While all good things eventually come to an end, great things flirt with the idea of immortality. Etched in one’s memory, the tales grow stronger through the passage of tradition and stories told.

It’s one reason why “Mom’s pork adobo” or “Dad’s roast beef” is deemed the best; all 30 children in a classroom claim it.

It has been days since I had the fortune of being invited to an intimate dinner showcasing the Whimsical Set Menu at Tea of Spring in Shangri-La’s Mactan Island Resort and Spa. The special menu, available until Aug. 13, 2023, is part of Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts’ “Find Your Shangri-La” campaign, which invites guests to “embark on a whimsical journey of personal joy within Shangri-La’s exquisite properties.”

As I’ve mentioned in past articles, Cebuanos are knowledgeable and discerning when it comes to Chinese cuisine. From delectable dim sum and tea to Cantonese roasts and stir-fried delights, the Chinese culinary repertoire may hold little to no surprises.

Therefore, when Chinese food undergoes reinvention that pushes the boundaries without losing its essence, we applaud it. The invited guests and I sat in wonder as plate after plate was served, curated by the hotel’s executive Chinese chef, Liu Zhijun. This particular set aimed to showcase the flavors of Cebu and its neighboring islands.

The appetizer, consisting of Bohol-farmed prawn and Cebuano mangoes, wasabi fish roe, wasabi cream, malunggay leaves, and kataifi noodles, was exquisite, pure and flavorful—all wrapped up in a neat roll.

The play on textures was evident, with the plump, minced prawns encased and “protected” by a layer of fried kataifi noodles.

The soup, double-boiled abalone, dried scallop, spiny sea cucumber in chicken broth, with coconut flesh in a coconut shell, offered a hearty flavor familiar to Filipinos, thanks to the combination of chicken broth and coconut.

However, the addition of seafood elevated this dish to a savory stratosphere. We spent the break between this course and the next, waiting for our feet to touch the ground again, so to speak.

Both dishes paired perfectly with the 2022 E Series Chardonnay.

Next came the trio of main courses:

The red lapu-lapu (grouper) fillet, served with golden broth, crispy rice, fresh coriander, shrimp roe and chrysanthemum sense. The fish was tender, and the broth, made from pureed shrimp with a hint of pumpkin, harmoniously bound all the flavors together.

The poached lobster and seafood, accompanied with Perigord black truffle, egg white curd, master broth and asparagus with gold leaves, was another star of the show. It was my first time experiencing lobster with egg white, and I must say, the dish succeeded in extracting the natural flavors from the ingredients, leaving a lasting impression on the palate.

The last of the mains was the smoky A5 Wagyu cube roll, served with Merlot black pepper sauce, garlic chips and prepared with cherry wood smoke. I had to remind myself that I was dining in a Chinese restaurant, as the black pepper sauce and garlic wonderfully complemented the tender beef.

All main courses were paired with the 2020 Wakefield Cabernet Sauvignon.

Lastly, dessert arrived—a mango and passion fruit creation served with strawberry pearls, peach gum, and matcha crumbs. It brought the dining experience full circle, offering a plate filled with various textures. The sweet conclusion was accentuated by a glass of Laurus Moscato 2020.

Reservations are highly encouraged for Cebu gourmands eager to savor the Whimsical Set Menu at Shangri-La’s Mactan Island Resort and Spa. Diners who wish to explore the menu at their own pace can also opt for the à la carte experience.