A Zubuchon Customer Review… And a Favor to Ask…

Nearly every week, if not twice or thrice in a week, Zubuchon management and I receive customer feedback from folks (mostly marketmanila readers, a biased bunch perhaps) who have recently eaten at Zubuchon. Most of the feedback is positive, though there is an occasional one that outlines a negative experience. The ratio of good to bad is about 15:1, but again, that may be a biased count based on the blog readership. It is amazing that so many folks take the time to write us these emails, and we are truly grateful for all of the feedback. We respond to all of these private emails, whether positive or negative. Particular attention is given to emails that specifically outline service shortfalls or less than satisfactory food, and take swift corrective action, if appropriate. We use the constructive criticism to try and improve the experience for customers the next time around. If you’ve noticed, the blog also seems to get lots of feedback in the comments section of posts when readers have gotten a chance to try Zubuchon, and most of the feedback has likewise been good…

Some examples of constructive criticism have included slower than usual service particularly for folks in a rush, and often headed to the airport or pier… and our response has been to try and make dining crew more sensitive to folks coming in with luggage to ensure that they are aware how soon they have to get to the airport/pier if that is their next destination. In another example, customers objected to the idea of our service water being, literally, tap water; so despite the cost, we switched to all filtered, bottled water for our service water and other internal uses. I should note that after a survey we took of neighboring and similarly priced restaurants, some 50% of restaurants do indeed use just plain tap water. Some 4 and 5 star hotels use once filtered tap water… so to be safe if tap water makes you queasy, always order bottled water wherever you dine to be sure. In another instance, repeated service shortfalls like repeated failure to bring water, napkins, the bill, change, etc. has also been raised, and we repeatedly remind service crew to be more attentive, and have built service standards into their performance reviews. We have added POS ordering stations and in-kitchen/in-bar printers to speed up orders and make them more accurate in our larger branch. In the case of food, we have replaced lechons that some found way too salty (a Cebu trademark, but also occasional mistake of crew), while we have added salt to the follow up orders of folks who claim our lechons lacked salt… I guess pleasing everyone is out of the question, but we do try. In the restaurants, our all natural organic langka (jackfruit) salad was finally pulled off the menu after many customers accustomed to creamy white unripe langka salads at home and at other restaurants, balked at the strange pinkish tint of our dish, often thinking it was spoiled. Even our explanation that we harvested these organically grown jackfruit ourselves, from our own trees, and DID NOT TREAT THEM to a CHEMICAL BATH as they would do in most markets to stop them from discoloring, was NOT enough to make believers of our guests. Oddly, we re-formulated the langka recipe and re-launched it as a ginataang langka, pink tinge and all, and now it is a huge favorite. Go figure. In another case, folks were not pleased with a dish they ordered, either expecting something else, or done in a style they preferred. In all such cases, we always offer to replace the dish if they are still in the restaurant, but if the complaint comes after they leave, and more oddly, after they actually ATE the entire serving, it is harder to make it right. Finally, we always have folks who compare our price, at PHP490 a kilo for lechon as being VERY EXPENSIVE relative to PHP390 of the vendors on the street, but they ignore the fact that we pay VAT, have a relatively nice space with airconditioning, pay above legal wages and benefits, serve them on real plates, and wash utensils with dishwashing liquid and running water. Lechon sells in groceries in Manila at PHP700-750 a kilo, so I can assure you that lechon priced at PHP490, bones and all, is the BEST DEAL/VALUE when dining in house at Zubuchon.

On the positive side, I have received dozens of kudos for staff, both as a team and on an individual basis. The waiters who were able to explain most of the menu in detail (and many of whom have tasted nearly all if not all of the dishes on the menu). The one who chased after a lady who left her handbag with everything in it (this happened several times in all locations) or a suitcase, a cell phone, etc. The one who went out of his way to make a sleeping child more comfortable while the parents enjoyed dinner. The ones who took it upon themselves to escort clients to their cars with umbrellas when there was rain. Or the ones who just delivered service that was noticeably above and beyond the expectation for a restaurant whose average bill is roughly PHP250-300 ($6-7) per person. Honestly, at that amount, you don’t usually expect much service, do you? I have dined at many a restaurant in Manila at PHP750+ per person that doesn’t deliver much service at all… It’s difficult to keep up with heightened expectations, but we are nearly a year old, and we are still trying our best to do so.

