F Waterfront Hotels: your culinary stopovers in Cebu (updated) - jeepneyjinggoy

Waterfront Hotels: your culinary stopovers in Cebu (updated)

How to enjoy Cebu during long layovers

Mactan Cebu International Airport. Long layovers and delayed flights? It is what it is. But what you do with your time is in your hands. Don’t mope. Have a feast! 

Cebu has a myriad of culinary offerings that will take your mind off the not-so-pleasant-incidents the airlines are causing. Some of it is inside the airport terminal— various local lechon brands and delicacies, coffee shops, and restaurants that offer decent meals. Everything is pricier, that’s a given. 

Here’s my all-time, winning solution. I make my way to the hotel just right across the street- to the Waterfront Airport Hotel. What’s inside? Cafe Uno. It's a more comfortable and quiet space where freshly brewed coffee is good, connection to the internet is free, and a menu that lists fab food choices. And if I come at the right time, there’s a buffet spread for breakfast and merienda, occasionally, lunch and dinner, too, if the hotel’s occupancy is high. Wiser? Indeed. Plus, it’s value for your money. 

If you love Pinoy food like I do, then you’re in luck. The current chef is pushing regional cuisine to the forefront, in fact, this is his advocacy. When it comes to Binisaya cuisine, Chef June Fernandez goes back to his roots and revisits his grandparents’ love for this kind of cooking. Now, as the new executive chef of Waterfront Airport Hotel and Casino Mactan, he aims to elevate the dining experience by highlighting the heartwarming Filipino dishes and adding a modern twist to these classics.

Waterfront Airport Hotel's Executive Chef June Fernandez

It’s always a brilliant idea to befriend chefs because they can always whip up something special. I will speak from experience having ‘crossed the street’ several times and chose to while my time in between flights from Davao to Boracay, Tokyo and Seoul. 

The chef said the Waterfront Airport Hotel’s menu is in the process of changing. From Chef June’s kitchen came “Baka Mamen,” his version of mami/ramen with chunks of tender beef cooked for hours and poured with rich-tasting soup. This dish instantly gained following upon its release in a pop-up market.

Baka Mamen

Yet to be introduced on the menu (and I pray it does) are Pinoy favorites that will make anyone drool. The “Keviche” is one. It’s the chef’s take on ceviche and kinilaw, a refreshing dish of fresh fish cubes in thick coconut milk, which gives it a rich, nutty, sweet flavor. Green pepper gives the dish a light kick of spice and the crispy dilis offers a nice contrast of flavor and texture to the dish. 

Chef June makes his own Chorizo Cebu using the family’s heritage recipe. It uses lesser cuts of fat but still retains the flavor expected of the dish. You’ll catch this at the breakfast buffet spread.


Chorizo Cebu

Who’s not in love with Cansi, the uniquely Ilongo dish that always requires an extra order of rice (admit it)? The chef can make a mean one. He sources out the ingredients fresh, including the batuan for a truly authentic dish. The beef shank is cooked for hours until tender and broth is thickened. Of course, the bone marrow completes the dish’s flavor. Sinfully delicious. 

If ever the Cansi should fall on a seasonal offering or you fancy one of Chef June’s dishes you’re in love with but are not on the a la carte menu yet, this is the time you put your charm to work. Ask the chef kindly. If the kitchen has the ingredients, he will gladly whip it up for you. This is how the chef and Waterfront extend their hospitality. “It’s the little things that matter most,” he says. Small move or a big one, I call it a winning move, and it’s how one increases its loyalty base in the hospitality business.


If your layover is longer, like a night or two, don’t stray far and request for a room by the poolside. This part of the airport hotel exudes an resort vibe in the island. 

Or how about heading to Waterfront Cebu City, where the hotel houses three of Cebu’s specialty restaurants, Tin Gow (Chinese), La Gondola (Italian) and Mizu (Japanese)? 

