Cucina Higala showcases Northern Mindanao heritage cuisine

The resto’s facade is as impressive as its delicious food.

There’s nothing quite like bonding with family and friends over good food.

In the case of Cucina Higala, it’s not just good food, it’s excellent modern Filipino and heritage cuisine. The restaurant, located in Cagayan de Oro, prides itself for having dishes that are mostly classical in taste but presented in a more creative way—from tweaking the cooking method a bit to upgrading some of the ingredients or just being more playful with plating and presentation. The taste, however, remains true to tradition. 

For example, the restaurant’s beef nilaga uses crispy fried wagyu tadyang, with the soup served on a separate container on the side. The sisig is served in lumpia form. The pork binagoongan, which uses crispy fried lechon kawaliis drizzled with bagoong sauce, topped with finely chopped green mango.

Cozy and homey, yet elegant.

When they put up the restaurant, they wanted something that will showcase Northern Mindanao heritage cuisine, while introducing a modern approach to it.

“Higala” means “friend,” a fitting homage to the city where the restaurant is located, as Cagayan de Oro is often referred to as the “City of Golden Friendship.” 

The restaurant sources majority of its ingredients from local suppliers and farmers to keep the authenticity of the dishes. They also use some local ingredients like the tabon-tabon for the kinilaw and the kalabo (native oregano) for their chicken surol.

Some of the most exciting dishes at the restaurant include the humbasinuglaw, and chicken surol of Camaguin, and beef rendang of Marawi. There’s also the sumptuous kare-kare and palabok.

Cucina Higala also serves binaki, a local corn cake that is usually sold in the streets. For the restaurant, they put a twist on the native dessert, using premium ingredients and baking the corn instead.

The resto re-opens its doors on June 21

Another noteworthy item in the menu is the Magic Potion, a drink made from blue ternate flower extract. Served in a pitcher, the drink is blue in color until it turns purple once a glass of calamansi is poured into it.

But it’s not the just the food that has endeared Cucina Higala to the locals since it opened in November 2016. The restaurant’s cozy and homey feel is a little bit like Spanish old houses, which brings a touch of nostalgia. 

They sourced the long hard wood tables and even plates from local suppliers. There are several artwork from local artists that peppers the establishment, including a huge mural that depicts Kagay-anon traditions.

The restaurant is big enough to accommodate up to 180 people. Portion sizes are perfect for sharing two to three persons, ideal for family and group events.

Cucina Higala reopens its doors on June 21, Father’s Day from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. There’s a 20-percent discount on food plus tokens for dads who come in the restaurant.

Kenneth M. del Rosario
Kenneth has been writing for the Philippine Daily Inquirer for more than 17 years, covering travel, food, motoring, technology, real estate, and business, among others.