When dining out, there are times when people go to a particular restaurant hoping to partake of the house dessert afterwards. But alas, at the end of the meal, there’s no stomach space left. There are also other restaurants that mesmerize with their arresting displays of sweet treats, and that is the biggest temptation. When it comes to food, it is the eyes that feed the stomach first. You tell yourself that you must save space for dessert, even if you have to open up another compartment in your stomach for it.
Whichever one of the three categories above you fit into, do leave room for any one (or all!) of the following. These are some of the most exciting desserts available now, to end any meal with an exclamation point, leaving a comfortable “ahh” emanating from your stomach. And no, exciting desserts aren’t those that defy height limitations, or pack a lot of visual wonder but taste like nothing. These are exciting because they’re ordinary desserts made exceptionally extraordinary. And they’re all good. Very good.
1. Pavlova Picasso at Fleur de Lys
Pastry chef-owner Jackie Ang gives a twist to this famous dessert (P70) named after Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova. The two crisp meringues are strawberry flavored, interspersed with whipped cream, and artistically topped with peach, kiwi, and grape slices. Of her patisserie and café in Quezon City, Chef Jackie says, “I stick to the basics, but I make them more fun, more beautiful, and more masarap.” Also try the Almond Loca (P80), another meringue dessert, this time made with almonds and filled with French buttercream and chocolate. It tastes very similar to a sans rival.
2. Panna Cotta at Caffe Maestro
There was a panna cotta trend a few years back, wherein every restaurant worth its ramekins was turning out its own version of this light custard dessert. One bite, however, of the one served at Caffe Maestro, will make one forget about everybody else’s. Here, the panna cotta (P170) simply dazzles: a slice of “cooked cream” quivering in its richness, lightly bathed in thick honey and sprinkled with finely chopped walnuts for an ambrosial taste contrast.
3. CrÃªpes and Glaces (ice cream) at CrÃªpes de France
According to the French, crÃªpes are not soft and chewy but thin and crispy, which is exactly how this crÃªperie at the Power Plant Mall makes them. It’s actually a franchise of the original in France, where the exact crÃªpe maker used there is also used here. The franchise-owners of CrÃªpes de France want Filipinos to appreciate authentic crÃªpes, like the CrÃªpe CrÃ¨me Brulee (P160 – caramelized crÃªpes with a crÃ¨me brulee filling), and the CrÃªpes Cajeta (P150) where thick caramel milk, hazelnuts, and fresh fruits mingle in magic with powdered sugar and cocoa. At CrÃªpes de France, there are also a number of flambéed crÃªpes (P140-P285), but do leave room for their fabulous Glaces (ice cream ”“ P65/scoop), flown in directly from France. Bon Appetit!
4. Cheesecake at Jack’s Loft
Several pastry chefs would say that the three basic desserts every restaurant should have (at the very least) are chocolate cake, apple pie, and cheesecake. Most Filipinos know cheesecake to be quite gelatinous in nature, but Jack’s Loft owners John Tian Seng, Jack Johnstone, and Erik Cua would like to change that. Their restaurant has an interesting concept ”“ it’s a dessert bar that specializes in treats of the sweet kind, as well as coffee and hard drinks.
The cheesecake comes in two variations: Jack’s Cheesecake, which comes with a fruit topping of choice, and the New York Cheesecake (both P98/slice), which has a slight tang attributed to the sour cream. Both define what a cheesecake should be – tall, dense, and so delicious they pack a punch of pleasure with every bite.
5. Suman at UVA
If it’s from UVA, then this definitely isn’t your lowly suman unpeeled and dumped on a plate. Chef and owner Fernando Aracama is known in the industry for his ingenious, quirky ways with food. This is a man who has fun with food. The menu’s description of suman (P150) is “gooey coconut latik, mango dice, ”˜hot’ salabat ice cream.” It doesn’t prepare anyone for what is presented on the plate. From the bottom up, imagine a dark, rich pool of latik occasionally interrupted by a dice of mango, four “pillars” of golden, deep-fried suman holding up a U-shaped tuille that carries a scoop of luscious, spicy salabat ice cream. An intense flavor-play on your palate. Can’t imagine it? Go get it at UVA.
6. Cannoli at Il Ponticello
Cannoli (P125) is an Italian dessert consisting of tubular deep-fried pastry shells stuffed with sweetened, whipped ricotta mixed with bits of chocolate, candied fruit and sprinkled with nuts. Most Italian restaurants in Manila don’t serve cannoli because making the pastry shells is tedious and often requires a cannoli iron. But Il Ponticello serves it and it is divine. The kitchen staff is headed by Chef Romeo Garchitorena, a Filipino who lived in Italy for 20 years. His extended stay in that country imbibed him with the understanding and passion necessary in mastering Italian cuisine. Other desserts at Il Ponticello worth trying are the Baklava (P125) and the Ciocolato Della Nonna (P125), a chocolate cake too intense for words.
Fleur de Lys – F.L.P Bldg., 305 Tomas Morato Ave., Q.C., beside Popular Bookstore. 372-0631.
Caffe Maestro ”“ 1780 Nicanor Garcia St. (formerly Reposo), Santiago Village, Makati City. 899-7322
Jack’s Loft ”“ Eastwood City Walk, C-5 Libis, QC. 421-2048
CrÃªpes de France ”“ 3/F Power Plant Mall, Rockwell Center, Makati City. 898-2577
UVA ”“ Greenbelt 2, Ayala Center, Makati City. 757-4243 to 45.
Il Ponticello ”“ 2/F Antel 2000 Bldg., 121 Valero St., Salcedo Village, Makati City. 887-7168