A Legend Returns to Cagayan de Oro: ALAVAR’s SEAFOODS & GRILL

Nov 24, 2014


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Almost twenty years after it first opened its doors to the public in Cagayan de Oro, a legendary restaurant from Zamboanga City has returned to the City of Golden Friendship.


Alavar’s Seafood and Grill has returned, albeit with another slightly different name, but nevertheless with the signature Alavar Sauce and Bagoong still enhancing its simple yet delectable menu of the bounties of the sea.


Alavar's Seafood & Grill


Originally started in their residence in Guiwan, Zamboanga City by siblings Miguel “Jun” and Teresita “Tessie”  Alavar in 1975, it was originally named “Barrio Fiesta” and did not yet carry its signature seafood menu.


In 1978, still sporting its original name, it moved to a newer and swankier venue at the Catis’ residence along Zamboanga’s iconic Cawa-Cawa Boulevard and it was here that the Alavar Seafood House had its first incarnation, along with its signature seafood menu spiced by Alavar Sauce and Bagoong Gata.


In 1983, Tessie moved to Cebu where she opened a new restaurant dubbed “Alavar’s Seafood & Grill” which carried a crab icon as differentiated from the Jun Alavar branch of the budding chain which displayed the fish icon and “Alavar Seafood House” name.


Jun set up two branches in Manila along Jupiter Street, Makti and West Triangle along Timog Avenue in Quezon City managed by his children Marissa, Bebet, Cocoy, Menchit and Dondon while Tessie and daughters Marites Sangciangko-Uy and Ria Ledesma set up shop first in Archbishop Reyes Street, later moving to Gorordo Avenue and thence to Lahug.


In 1994, Jun’s daughter Cocoy Alvarez and her husband Vincent set up the first incarnation of the “Alavar Seafood House” along Don A. Velez St. (now the site of the Generic Pharmacy bodega) near Gen. A. Luna street. Meantime, Menchit set up another branch in Davao City just across Victoria Plaza.


Menchit and Cocoy were both friends in Zamboanga from way back, we all went to Ateneo de Zamboanga University and me and my family often enjoyed a taste of home practically next door to our then apartment along A. Luna St. Our favorite was “Alavar Seafood Rice” for only P50 which served you a plate full of rice a la Arroz Valenciana with squid, fish and other bits of seafood. 


I also managed to drop by Menchit’s place in Davao when I was visiting and had some grand times there with our compoblanos Edmond and Jackie Bernardo.


However, the Velez restaurant closed shop after two years when the couple moved to the U.S. and the Davao branch followed suit when Menchit also left for the US.


Our family had to content ourselves with Alavar’s Bagoong Gata which we could buy from compoblano Manny Aliñaon’s “La Ilongga” restaurant and the occasional Alavar Sauce I managed to buy from “Alavar’s Seafood House” in Tetuan (now managed by my college classmate Marissa “Bibing” Alfaro) in one of my rare trips “back home.”


Meantime, Tessie and Ria moved to Iligan in the 1990s and opened another restaurant there which operated until a few years ago when Tess decided to close shop and join Ria in Cagayan de Oro who is now the mall manager of Limketkai Mall.


Fortunately for us compoblanos and addicts of the Alavar Sauce and Bagoong Gata, another opportunity offered itself when a space in Buena Oro, Aluba, Macasandig belonging to a friend of Tessie now residing in the US became available. In September 8 this year, the latest incarnation of Alavar’s Seafood and Grill opened to the public.


A Feast Fit for a King


So what makes the Alavar marquee so special? The famous Alavar sauce and Bagoong Gata, that’s what! Used generously with its signature crustaceans like crabs, shrimps and the flagship curacha (spanner crab) from Zamboanga, these are best eaten ‘mano-mano’ (kamayan) to savor the nuances of flavor the interaction of crab, shrimp and curacha meat with the sauce brings forth.


At present, curacha (depending on the price from Zamboanga and the weight) would cost you PhP480 for 500 grams which is good for four people. Shrimps and crabs are sourced locally and cost P360-380/500 gms. Spiced with the Alavar Sauce and Bagoong Gata, these crustaceans are magically transformed to an otherworldly experience which brings back patrons back again and again for another bite.


Also highly recommended are the baked clams or tahong whose delicate flavors  are brought out when enhanced with garlic and the famous Alavar Bagoong Gata. Other appetizers include green mango with Alavar Bagoong, kinilaw and crispy shrimps.


Baked clams


For those Bisdaks who cannot start any meal without soup, try their clam and pochero soups.


Other specialties include crispy pata, tangigue (ala pobre, grilled or fried); boneless bangus (ala pobre, grilled), squid inihaw, pork inihaw, pork spareribs and lechon kawali.


The spartan menu also lists Adobong Kangkong and Bicol Express while giving the diner a choice of plain, garlic or the iconic Alavar Rice.


Alavar's Bagoong and Bagoong Gata


For those who wish to extend their gustatory experience to their kitchens, you can buy Alavar Sauce in half kilo packs for only P175 and Alavar Bagoong Gata for only P90 per bottle. For those who find Macasandig a tad far, these two items can also be bought at the Pasalubong Center at the East Wing of Limketkai Mall.


Already, Tessie’s old customers from Iligan have gotten wind of the new establishment and are coming all the way from there to once more experience the incomparable taste of the crustaceans.


Operating hours


Alavar’s Seafood and Grill is open from 9:30am-2:00pm, 5:30-10pm Mondays to Saturdays. All major credit cards are accepted,


–          I N D N J C –

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