At La Gondola, Chef Randy Lagas showcases seasonal dishes that excite the resto’s regulars and perhaps you, too! The brick oven-baked pizza (Carnivora, an all meat pizza) and house-made Pappardelle pasta (Pappardelle Filanti) are in order if it’s your first time. The pizzas and pasta are the bestsellers in this Italian joint. It's delicioso and can be very addicting.

Waterfront Cebu City La Gondola Chef Randy Lagas

Pappardelle Filanti

Don’t miss the Carpaccio di polpo con aglio olio e crema di limone (Octopus carpaccio with roasted garlic, extra virgin olive oil & lemon cream). When sliced paper thin, it makes the smokey dish awesome! 

The chef’s Italian Lamb Stew I give top score for its rich flavor and tenderness. Cooked for four hours with aromatics and spices, the chef leaves no trace of gaminess. It’s yum!

Carpaccio di polpo 

The chef’s Italian Lamb Stew I give top score for its rich flavor and tenderness. Cooked for four hours with aromatics and spices, the chef leaves no trace of gaminess. Yum!

Italian Lamb Stew

Desserts in this place are divine. It’s dusted with sweetness, never overwhelming. Whether it’s the coffee-cocoa concoction of Tiramisu, the light gelatinous fare of panna cotta or the Pistachio Gelato, it’s a truly delightful way to close an Italian meal. Order the three, that’s buono x 3.

La Gondola's dessert trio- Panna Cotta, Tiramisu & Pistachio Ice Cream

Mizu offers a new kind of dining experience and transport you to Japan — the omakase. The chef takes the reins and prepares a special meal with the season’s fresh ingredients.

Waterfront Cebu City Mizu Chef Ken Imamura

Sit down and let Chef Ken Imamura surprise you. Here’s a sample. A curated 5-course meal starts with the Tofu Cheese, a truly delectable appetizer. Next was the Shinoda Chakin (shinoda is a dish simmered in a dashi stock flavored with soy sauce, sake, mirin and sugar), chicken wrapped in a tofu sheet with broth, the warmth of which opened up my appetite. Following next, the fresh and almost creamy slice of Sake Sashimi. 

To cleanse the palate, the Cold Noodles Soup to prepare you for the chef’s main course: Ebi Tempura (perfectly cooked prawn) and very tender U.S. Beef Teppanyaki. And to cap the meal, the Green Tea Ice cream. Oishi!

Which dish I loved most? All! It was a meal that took me to a favorite Asian destination, Japan.

Tofu Cheese Yako

Shinoda Chakin

Sake Sashimi

Never leave this city hotel without sitting down on Chef Low’s table at Tin Gow. The man and the restaurant is lauded and has won a good number of accolades.

Chef Jimmy Low of Tin Gow

Although the menu lists mouthwatering entries, never miss out on the classic dishes. The chef’s take on the Sweet and Sour Pork (thin slices of pork cooked to a crisp and drizzled with sweet and sour sauce) and the Salt and Pepper Squid are two of the must-eat.

Crispy Squid at Tin Gow

Sweet & Sour Pork at Tin Gow

With little time left before I take off, I will have to miss Chef Low’s cooking at Tin Gow. Not. They wrapped up my favorite Sweet & Sour Pork for me to take home to Davao. 

Now, catch your flight home wearing a smile of contentment while rubbing the tummy with glee. It’s always wise to make the best of circumstances that’s beyond anyone’s control. So when you suddenly have time on your hands arriving at the Cebu airport, make it a culinary stopover. 

Here’s a tip: Why not stay longer and stay a night or two. Get comfortable and don’t rush through the delights of your culinary stopover? The rooms at the Waterfront Airport Hotel and Waterfront Cebu City are quite comfortable. I slept snugly.

A night in Waterfront Airport Hotel

Two nights in Waterfront Cebu City

Also published in Manila Bulletin: Cebu, your culinary stopover,

(Originally posted on July 17, 2023, with updates on December 8, 2023)

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The gentlemen of Waterfront hotels in Cebu you should be familiar with.

With Waterfront Cebu GM BenHur Caballes

Waterfront RM  Bryan Yves Lasalas

Waterfront Airport Hotel GM Rex Yap