The Best New Seafood Restaurant in Boracay Is Worth the Five-Year Wait

Sea.Food by Chele does not disappoint.
IMAGE SEA.FOOD BY CHELE

Boracay has never been lacking in good places to eat for every kind of budget, so what’s celebrated Spanish chef Chele Gonzalez doing opening another one all the way in Bulabog Beach? 

Aqua Resort in Boracay. The structure in the middle is Sea.Food by Chele restaurant

Photo by PJ Cana.

Well for one thing, it’s called Sea.Food, so off the bat you already know what to expect. The island has its fair share of decent dining outlets devoted entirely to seafood—from the paluto restaurants near Station 3 to the excellent Mama’s Fish House all the way in Diniwid Beach—but this new enterprise from the mind and hands that brought us the popular Gallery in BGC and the relatively newer Samira in Tagaytay (among others) is in a class of its own.

Located at the center of the dazzling 138-room Aqua Resort on the Bulabog side of the island (that’s directly opposite White Beach, if you’re unfamiliar with Boracay geography), Sea.Food has one side facing the expansive swimming pool and the rooms around it, and the other opening up to another, smaller pool and the beach and sea beyond.

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Peruvian Ceviche

Photo by Sea.Food by Chele.

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Gonzalez says he envisioned a restaurant that marries fine with casual dining, and in many respects, he succeeded, both in looks and what’s served on the plate. The restaurant is classy but not snooty; a place you wouldn’t feel self-conscious entering, unless maybe you forgot to change out of your tank top, board shorts, and flip-flops, in which case, best hightail it back to your room to put on something just a tad dressier.

Warm interiors of Sea.Food by Chele

Photo by Sea.Food by Chele.
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As for the menu, Sea.Food does not fall into any specific regional cuisine category other than the fact that it focuses primarily on bounties from the sea. The gregarious head chef says he built the concept around the most iconic seafood dishes the world has to offer and got the idea while kicking around the U.S. on his honeymoon a few years ago.

“I didn’t want to stick to just one (theme),” he says. “I tried to be creative.” 

Chili Crab Salad

Photo by Sea.Food by Chele.

Bounties from the sea

And so the menu traverses different countries of the world and divided into four general sets. Crudo is as the name suggests: ceviche, kinilaw, tartar, or however you want to call something that doesn’t need fire to cook (or isn’t even cooked at all). There’s Catch of the Day Ceviche from Peru (P490), Octopus Carpaccio from Italy (P580), Tuna Tataki from Japan (P550), Tuna Tartare from France (P650), and, of course, what he calls Kinilaw 2.0 from the Philippines (P480).

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Of the items in this list, an easy favorite is the chef’s version of the Peruvian ceviche. Served in what looks like a large ceramic chalice, the fish slices are drenched in a watermelon gazpacho granita and share space with corn, hazelnut, and lime for a cool and delightful zing to your palate. Pro tip: get a generous spoonful before passing it on to your seatmate.

“Personally, I like to have something refreshing (to start), especially fish and seafood,” the chef says.

Tuna Tataki

Photo by Sea.Food by Chele.

Then there’s something he calls Fun Starters, which we gather works either as a general appetizer or something you’d pair with your favorite cocktail or a cold cerveza. There’s Grilled Shrimp Taco from Mexico (P430), Gambas Al Ajillo (P650) and Seafood Croquetas (P390) from Spain, Octopus Satay from Indonesia (P590) and Chili Crab Salad from Singapore (P950). But the true winner from this set is the Coconut Tempura Prawns from Japan (P650); fat, juicy breaded prawns on sticks which you’d want to use to scoop up the creamy wasabi mayo before popping it into your mouth. We see what Chef Chele means by “fun.” 

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By Bigger Portions, we start to see the chef and his team really flexing their muscles: Southern Fish Curry from India (P690), Korean Grilled Squid (P650), and Pulpo Yakitori from Japan (P650) are all executed beautifully.

But it’s in set number three—Mains to Share—that we really understand what Sea.Food is trying to accomplish. There’s a Seafood Paella from Gonzalez’s home country (P1,200) that’s so self-assured it doesn’t need the crutch of the crunchy lower layer to be labeled “authentic” (the chef is Spanish, how much more authentic can you get?!); and a giant Grilled Lobster from the USA (P900 per 100 grams) with soft, buttery meat you can carve tableside. 

Grilled Lobster

Photo by Sea.Food by Chele.

Seafood Paella

Photo by Sea.Food by Chele.
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And then there’s the Roasted Catch of the Day from Spain’s Basque Country (P250 per 100 grams), which is what diners would really come to this restaurant for. The fish (I think it was a snapper when I went) is roasted and drenched in garlic and vinegar, enhancing its flavors. You would think not much needs to be done when you’re served with seafood this fresh, but, as any person who’s spent time in the kitchen would tell you, cooking something like this takes tremendous skill, and it’s to Gonzalez and his team’s credit that they did it so effortlessly as to make it look so easy.

Roasted Catch of the Day with Garlic and Vinegar

Photo by Sea.Food by Chele.

Meat options

You really don’t come to a restaurant called Sea.Food looking for meat, but, in the off chance that you were just dragged there by someone else and you must have your more basic protein, the chef has generously included some meat options that are no less tempting, particularly the Cebu Lechon Fried Rice (P890) and the Roasted Lamb Shank (P1,200).

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Banana Split

Photo by Sea.Food by Chele.

Dessert is most certainly not an afterthought—Gonzalez was a pastry chef, in case you didn’t know—but we recommend the Banana Split (P390) or his take on the Mango Float (P390), which he spices up with a sprig of basil.

So, in conclusion, the five-year-wait for Gonzalez’s seafood extravaganza in the country’s best island getaway was well worth it, and even if you choose to stay on White Beach, any of the three luxury accommodations on Station Zero, or anywhere else in between, you won’t mind making the short trip down to Bulabog to experience seafood as only Chef Chele Gonzalez can make it.

Sea.Food is located at Aqua Resort, Bulabog Beach, Boracay.

 

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Paul John Caña
Associate Editor, Esquire Philippines
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