Cebu Secret Chows: At The Street of Priests

       One of my first culinary inspirations is my Tita Issa Cusi, my dad's best friend's wife. Actually, both she and her husband (Tito Mark) have always been foodies and they both cook really well. I visited her lately and we just went on and on about food and all these places to eat in Cebu. She's been to most of the places on my "Cebu's Secret Dining Spots from A-Z" list. For someone who's not originally from Cebu, she knows a lot about the good eats in our city. Don't you envy her? Haha. 

     So since we couldn't stop talking about food, we planned to go on a food trip together soon after that. She introduced me to Cafe Elysa, one of the places on my Cebu's Secret Dining Spots list. Elysa Cafe is located at Pari-an, (thus, "street of priests") Zamora St., right around the corner of the police station. I really wasn't familiar with this place and I was really interested in what they offered considering their location.

       Set for lunch, we headed to Cafe Elysa on a scorching hot day but I was so hyped. Parking was just by the roadside and I couldn't wait to get out of the car and get in those doors. The facade of the cafe matched its surroundings and had an inviting aura to it. I loved the stained glass windows and the old Spanish-inspired ambience. As I stepped inside, I was greeted by a simple, clean interior. I really don't have any problem with restaurants that keep their setting simple as long as they focus on the quality of their food and service. Their walls were also adorned with beautiful local artworks! It gives an air of pride in local talent. And i love that smell. Or is it just the good food from the kitchen? Haha. :)

portrait of the owner and her direct family
i love the interior of their comfort room: warm and comforting indeed
their counter with the kitchen behind it and a huge blackboard where the daily/weekly (not sure which) specials are written on
their hand washing area
a wall of local artworks by Cebuano artist Undo Alcoseba
      The Aznar's are originally from Pari-an and  Elysa Cafe is an original property of the Aznar's. The owner studied culinary in New York and brought home the knowledge and skills he gained. The menu offers local classics such as Kinilaw, Kalderetang Kanding, Dinuguan to name a few and Mediterranean-Asian dishes. Browsing the menu, I was quite apalled that it was pricey and when this is the case, my expectations tend to rise so I expected quality food.

      I do admire the comfort room because it was adequately spacious, very clean and accommodating. One thing people should know about assessing a restaurant is also the set up of the restroom because it reflects the cleanliness of the restaurant. 

      By the way, my little sister tagged along on this trip because, well, she loves being with me. She's not much of a foodie though. Tita and I ordered a soup from the specials on the board. Here's a list of what we ordered:
  • Potato and Mushroom Soup with Tarragon (special)
  • Creamy Tomato Mint Soup
  • Spaghettini with Tomato and Basil
  • Elysa Spring Rolls
  • Fish in Banana Leaf with Seafood Sambal and Lemon Basil 
  • Banana Fritters with Local Lime and Caramel Sauce
potato and mushroom soup w/ tarragon

I loved this soup. It was taken from the specials board menu. The consistency, texture and flavor were delicately pleasant. Fresh mushrooms were used and the tarragon did not overpower the other flavors. The soup was not purely smooth either, there were fine chunks of potato which gave it a pleasing texture. 

creamy tomato mint soup

This soup had a very mild hint of mint and it was not a heavy cream soup. We actually paired it with the pasta and it worked well together. 

Elysa Spring Rolls
 These were luscious! I loved that the vermicelli/crystal noodles weren't overcooked, it was moist inside, the wrapper was not too thick and it was served crisp and hot. This dish is known to be one of Cafe Elysa's specialties.

Spaghettini with Tomato and Basil
Tita Issa likes her pasta simple. She loves pomodoro. This order was impressive. The serving was hefty which justified the price and we loved that this wasn't saturated with any sauce yet it wasn't dry at all. Amplified with fresh tomatoes and fresh basil, this was such a palate tickler. We could also tell that they used freshly grated parmesan cheese. TWINNER!

Fish in Banana Leaf with Seafood Sambal and Lemon Basil     

The fish used for this dish was Red Snapper. We noticed that it was a fleshy meat, almost similar to crab meat but more compact. Sambal is an Asian chili-based sauce which is normally used as a condiment. This dish was not spicy at all though. It may look small but the texture quality of the fish actually makes you realize along your bites that the portion is quite heavy.

Banana Fritters with Local Lime and Caramel Sauce
 I'm particularly not a fan of breaded or fried items but Tita Issa was craving for fried bananas somehow so she ordered this for our dessert. I was expecting something like pinaypay or battered bananas so this surprised me when it was served. The breading was actually dessicated coconut and I love how they used the local lime (calamansi) as the garnish. The banana was soft and naturally sweet on the inside and the crisp coco exterior gave an interesting tropical flavor to this dish. The caramel sauce had a light consistency and had a zest to it. I'm guessing it was infused with local lime zest or rinds which gave it an interesting twist. So this dessert impressed and pleased me. And I love when desserts make the happy ending to my meal. 

my sister, Joanna :)
Joanna, Me, Tita Issa and Ms. Joy Uy (standing)

      So I recommend Elysa Cafe to gourmets who are in for an adventure beginning with the directions to the location until the actual service and quality of the food. This was a small place having a seating capacity of about 25-30 people. The menu offers common local fare but do expect quality upon service and it's worth your money. 

Price Ranges:
appetizers - 85 - 195 php
main course - 295 - 495 php
dessert - 45 - 145 php
Photos courtesy of Ms. Joy UyTita Issa Cusi and yours truly. 

You may also like Elysa Cafe's page on facebook. click here

Thank you so much for this lunch, Tita! 


Babe for Food
your new BFF in Cebu dining!


  1. i actually saw this place while riding a jeepney and I wanted to go! :P hehe Tita Cusi is our churchmate. what a small small world!

  2. Really, love? Mka buslot man ni bulsa. HAHAHA. :)

    Yeah! What a small world! Hehe. We're really meant to know each other, love. ;)

    I MISS YOU! let's hang out sometime soon, you busy butterfly! :)

  3. Why won't this blog entry come out when I google about Cafe Elysa? I've been meaning to check this place for quite a while now (since summer) but when I google it only old entries come out so I figured it might be closed already... or not recommended?

    Will check it real soon. Thanks for sharing :)

    I love hidden restaurants here in the city. This one is different coz it's in downtown!

  4. You gotta try their adobo with buwad and flambe next time! ITS THE BEST. TRUST ME!!

    1. Interesting! Thanks for the tips and for dropping by! :D