country Mall. Also in the Country Mall is the Lumpia House; once upon a time, the Lumpia House was what the Ching Palace is now; a lavishly decorated, brash and classy restaurant. But like the Gaisano Country Mall that accommodates it, the Lumpia House has long lost its luster.

Perhaps the most expensive of all are the Chinese restaurants in the Waterfront Lahug and the Shangri-La. The Waterfront's Tin Gow is the better of the two; it prides itself on its world-class dim sum selection. The Shangri La's Shang Palace also serves Cantonese cuisine; while not the ideal place to spend your own money, it is perhaps appropriate as a venue for power business dinners.

If you can't afford Tin Gow, you may want to head to the nearest Majestic, a chain of fairly priced Chinese restaurants. For lower-income Cebuanos, Majestic is the epitome of fine dining. If you want to make your driver happy, take him to Majestic with his family. The cosmpolitan traveler, however, may be a little disappointed, though the service and food are both not bad. There's a Majestic in Ayala, SM, and near Fuente. An expensive version, Grand Majestic, is located in the Cebu Convention Center near Ayala.

Ayala has a two other moderately priced Chinese restaurants, both of them Cantonese: Harbour City, which is focused on dim sum, and Kowloon Park.

If you want to get your dim sum at rock-bottom price, head to Dim Sum Break; they have outlets in SM, Mango Square, and the Elizabeth Mall.


THE CHING PALACE 417-2988 Salinas Drive, Lahug
OCEAN WOK 233-0196 Pacific Square, F Cabahug
EMPEROR'S BOWL 343-9880 A S Fortuna, near Hyundai
WHITE GOLD HOUSE 232-6891 Salinas Drive, Lahug
A TASTE OF MANDARIN 232-4845 Gaisano Country Mall
LUMPIA HOUSE 232-5031 Gaisano Country Mall
TIN GOW PALACE 232-6888 Waterfront Lahug
MAJESTIC [Fuente] 253-6287 General Maxillom Ave.
MAJESTIC [SM] 232-0720 SM
GRAND MAJESTIC 232-0990 Cebu Convention Center, Arch Reyes
HARBOUR CITY [AYALA] 231-6283 Ayala

These pages in the Cebu Visitors Guide provide but a general overview of the wining and dining scene. For detailed reviews of individual establishments, see the Resto Quest.

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