Siargo is an island in the eastern Philippines, which is now the hottest up-and-coming destination for young backpackers, nature enthusiasts, and ocean lovers. It’s also known as the Surf Capital of the Philippines, with a rich tradition of wave riding that goes back to the 1970s and 80s, when an American photographer from Surf Magazine followed the intrepid trail of a few American and Australian surfers to the island.
Still today, Siargao—and more specifically, the coastline by the town of General Luna in the northeast part of the island—is a surfer’s paradise, and home to not only travelers but international surf competitions every year.
However, for me, the best part of Siargao is…the food?! (Side note: that’s why I look like I ate a surfboard, not in shape like those who ride them.)
I was in Siargao for a few days last February with friends and enjoyed healthy, delicious, and affordable food like at Shaka and Patricks Resort. Coming back in early June, I was pleasantly surprised to see that there were at least a dozen more restaurants and food options just along the main Tourist Road that snakes along the coastline from General Luna to the iconic Cloud 9 surf break, and more.
This time, the new Japanese/sushi restaurant, Kaizen, was the object of my gastronomical admiration, as I ate there twice in a short three-day trip.
Located along the main Tourist Road right by Boyum’s Surf Resort (remind me to tell you the story about American surfer Mike Boyum some time. Now THAT’S a fascinating and crazy tale!), it’s set up as an indoor-outdoor laid-back dining experience. You’re greeted by a chef barbecuing on an open grill right by the street, and then walk up to a small pavilion that’s lined with surfboards. About half a dozen simple wooden tables are set up outside, adorned with Japanese paper lanterns, cool lighting at night, and good-vibe music playing.
You can also opt to eat inside the walls of the restaurant, which is still opened on the front side to the front seating area and view of the street (it’s a chill road lined by jungle so it’s still clean and not too noisy).
Getting down to the good stuff, I found the sushi to be fresh, tasty, and well-presented. I’m surprised because Kensei doesn’t have great reviews so far, but I think people are a little too uptight with the labels of “traditional” Japanese sushi and don’t realize that this is like a surf-Asia-fusion sushi place. Also, some fish is really amazing and caught right there by local fishermen every day, while other items – like salmon or avocados – need be brought in so are less fresh, more expensive, or not available. I recommend you just ask the waiter or waitress what’s fresh and really good.
Speaking of the waitstaff, for me, that was one of the highlights of eating here. The entire staff greets you with a warm and vivacious greeting in Japanese when you walk through the door, and the smiling young guys and girls working there were all super helpful, energetic, and eager to please.
I definitely think you should hit Kensei when you’re visiting Siargao and get your sushi on!