6. Coffee & liqueur desserts from Minnie Mousse
Minnie Mousse is the charming, whimsical name of Minnie Puno’s baking business. Actually, the name came first and then the dessert came afterwards. As they say, a great name is all you need to get started. Minnie’s signature dessert is what else, but a (Minnie) Mousse (P90 each) elevated with one’s liqueur of choice: Kahlua, Cointreau, or Creme de Menthe. They come in little cups with a minimum of 12 pieces per flavor. I’m not a fan of mousse in any shape or texture either alone or incorporated into something. I also don’t drink (or rarely), so the lure of a liqueur is lost on me. But taking this dessert for what it is, I can appreciate the quality of chocolate used as well as the graham cracker crust that provides a modicum of structure and textural contrast. The liqueur is very faint, it’s but a suggestion in this foam. However, if you like a good chocolate mousse, especially one that’s been spiked, then this Minnie Mousse has got your name on it.
The desserts from the house of Minnie (sorry, couldn’t resist the pun) have been ratcheted up with the introduction of coffee, and as you’ve already seen, liqueurs. This baker’s tribute to them is exemplified further in her Flavored Coffee Cupcakes (P40 each; minimum of 24 pcs/flavor). Each little cake is made with the same coffee syrup-flavored batter, gilded with a coffee frosting and then topped with varying flavors of orange, banana, coconut, chocolate, mint, hazelnut, amaretto, gingerspice or peppermint. I feel that the cupcakes could afford to be more moist, and as with all butter-based cakes, let them come to room temperature before eating for optimum flavor. Butter cakes turn rock-hard in the ref and eating them in that state will only destroy your experience of it.
Minnie tells me that, “… my desserts cater to the more sophisticated taste and are a nice present to people who have almost everything.” I tend to agree since she deals with sweets that possess a very definitive flavor profile. So-called sophisticated desserts also come in a certain size, that is, individual. Her cheesecake (P55/petites; minimum order 24 pcs with choice of one fruit topping) comes in either lemon or the refreshingly apropos mango and cream with the fruit appearing in a perfectly shaped ball. Baked in mini cheesecake pans, they’re delightful giveaways for celebrations and parties where a token is expected. A crunchy graham cracker crust ensconces the cream cheese custard that is somewhat zesty, it’s a balance between dense and light.
A recent issue of Metro mag describes Sousaku as having “the best sukiyaki.” While I don’t agree with them on that, this little Japanese restaurant where Mezzaluna used to be is worth a stop if you’re in the area. While it’s busy on weekdays, it’s virtually empty on a Saturday night when I’m there, but the two other diners who walk in are both Japanese. Ah, a guarantee!
There are no gimmicks or innovations here as far as food goes. Everything is what you’d expect in a restaurant of this sort with dishes that will comfort even the creatures of habit. It also smells like a Japanese restaurant, so you can expect to leave here smelling like the food you just ate. Because it’s a tiny space with five tables at most, service is efficient. I like the complimentary boiled soybeans that are given at the start of the meal. Lightly salted, they’re earthy and soft.
Of course I order a sukiyaki (p260) just to see if Metro is right (they’re not), but thank God it’s not as sweet as some other sukiyakis in the metro. I swear some kitchens really pour on that dashi (dried fish flakes) which transforms the broth into fishy caramel soup (eww). My Bin enjoys the shrimp tempura (P275/5 pcs) ”“ devoid of excess breading, it’s somewhat a little too oily, evidence of having been fried in not-hot-enough oil. But the shrimps are big and the whole lot has a satisfying crunch. The bacon and asparagus rolls (P175) are quite a surprise. Not a combination I see everyday, they have a sweet-salty-crunchy character about them. We want to order another one but the kitchen says they’ve run out of bacon. (Whoops!)
