KALAW is the Philippine Rufous hornbill, a favorite of a Singaporean bird fancier who has opened a restaurant in Nivel Hills featuring food of his native city. The restaurant, along Holy Family Road, sits atop his aviary.

The menu says it offers “a taste of authentic Singaporean cuisine that will surely tickle your taste buds.” And tickle it will, with the Kalaw version of sambal sauce as a choice to go with its meat, seafood and vegetable dishes. Chef Dexter Gojoco explains that sambal sauce is chili-based made with peppers, garlic, onions, lemongrass and turmeric, with each chef having his own version of it. The Kalaw version is Gojoco’s and the owner’s take on the sauce.

In Kalaw, one can have sambal sauce with all its menu offering: Mixed vegetables, grilled beef loin, grilled chicken, pork chop, belly or ribs, mixed seafood, grilled lapulapu, grilled stuffed squid, grilled snapper, mixed vegetable skewers etc. Of course, Kalaw also has Singaporean chili crab, but unfortunately this is subject to the availability of the live seafood. For those who do not like or who cannot tolerate spicy food, there are other sauces to go along with all the grilled offerings of Kalaw. Instead of sambal, one can opt to order one’s choice with creamy butter sauce, creamy garlic garlic sauce or sweet and sour sauce (take note, the last sauce can also be sambal based, so one has to make sure it does not have sambal).

In Kalaw, kangkong tastes different with sambal sauce—spicy, a bit crunchy and sweet. And the grilled chicken with creamy butter sauce is absolutely delicious paired off with either chicken rice or beef rice. Stuffed grilled squid—a favorite of Kalaw diners—is great, whether with sambal sauce or sweet sour sauce. The mixed seafood in chili crab sauce is a must-try, too. Something new in the menu is seafood hokkien mee, a noodle dish that is not spicy. To go with all this spicy and not spicy food, one can have a variety of fruit or vegetable juices, sodas or alcoholic drinks.

Those who prefer to have their food with alcoholic drinks usually linger in the outdoor patio of the restaurant, which has a great view of the city and Mactan at night. In the air-conditioned part of the restaurant, the furniture is composed of wooden high tables and wooden high armchairs. In this area, you can just possibly hear bird songs or bird calls (one might also be able to take a peek at the aviary through the wooden flooring or better still, one can go down to the aviary if management permits and enjoy the sight of many kinds of birds).

Chef Gojoco revealed he is from Baybay, Leyte, and did not have any formal culinary schooling. But he was a trainee at a culinary establishment and worked for several years in Manila before a two-year stint in Malaysia where he learned the basics of Malay cooking, which is similar to some of Singaporean cooking, Singapore being a city of diverse population—Chinese, Malay and Indian. Before he came back to the Philippines, he worked for a brief time in Brunei. Kalaw is his first time to work in Cebu.

Kalaw is open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m daily.