But the email that really stopped me in my tracks is the following one that I received from a reader last Friday. C T had sent me an email several weeks ago before a planned trip to Cebu and Bohol and I had responded with some places they might want to have a meal at, or sights to see. This was his email verbatim (names removed):

Dear Sir,

We write to send a note of thanks. We had two spectacularly amazing meals in Cebu this week. We went to the (Zubuchon) One Mango branch for lunch on Monday as planned, then we went back on Tuesday before leaving for Bohol. They were great. Every dish was very well-judged. The flavors were vivid and elemental, but remained subtle and bright. The balance between fat and acid, sweetness and heat was spot-on. And together, each dish built-up to a profoundly memorable meal. On Monday, we ordered the small zubuchon, the sisig, the eggplant salad, the seaweed platter, garlic rice, the leche flan and the kamias shake. On Tuesday, we had the head of the lechon, sisig, dinuguan, poached shrimp, the eggplant salad, garlic rice and the kamias shakes again.

The sisig was sublime. Easily the new standard for us. The lechon was excellent. I have not been a big skin fan, but the zubuchon skin is quite reminiscent of chicharon. Really quite amazing. I love the clean, sweet flavor of the meat. I knew I was eating superior lechon, but I also realized I was partial to the buttery texture of the younger, suckling pig. I experienced a brief moment of existential angst about my ambivalence last Monday. But then we had the head on Tuesday. We had the brains, cheeks, eyeballs, ears – every bit of gooey goodness that we could extract from crevices we didn’t even know existed. The cheeks were especially luscious. I now understand why Bourdain christened it the best pig ever. The eggplant salad and the kamias shake were amazing foils to the rich meats. The acids didn’t just cut through the fat, they rounded off the flavor spectrum, cleansed the palate and left us wanting another bite. And another.

We were stuffed. And happy. Thank you, sir. And we must add that the staff made our meals very pleasant. They were attentive, polite and knowledgeable about the food. They kindly accommodated our request to eat the head, and even asked how we wanted it chopped. They were great.

Sadly, (another restaurant I had recommended they eat at) was closed for renovation. We ended up going to (another restaurant) for our grilled fish fix. The tuna kinilaw and adobong kangkong were good and the grilled tuna collar reminded us of how difficult it was to get decent grilled seafood in Manila. But the grilled squid was disappointingly dry and rubbery. But no matter. Our memories of Cebu are now anchored on Zubuchon and they are overwhelmingly joyful. Thank you.

J, J and C T

Many, many thanks C T for that amazing email! It’s feedback like this that really buoys spirits and even momentarily allows the collective 85+ personnel of Zubuchon to pat their own backs for a second or two, before returning to their jobs and trying to do it better than they did before. And no, I have never had the opportunity to meet C T, nor are we related, nor did I ask him to write about his visit to Zubuchon. I have received a couple of equally amazing emails pointing out areas we could improve, so we do indeed relish and appreciate receiving both positive and negative customer feedback.

So what’s the favor I have to ask of marketmanila.com readers who have dined at Zubuchon? If you are so inclined, we would really appreciate it if you could rate your visit to the restaurant(s) on TripAdvisor or other such independent review systems. I am not sure who set up our initial account at TripAdvisor, but it wasn’t us, and I have just “claimed it” as the owner so that we can fix things like the wrong address, etc. which will be updated after a few days I am told. At any rate, we would greatly appreciate it if you posted a summary of your visit, so that future diners can get an accurate feel for what to expect… please be honest, good or bad, best to have it all there so it is a realistic and comprehensive compendium of real customer feedback. Many thanks for your help!


56 Responses

  1. Nice to know that there are still restaurateurs like you and your crew. Hope this becomes a majority and not a minority at our dining scene.

  2. The highlight of my first Cebu trip 3 weeks ago was dining at Zubuchon lechon and bumping into MM at the Mactan airport. Both experiences erased the 6 hours we spent at the manila domestic airport for the delayed flight going to Cebu.
    We loved the lechon and brought home a total of 5 kilos of fozen lechon, several packs of chicharon and some guava jams. I have yet to try the lechon flakes, courtesy of the very gracious Mr. MM. Thank you, again, sir. Now i think I’m popping over to that link you posted…:)

  3. sana po mag open na kau branch d2 sa makati, manila and qc…for sure this will be a hit/success because filipinos love to eat!!!!! also, to experience the service provided by your crew!!!! para ma rate din namin….

    tapos global na ito!!! why not!! coconut!!

    btw, inggit and sad pa rin ako sa mga post na d ko nababasa kc may password….

