Bistro food always intrigues me. What makes it different from a restaurant is that it highlights a chef’s work, creating unique dishes that fuse influence and flavor, creating palate-pleasing entrées that strike up conversations, making that dining experience memorable.
One such place is CENA Modern Bistro at the Home Crest Hotel in front of SM Ecoland in Davao City. It had barely opened when it instantly made many patrons when it hosted the high-powered meetings of visitors to the nearby Matina Enclaves where then-incoming President Rodrigo Duterte was holding office.
What makes many visitors return is the interesting food selection. A notable snack is the vegetarian pizza served on a cutting board, a tasty work of art blending awesome vegetables on a semi-thick crust.
As I am often partial to checking out how the fusion vibe is applied to old Davao favorites, we ordered the Chicken Chimichurri, a fried chicken entrée with Argentinian Chimichurri with a side of coleslaw and French beans that give the otherwise ordinary crisp a light and tropical, tangy zing. Exotic! The other Gulf staple is the grilled tuna, lightly seasoned and properly grilled (not dry). It’s heavenly when paired with the refreshing chimichurri, an ear of boiled corn and marble potatoes, and a cherry tomato while resting on a bed of white rice.
Of course, what is Davao without the Shrimp and Pomelo Salad? This time it is bedded with romaine and green lettuce and comes with a nice Asian dressing and topped with shaved parmesan. Lovely.
The place though, is still small. Joined with the hotel lobby, it still feels too much like a business hotel coffee shop than a specific dining destination. As patrons continue to flock to it, though, we are confident that a bigger, more deliberate space will do justice to the kitchen’s magic. On the top floor perhaps? The hotel, being the solitary tall building on its street, will grant a splendid view of the city at night, giving the entrées a deserving ambience. Who knows?
In all, the bistro is plates of fusion properly done. CENA’s dishes will be talked about for years to come, and with a price point in the family dining range, my returns to savor more are assured.