(a.k.a. I may not be full Chinese, but I spent months in my mother’s womb with dim sum, so I have authority on these things, okay?)
Seriously, ask and she’ll tell you how she had Chinese food every day she was pregnant with me.
(She also asked me to let everyone know it was so much cheaper back in the day, so you’re welcome, Mom. Love you.)
Having spent my literal formative months alongside a food-gendered twin made up of dim sum, it makes so much sense how I always felt a connection to it, much to the point that I’ve never gotten tired of it. I could have dim sum straight for one week for lunch, and wouldn’t mind having some more on the following Monday. It helps that dim sum is readily accessible in Cebu, with fast-food chains making it available at nearly all hours of the day despite traditionally being served during lunchtime only, a practice that Chinese restaurants still do until now.
But even with so many existing options, a new addition to Cebu’s vibrant dining landscape is always welcome. When there were murmurs of a really good Chinese restaurant opening at the Marco Polo Plaza Cebu some years back, you can only imagine my excitement.
Fast forward to today, and the Seafood King meets the Queen City at Hai Shin Lou Cebu.
(and if that last sentence sounds vaguely familiar, you’ve probably heard it in their radio advertisements. I came up with it when I first posted about Hai Shin Lou, and their Communications team asked to quote it. Cool points to Ravenclaw!)
Hai Shin Lou is a Cantonese restaurant that specializes in seafood (its name literally translates to ‘seafood king’). It opened its first branch in Makati City back in 2003, and has become one of Manila’s must-visits for authentic Chinese food. Its Cebu branch is only the second outlet in 15 years—just how lucky are we?
Since it was launched in August 2018, I’ve been to Hai Shin Lou Cebu for a grand total of three times—a number that the self-professed Chinese food lover in me should be ashamed of, but all my visits have been memorable that I can only look forward to more.
The first one was for the official launching of Hai Shin Lou, and they were still so new at that time, that visit felt more like a preview than anything else. No xiao long bao yet, but I was introduced to the most amazing pork siomai in the city. If you thought you had siomai, wait ’til you’ve tasted Hai Shin Lou’s.
First impressions certainly matter and all, but I was after that famed xiao long bao and will not stop until I’ve tasted it. Months later, and I decided to indulge myself for my birthday with Hai Shin Lou’s lunch specials, and then some.
Considering that Hai Shin Lou has literal hundreds of items on the menu, their lunch specials are the best way to ease yourselves into their offerings. These specials, good for two, four, or six, are sets that are a curated mix of their most popular dishes, along with some surprises. We chose a set that included Peppercorn Squid, as it’s one of Hai Shin Lou’s bestsellers, and it also included Fried Noodles with Beef Slices, something that I wouldn’t have ordered for myself, but definitely would now that I’ve tasted how good it is. Of course, we had to add some dim sum—the xiao long bao is worth the months-long wait, by the way; the siomai (of course), and some hakaw.
You’d think my birthday would be the most memorable lunch of them all, but it was a particular afternoon with Communications Manager Manna Alcaraz that proved the most epic of my Hai Shin Lou sojourns as of yet.
This time around, Marco Polo Plaza Cebu’s affable General Manager Brian Connelly graciously arranged for a tour of the Hai Shin Lou kitchens—us being the first in the media to do so, so I’m told.
Truth be told, I wasn’t sure I was the best person to be granted the privilege of the first ever kitchen tour. I don’t really cook and didn’t think I had an appreciation of kitchens—turns out, this actually made me the perfect visitor. Not only was I impressed by how everything was so clean and systematic, but it also opened my eyes to how much work goes into preparing all the food that I enjoy so much.
The thing about that kitchen tour though? All the good chefs insisted they serve us the food they demonstrated preparing… in addition to everything we already ordered! Here are some of them:
And one more thing that really sealed the deal on Hai Shin Lou becoming one of my favorite Chinese restaurants in Cebu:
I’m looking forward to returning to Hong Kong and Macau (and staying at the Marco Polo HongKong Hotel!) next month, especially for all the egg tarts I will be having. But it’s nice to know I can now get some great ones here—as authentic as they get—without necessarily having to fly in and out of Cebu.
With Chinese culture so deeply embedded in Cebuano heritage, it’s only fitting that we get great Chinese restaurants, and Hai Shin Lou certainly is one of them. I could go on here, but well, all I’m saying is that if you want to live your life with no regrets, get off my blog and dine there now.
HAI SHIN LOU CEBU
Open 11:30AM to 2:30PM, and 6:00PM to 10:30PM
Marco Polo Plaza Cebu
Cebu Veteran’s Drive, Nivel Hills
(032) 234 8189 | e-mail