  4. A trip to Cebu is in sight, yey! I have not been to Cebu in ages, but i have been reaaallly wanting to go ever since i knew your blog. I got to have that Zubuchon dining experience hehe. But, ill prolly be shy to say hello, hehe ;) Congratulations MM!!! A good product is the result of hard and earnest work. You are an exemplary employer, true, honest and sincere; one that i would want to emulate!

  5. i wasnt able to dine, i just bought at the departure area going back to manila. I didnt ate it that day as we arrive late due to technical issues of the plane. The next day we just heated it at the frying pan. I didnt expect that the skin would be good as it was a day ago, but still it was superb!
    Looking forward for a vacation next year to cebu just to taste the zubuchon at your resto..More power and God bless …

  6. bigla ko naalala yung pig cheek sandwich sa seattle ni marketman
    i was dreaming of that pig cheek sandwich @.@
    wish marketman could make a sandwich from a zubuchon cheeks

  7. wow! reading CT’s review is like hearing it firsthand :) love the way you write CT!

    By the way the first trailer is out! :) just saw it! :)

  8. Good idea to put Zubuchon on Trip Advisor! That is a constant cross-reference for me when planning a trip. Now to write that review :)
    P.S. MM, I still I get hungry every time I think of that sisig-stuffed squid!

  9. The 5 packs of Zubuchon chicharon arrived via LBC this morning. SARAP! Thanks again MM & Joan!

  10. I too was able to eat at the Zubuchon Mango branch just last weekend. I’ll share my review in Tripadvisor. :)

  11. No worries MM, will do as you asked. We had 3 meals at Zubuchon in December last year. Our plan was to only have one meal (lunch) but we loved it so much we kept going back.

  12. tripadvisor will send email as soon as my review is published. screen name: prvitan.

  13. Will have my very first trip to Cebu this June and you bet Zubuchon is one of our top itineraries! I will definitely post my experience on TripAdvisor.com ASAP! If I may ask a question though, when is the best time to visit Zubuchon (we are planning to dine at your One Mango Mall branch) to experience the fabled pig while the smoke is coming out of its’ bottom? Thank you! :)

  14. When we went to cebu last year for a convention, we were not able to dine at zubuchon. Since I have been wanting to taste zubuchon, I recommend it to the convention committee. I was so happy to see 2 whole zubuchons at our dinner party! Yun lang kinain ko that night! Also took home 3 kilos for my family to taste.

  15. tonceq, the evening lechon(s) arrive at the branch at about 530pm, so the best time to dine would be between 545 or 6pm and about 730pm… Thursday – Saturday evenings are usually the busiest. We don’t take reservations for parties that arrive at 7pm or later… and none on weekends as it can sometimes get crazy and folks are sometimes turned away. I suggest you do an early dinner if that works with your schedule… Fresh lechons sometimes run out by 730 or 8pm, but other nights we have lechon until later. We hope to have some new dishes on the menu by mid-June… Enjoy your trip! :)

  16. I’ve said it before and say it again…only reason I wanted to go to Cebu! :) and ate almost everyday at Zubuchon! — going to TripAdvisor now….

  17. How I wish there is a Zubuchon branch here in Manila! Is that possible Marketman?

  18. I will be in Cebu first week of July.My chance to taste zubuchon and iba shake.Hope I will see you there MM .

  19. i would really fly to cebu one of these days just to dine at zubuchon! hehe. #excited

  20. Kudos to you for opening up yourself to customer feedback. It can be hard especially when receiving negative comments. One has to validate the feedback first and see what went wrong and then make improvements. I would like to encourage people to also give positive feedback to any organization, not just negative. I do, whether here or abroad, and it amazes me how kind words make a difference especially to the staff.

    I miss the kamias shake. Nangangasim tuloy ako! Hope to visit Zubuchon soon. MM, please include halo-halo with finely shaved ice served in half of a coconut. I had that some 10+ years ago in Cebu and I can’t find that resto anymore. They may have closed already. It’s a fave among my guests and ours too.

  21. Hi Mr MM, wondering if Zubuchon will be open around Nov 1-4? My husband and I would love to try the food you serve there :)

  22. my cousin and I are planning to go to cebu “balikan” just to eat zubuchon…and buy several kilos for the whole family…just waiting for a cheap airfare.

  23. It has been mentioned quite often in other travel forums that comments at Trip Advisor (I am partial to Chowhound and Fodor’s) should be taken with a grain of salt… not all of them are legit esp. when a comment is posted by someone who is not a regular contributor or a series of one-time contributors. Just an FYI.

