Review: STK Ta Bai Sa Paolito’s Seafood House Cebu

My family and I spent Christmas 2012 in Cebu City. If you’ve been following my Mindanaoan blog for a while, you may have noticed that my family and I regularly go to the Queen City of the South – not only because one of my brothers is now based there but also because we have business connections and plainly because we just love Cebu! :) And whenever we’re in town, I always see to it that we do, eat, try, discover something new.

This time around, I heard about a homey, family-run restaurant located at the Cebu Capitol area that accordingly served reasonably priced sutukil. SuTuKil or STK stands for Sinugba (grilled), Tinola (soup) and Kinilaw (ceviche). So off we went to STK Ta Bai at Paolito’s Seafood House along Orchid Street for dinner to see what the fuss was all about.

STK Ta Bai Cebu is not an easy restaurant to find especially if you’re not in the know. In fact, the driver of the taxi we rode wasn’t familiar with Orchid Street, Capitol area. I took my chances and asked him to go to the front of Capitol and then follow the Osmena road. I then asked him to take the first right. I counted three blocks and spotted Hotel Asia on my right. Good thing the hotel guard was helpful. He told us that STK Ta Bai was nearby and that we just had to take a left turn. It didn’t take us long to see the bright neon signage.

Before STK Ta Bai Cebu at Paolito’s Seafood House became what it is today, it was first the ancestral home of the Alcover clan. Hence, you can see a lot of old, refurbished furniture, antiques, memorabilia as well as religious statues, pictures and figurines. So be prepared to see several large framed photos of religious figures. The lighting and interior decor were okay. Made me remember Ilustrado Restaurant in Intramuros and Cafe Adriatico in Malate.

What used to be the garage is now the “waiting area” slash grilling area slash display area of some seafood meals. We waited for several minutes. A sweaty waiter, who wore a white uniform that seemed two sizes too big, led us to a table near the door.

One thing you will notice in STK Ta Bai Cebu is that the floor area is too small for the number of tables and chairs. So the place looked pretty cramped. Another thing that I did not like – the waiters obviously lacked training on how to talk to customers. As it was our first time there, I thought our waiter could recommend some dishes. Instead, he appeared unfocused. It was if he was in a hurry to get our orders. I hope the owners could do something about this.

Speaking of the owners, I also noticed that the owners appeared to be “hands-on.” They roamed around, checked on customers and monitored the waiters. It was okay at first but later on, I noticed that the husband already stood at one corner and looked at everyone with hawk eyes. The wife, on the other hand, reprimanded two waiters who apparently let 3 people sit in a table meant for 8. I sort of felt bad for the waiters. They looked pretty under-staffed that evening. Made me realize why our waiter appeared sweaty and unfocused.

Anyways, our orders finally arrived after about 20 minutes.

STK Ta Bai Cebu Scallops

Baked scallops. Php 135.00. This was good except that the scallops were awfully small and tasted too butter-y.

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STK Ta Bai Sa Paolito's Seafood House Cebu

Baked tahong. Good for 2 people only since these were really small. I forgot the exact price but I think this was around Php 90.

STK Ta Bai Sa Paolito's Seafood House Cebu

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Crabs in chili sauce. This was one of the only two dishes that I really liked. Php 295.00

STK Ta Bai Sa Paolito's Seafood House Cebu

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Black pepper crabs. Wasn’t too happy with this dish as the taste of pepper was just too overpowering.

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Grilled tuna panga. Everyone loved this one. The price will depend on the size of the tuna panga (tuna jaw). Since we were self-proclaimed experts in looking for fish meat in pangas, this was devoured quickly and pretty well :D

STK Ta Bai Sa Paolito's Seafood House Cebu

Several minutes after we finished our dinner, we asked for our bill. Lo and behold, it took them a really darn long time to process it. While we refrained from complaining, the people seated beside our table did. Oh boy. Again, I reckon the spotty service was because they were under-staffed.

I guess the good thing about STK Ta Bai Cebu, though, is that the prices of the dishes are pretty affordable. Add to that the fact that they’re located within city limits. No need to go all the way to Lapu Lapu Shrine area in Mactan just to enjoy sutukil.

I’m not sure if my family and I will visit STK Ta Bai sa Paolito’s Seafood House Cebu next time we’re in Cebu City. I’m also not sure if it’s a good idea to recommend them. I guess all I can say is – hopefully if the management can improve their service and food somehow, customers will return. Nonetheless, a visit to this Cebu City restaurant may still be worth your time.

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