227 Salcedo St.
Legaspi Village, Makati
The restaurant is actually called Anonimo Veneziano which translates into Anonymous Venetian in English. Dubbed “eating behind the mask,” (interpret this yourself) it’s owned by the same group that runs Gran CaffÃ¨ Casanova, yet another restaurant in Manila that’s out to catch the hearts and palates of local Italo-philes. Having opened just last April 30, the place hasn’t even been open a week when I come to visit. By this time however, the signage should be in place and the loose building materials would’ve been hidden away already.
Because the restaurant also bills itself as an art gallery, the interiors are exquisite and awe-inspiring, in the case of the P2M (million) Murano glass fountain that takes residence at the entrance. Plenty of Venetian masks are hung on the walls, chandeliers seem to fluoresce on the ceilings, and the paintings are cause for pause ”“ the black one in the far corner of a Venetian gondola with the silhouette of a man illuminated in the fading sun is especially arresting.
The menu is quite detailed but they are all dishes that I see on other Italian menus around the city. For brevity’s sake, I’ll only list the English equivalent of what we have. Our little group begins with a duo of appetizers ”“ yellow fin tuna tartare with potato and green beans in citronette (or citronnat in French, candied lemon peel; P400). I especially like the rolled grilled eggplant, bell pepper and zucchini served with pesto and sun-dried tomato sauce (P380). Aside from stunning presentation, I delight in the various flavors and textures that announce themselves in my mouth: mushy, soft, a flick of salt, and a zing of citrus.
Being with a group in an Italian restaurant makes ordering a pizza a requisite. In this case, variety rules with the 4-flavor pizza of which I’m kicking myself for not writing down the name or the price. (argh!) No matter, the pizza itself is not to be forgotten too quickly ”“ it has real dough and not a cracker for the crust.
When it comes to gnocchi, you either love it or hate it. I’m part of the former, and I always order it whenever it’s on the menu. Unlike at La Grotta where I had to argue with some people over who was going to get the last order, Anonimo Veneziano has this in surplus. Hooray! Here, you can have it with a tomato-based sauce perfumed with garlic, basil, and Parmesan or with a creamy Gorgonzola sauce (P380), which I prefer. The potatoes in a gnocchi dough give it that bite-y, “can chew this for a good long time” characteristic. I love chewy food especially when it comes to pasta and gnocchi is my apex. The dish’s lush texture offsets its chewiness and I’m in love. Although the plate is in the middle for all four of us to share, I surreptitiously fork several gnocchi into my mouth (one at a time of course!), trying not to let it be known how much I want to appropriate the dish for myself. Best gal pal Kaie catches me and with a naughty sneer, pierces the last four gnocchi and pops them into her mouth. Sniff.
Of course pasta is a given when eating Italian. We all get a chance to choose a dish and Kaie goes for the homemade squid ink-colored pasta with crabmeat in an olive oil and white wine sauce (P400). I see the chefs making the noodles in house and I can definitely vouch for the authenticity of the ink which tastes sufficiently erm, “squid-y.” While I would’ve chosen a different pasta dish, I definitely prefer homemade noodles over dried, any day. The flavor and bite just can’t compare.
Since I’m veering away from the usual pasta-pizza trap that I usually get ensnared in when eating Italian, I exhort my little group to choose two main dishes. We go for the ossobuco (P700) which comes with polenta and the lapu-lapu scaloppato (P450), sautéed fillets with pine nuts and fennel seeds. While the fish is a tad too bland for me to have an opinion about it, I like the ossobuco for its strong tomato flavor and meaty substance. I even use a toothpick to scrape the vestiges of marrow from the bone. I can’t let it got to waste after all, and hey, if no one wants it I’m not going to be shy about claiming it for myself.
Ah, dessert! I’m regaling my friends with my love for the panna cotta at Caffe Maestro. It’s the benchmark for which I judge all other panna cottas that come my way. Sadly, the one at Anonimo Veneziano doesn’t come close. To begin with, the delicate cream flavor is sorely masked by the chocolate and raspberry sauce-garnishes that it comes with. Chefs, easy on the squirt bottles, now! A more subdued accompaniment would have been more flattering. But no amount of sauce or lack thereof, can hide the slight rubberiness of the custard. “How do you like it?” I ask Albert, one of my friends and eating companions. “The one at L’Incontro was more silken,” he replies somewhat thoughtfully. Maybe next time we’ll try the restaurant’s various cassata and gelato cakes.