  24. Was at zubuchon may14, left a tripadvisor review may16 on the mentioned account. Real good food!

  25. Robin, thanks for that. Nina, yes, I completely understand the concern… and can see how the format can be manipulated. Having said that, and being wary of places recommended by lots of first time reviewers, I have also noticed that there seem to be professional “reviewers” that seem to make it a personal quest to review dozens if not hundreds of restaurants annually. Then when one reads their reviews, you realize they don’t seem to know much about food and service, period. :) So yes, the advice to take a lot of these sites with a grain of salt rings true… on the other hand, in this day and age, the vast majority of tech savvy would be diners do seem to use these sites to check out potential places to eat at… If only for the address and contact details. Lesley, not sure about November 1, but we would definitely be open on Nov. 2, 3 and 4. Thanks everyone for the support and reviews!

  26. I first ate at Zubuchon last November 2011. Your staff was very well-trained and attentive. I dined alone and they helped me choose a good combination of items from menu. Everything was excellent down to the Kamias shake. But what made my visit very pleasant was when your Manager came up to me to ask about my dining experience. It turns out, he even recognized me from his previous place of employment in Manila! This is the kind of personalized service that I really appreciate in restaurants. We were back in Cebu last March and I brought my family to the Zubuchon branch in Mactan. Needless, to say we enjoyed everything :-)

  27. I was in Cebu this week but has no chance to eat at Zubuchon as all our meals are in the hotel where we had our workshop. I was excite to buy again at the airport outlet…but sad to say there there no more fresh lechon for sale when we were there after 5pm :(

  28. @redberry, there is a number that you can actually call or send sms to reserve your order at the airport. Have done that on 2 separate occasions with no problems. HAven’t eaten at the dine-in outlets though.

  29. MM, I work casual at a Filipino take out in a mall. It is turo-turo style.The hardest customers to please are Filipinos. One of the most oft-heard phrase is “I cook that at home” dismissively while ordering that particular item. And their point is?

  30. Marichu, hahaha, how right you are. If someone says that at Zubu, and I have had a drink or two… I might be tempted to say “how nice, you mean you make your own lard by rendering tampalen fat for 4 hours as your base fat? and you also use palayoks for your paksiw and slow cooked adobo with no soy sauce? or you have a backyard lechon pit? Heeheehee. Of course I have NEVER said that. But thought it more than once or twice. :)

    redberry, the cell phone number at the Mactan airport branch is 63.918.654.4678. We typically deliver fresh lechon to the airport 3-5 times a day, starting at 7am and ending at around 7pm… it does tend to run out quickly, but we have a branch just 5 minutes away so we try to refill stocks whenever possible… However, consider buying frozen the next time. We find that most clients are surprised how well it heats up, and it has a much longer travel life than fresh… :)

  31. I had lunch at your Escario branch earlier today and enjoyed it tremendously. My trip to Cebu will never be complete without getting my hands on your pritchon, lechon and Iba shake. I am back in Manila now and luckily, I packed a stash of chicharon, lechon and lechon sisig in my suitcase for dinner and future meals. I will be back in Cebu as soon as my supplies get depleted. Thank you.

  32. Hi MM, I went to Mercato Centrale last weekend to look for the stall that sells frozen Zubuchon (I remember you mentioned it in one of your comments). I couldn’t find it. Would you happen to know if anyone sells your stuff in Mercato or Salcedo or Legaspi?

  33. MP, that was several months ago, someone was ordering our whole lechons and chopping them up and re-selling them. I think they have stopped. To my knowledge, nobody is selling our products in Manila at this point in time. GV, thanks for dropping by…

  34. I sure hope to get the chance to dine or at least buy some zubu the next time I am in cebu. There seems to be so much good reviews. It does make you want to have that zubu experience. My concern in dining here is that if I will be dining by myself would I get the same experience? I am sure that people get to enjoy the food if they come in groups and try many dishes.

  35. I will be going to Cebu in July and eating at Zubuchon is on the topof my list. Can’t wait for that date to arrive. I will definitely send my comments to MM. P490 for a kilo of Lechon is cheap compared to Manila prices.

  36. I’m taking my whole family to a Cebu vacation 2nd week of June and Zubuchon is definitely up there in our to-do/to-eat list. Can’t wait Mr MM to finally get to try all the delicious things I get to read in your blog.

