Circa 1900

Good food at an old house, new space in Cebu

Circa 1900 is a good example of adaptive reuse. The restaurant is a renovated turn of the century mansion

Circa 1900 is a good example of adaptive reuse. The restaurant is a renovated turn of the century mansion

Dusk was settling in as the last rays of the fading sun reached out to the mauve sky. And I was excited. The lights have been turned on at the beautiful, turn of the century mansion painted white. The warm colors of the interior and sides were already casting on the wall surface and from a distance, as I was readying my camera, I was in awe at the structure before me.

The mansion, founded by Dr. Jose Castillo is located at the Sanjercasvil Road near JY Square and which actually stands for Sanson, Jereza, Castillo and Villa, the original owners of the land that encompasses a big portion, much bigger than the 2,800 sq. meter lot of Circa 1900. It’s a grand old house that saw many parties and celebrations over the years.

Eya Shrimski, Circa 1900 owner together with her husband, Chef Steve, who whips up the exciting menu (and also owns Canvas, a fusion restaurant at The Terraces in Ayala Center Cebu) renovated the house but in such a way that still respects the old structure. It has functions rooms, a dining area, a piano bar and open kitchen.

I was their guest for the night when I photographed the space of Circa 1900. The ambient mood was light and cozy, inviting. Beautiful wooden flooring, white walls, and wooden yet modern and minimalist furniture filled the space. It’s not claustrophobic as a part of the original interior wall that partitioned into rooms was removed thus giving breathing room and ample space between tables.

As for the food, Eya describes the dishes as traditional with influences of local heritage and uses local ingredients with many coming from the house garden. But it still has fusion cuisine elements that bring a new twist to Filipino dishes.

The smoked marlin salad first surprised me. The presence of humble saba bananas, grilled in this case, was an interesting ingredient that I haven’t seen in other classy restaurants. It was an interesting mix of flavors and tastes. The slightly bitter arugula jived well with the delicate sweetness of the bananas. The smoky (and salty) texture of the marlin was also evident. And just as you are about to have a second fork full, a tempered hint of wasabi makes its presence felt.

I love pasta. When the ravioli was served, I was having difficulty photographing it because of its flat but pretty plating. This is how you consume this lovely dish: start at the edges of the ravioli, enjoying the truffle cream that has been drizzled over. Dab a few times at either the pesto or tomato and capsicum dots at the sides of the plate. Then you work your way to the delicious center made from spinach, truffle oil and garlic. Can’t get enough of the exciting flavor? Start on the next one. And there’s still a third!

Bringhe is a a rice dish usually made from malagkit (sticky rice) and colored yellow with turmeric. I’ve tasted this dish in Laguna and I think it’s also cooked in Pampanga. Another related dish, the arroz a valenciana of Ilongos is a great dish.

Circa 1900s take is sublime. It is savory but heavy. A base of a mixture of bringhe and its dukot (burnt portion after cooking) thus providing a soft and specific texture, strips of chicken, strips of scrambled eggs and scallions forming a pyramid was just memorable. It’s a must try if you should be here at Circa 1900.

And just before I finished the main dish, dessert came on a beautiful white rectangular dish. It was lovely to look at. At one side, the maja blanca cheesecake on a cup made, not from crushed graham crackers but from the popular Cebuano rosquillos biscuits. Opposite it were three colors, pureed blueberry, mango and strawberry. A small ball of whipped cream topped with a mint leaf and drops of the three purees at the center.

The maja blanca cheesecake was scrumptious, delicate. You can definitely identify the maja blanca, a white, jelly like dessert infused with sweet corn popular in Cebu. The pureed fruits also give different flavors. Pair this with the house coffee, a specialty house blend of arabica and barako and you will be smiling.

I did enjoy the food at Circa 1900. It’s not only delicious but to see Cebuano food and ingredients incorporated in the dishes made me smile. Price wise, is above mid range. Couple this in a venue that got great character and you would want to come back. Even if you just have time for their coffee and maja blanca cheesecake!

Marlin Salad: fresh from the house garden with grilled saba bananas, smoked marlin and a dash of wasabi dressing

Marlin Salad: fresh from the house garden with grilled saba bananas, smoked marlin and a dash of wasabi and dill dressing

Ravioli: spinach with truffle oil and garlic, topped with basil leaf and shaved parmesan cheese. It also has a subtle truffle cream. Dotted with tomato paste and capsicum at one side, pesto sauce at the other side

Ravioli: spinach with truffle oil and garlic, topped with basil leaf and shaved parmesan cheese. It also has a subtle truffle cream. Dotted with tomato paste and capsicum at one side, pesto sauce at the other side

Bringhe, a sticky rice dish that is popular in Luzon and has affinities with the paella and Ilonggo's Arroz a valenciana

Bringhe, a sticky rice dish that is popular in Luzon and has affinities with the paella and Ilonggo’s Arroz a valenciana

Maja blanca cheesecake with rosquillos biscuits and puree of blueberry, mango and strawberry

Maja blanca cheesecake with rosquillos base and puree of blueberry, mango and strawberry

A refreshing cocktail  drink

A refreshing cocktail drink

The main dining area of Circa 1900 restaurant

The main dining area of Circa 1900 restaurant

A secluded dining space in another part of the house

A secluded dining space in another part of the house

Circa 1900
Sanjercasvil Road, Gorordo Avenue
Lahug, Cebu City, Philippines
(032) 239 6265 or 0923 279 5616
Open everyday: 11 AM – 12 MN
https://www.facebook.com/CircaCebu

Estan Cabigas is freelance photographer, blogger and writer based in Makati City, the Philippines. A true blue Cebuano, he makes stunning images and meaningful photo stories. His work has been published in local and international publications including National Geographic Magazine, Geo (Germany), Sunday Times Magazine (London) and other publications.

He is also a peripatetic traveler and has traveled to all 81 Philippines provinces.

I’m open for work, collaborations and inquiries, including hotel, restaurant and site features and reviews.

One Comment

  1. Estan Cabigas (@EstanCabigas)
    August 15, 2014 @ 14:17

    Good food at an old house, new space in Cebu: Circa 1900 is a good example of adaptive reuse. The restaurant i… http://t.co/xbUrMKNkks

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