820 Leelin Bldg.
Arnaiz Ave (formerly Pasay Road), Makati
(across Kink Cakes and a few steps away from the Milky Way Bldg.)
632.843-5754 / 887-3085
11am ”“3pm / 7-11pm
In the three months since I’ve last been to Abé, my Bin has so fallen for this restaurant that he’s already been back four times. That’s saying a lot for a man who can subsist on Aristocrat’s chicken barbecue. Abe is always abuzz ”“ 8:45 pm reservations on a Monday night (!) was already backed up with the operator telling me there were six parties ahead of me. I suspect that Abé’s popularity is due only in part to its location at hotspot Serendra. The food is really its drawing factor ”“ it’s just too good.
Pronounced AH-beh, it’s a term of endearment, a Capampangan word for friend, and the nickname of Emilio Aguilar Cruz, legendary restaurateur Larry Cruz’s father. Abé was, aside from being an accomplished writer and artist, a gourmand. I read that he had a passion for eating out and looked down on what he called “fake” fancy food.
The interiors of Abé remember the man through a glass sketch situated at the entrance as well as looming snapshots of his life that adorn the walls. In one nook where I’m lucky enough to be seated is a memorabilia corner filled with Abé’s paintbrushes, his eyeglasses, and even some yellowed pages of script. It’s an impressive and reflective view of one who was obviously a great man.
And the food is equally so. Sisig (p155) starts us off on an authentically Capampangan note together with the lumpiang pica-pica (P95) notched up with tangy vinegar worthy of a head-rattling HOO-AH! This seems like the right place to order kare-kare (P425) and I don’t regret it. Good kare-kare has to be meaty first of all, with a good balance of quivering fat (litid et al) and meat. Then the whole thing has to be swimming in a peanut sauce so rich and slowly simmered that it glues lips shut. Abé’s kare-kare satisfies on all counts and I want to just swoon to the floor. I order extra peanut sauce, the better to drown my green mangoes and bagoong in.
It only makes sense that my Bin and I order three desserts just for the two of us. We fight over Claude’s Dream (P105), which in reality has become my dream: gently softened macapuno ice cream is the pool in which buko strips and pandan gulaman swim oh-so-languorously, with an occasional crunch from pinipig kernels contributing crunch. And when I’ve reached the bottom of the bowl, I want to lick it clean. Turon (P65) never fails to please and this one has been glamorized with the addition of langka (jackfruit) and ube. The best part is when the crunchiness of the wrapper yields to the warmth of the banana giving in to the chill of the vanilla ice cream — a spectacular tour de force. The suman sa latik comes with coconut jam that has been heated, contrasting two levels of warmth and a sticky sweetness that is impossible not to surrender to.
If you find yourself having to wait in line for a table at Abé, do so wholeheartedly. You won’t regret it.
G/F Retailer Area, Serendra Complex
Bonifacio Global City, Taguig,
10. Pastries from Paisley Pastry
I have a new foodie friend and she calls herself Foodha Buddha (spelling hers). Actually Gina Lopez in real life, she’s a pediatric dentist turned baker (Huh, come again?). Her baking business, wittingly named Paisley Pastry, offers incredible desserts that define the essence of home-baked. I’m in love with her carrot cake (P850), awash in crushed pineapples and a happy balance of spice and moistness. Lush with a thick cream cheese frosting, I’ve been discovered eating this at midnight in front of the refrigerator with the door still wide open. Gina also makes superlative chocolate crinkles (P350/box of 25) that I call “cruffles” because they’re a cross between crinkles and truffles. Little jewels of deep chocolate glory sporting perfect powdered sugar-cracks, they’re impossibly moist and impossible to stop eating. Eat ”˜em and decide for yourself whether they’re crinkles or truffles.
Gina J. Lopez