  37. please please please, MM, put up a restaurant here in Manila soon… i cant just eat pasalubong zubuchon.. i HAVE to experience dining in your resto…

  38. hi mr. MM. i’m from davao city but working here in dubai. not a single day that i’m not reading your blog. my friends always like the food that i usually share with them. they even told me “ang sarap mo namang magluto kuya, ano ba sikreto mo?” i told them, pasalamat kayo kay mr. MM. and they surprisingly replied, “what?, magaling palang magluto si manoling morato”. haha, my apologies mr. MM, i really don’t know your real name. but thank you so much, really. i do appreciate your “help” thru this blog. wish that you’re going to branch out in Davao City or i can get a franchise of Zubuchon someday..

  39. Alan, you’re most welcome and happy to help with recipe ideas and food to feed your friends… no, we have no plans for Davao or Manila yet… but maybe in the years ahead… Marga, I hope to run into you next week, will be in Cebu then… Dianne, the difficulty is in setting up a lechonan in Metro Manila, once that issue has been resolved and without huge expense, we would be able to open in Manila… but for now, we are just concentrating on Cebu and hoping to get things right and well-documented… :)

  40. Dear MM,

    Please open a branch here in Manila. Please, please, please? I had the chance to eat at your One Mango branch and the lechon was delish!!! It made me want to stay in Cebu!! The monggo and calamansi shake were also yummy. Now I am itching to go back there.

  41. My family and I went to Cebu last week ( June 1 ) and had dinner at Zubuchon. We ordered lechon, kamias shake, and duhat shake. The food and drinks were excellent. Service was excellent too considering that the place was full! Too bad we were not able to bring home ( to Manila ) what for me ( my wife, and 2 kids ) consider as the best lechon. More power to you and Zubuchon!

  42. Noel, many thanks for that feedback… I am so happy you enjoyed your meal there! KRN, it’s a major production to open a lechonan here in Manila, but as soon as we have expanded in Cebu and find a suitable location for roasting in Manila, that would be the obvious next step if all goes well… :)

  43. Hi Gigi and Marketman….thanks a lot for the information that one can send sms to reserve lechon :D. I wanted to bring home fresh lechon so we can immediately eat it when I arrive…very short flight from Cebu to Iloilo. Next time if there is no fresh lechon..i will surely buy the frozen one.

  44. Hi MM! Too bad we didn’t bump into you in Cebu!! We stayed at Islands Stay and had breakfast at Zubuchon. It was unfortunate that fresh lechon wasn’t available in the mornings, but we had a great meal of lechon flakes and pritchon, and kamias shake (which we really loved)!!! The staff was very friendly, and the restaurant was very nice and clean.

    On the way back to Manila, we picked up some kilos of frozen lechon and a couple of bags of chicharon. The chicharon was actually out of stock but fresh stock arrived right before we had to board!! It was meant to be :) Can’t wait to go back to Cebu and have another Zubu experience!

  45. Hi MM and Marga, we were also in Cebu last June 8 and had breakfast at Zubuchon Islands stay hotel branch at around 8 am. There was a nice lady who initated to take our picture, by any chance, was that you Marga? :) Anyway, MM we enjoyed our pritchon breakfast. On that same morning, we pre-ordered 3 kilos of fresh lechon which we picked-up the following Sunday ( we had lunch na rin there while waiting for the lechon ). Aside from the delicious food, i must mention the efficient and customer-centered crew. We felt like we were in a fine-dining restaurant. They were attentive, professional and always a step ahead. They even called us ahead of time to inform us regarding the availability of the fresh lechon and gave us the option whether to go for the morning or afternoon lechon batch. Too bad we didn’t see you there. Hope to see you next time! :)

  46. just wondered why some of the posts are password protected already… i felt bad since I usually do my readings whenever I have several days off from work.. hehehe.. hoping that I get to have a password so i can read all posts!! sorry if its out of topic..

  47. Hi Margrethe! Sorry to say it wasn’t us! We stayed overnight on June 8 so our breakfast was actually on the 9th. It would have been nice to have met a fellow marketmanila reader :)

  48. all of you contact numbers in your branches are unreachable. could you please provide the correct and active phone numbers?

  49. Hi Joel, only the Escario branch is closed as we recently opened our much larger Escario Central branch. Other branches have the same telephone numbers. Here they are:

    Zubuchon Mango Avenue 032.239.5697
    Zubuchon Escario Central (temporary cellphone/land unit as no landlines available) 032.511.0005
    Zubuchon Islands Stay Hotel Lapu-Lapu, Mactan 032.505.0130
    Zubuchon HEAD OFFICE 032.236.5264



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