In this series:
Great Restaurant Dishes, Q4, 2012: Part 1
The Cake Club’s “Pink Hamburger” et al
I should probably have made a separate post for The Cake Club since I like almost everything on their menu; with a name like Cake Club, how can I not? I consider it an updated version of the now defunct Astralis and what most people might not know is that a terrific brunch is served here on Sundays.
I’m never disappointed with the sandwiches here, of which I have many to choose from depending on my mood. During one Sunday brunch, the US Angus Beef Burger (P410) is served in a shockingly pink bun. “Made from red beets,” the waiter explains as we chuckle. For those who are averse to the luridly colored vegetable, it’s really just its hue that’s imbued into the bun and not its flavor. Quite the attention getter this one, wouldn’t you agree? It’s a great juicy burger too, heaped with caramelized onions, pesto, tomatoes, and a strip of cheddar.
For real beet flavor, I go for the Red Beet Burger (P310) which is seen above in a half portion. The patty is a puree of roasted, curried beets amped up with goat cheese and walnuts. The requisite green is made more special with arugula, the whole lot enclosed in a caraway-ciabatta roll.
Naturally, nothing pleases me quite like a good meat sandwich. The Grilled Reuben (P310) is what I deem “properly made” with house made corned beef. It’s substantial and sticks together but strips away when pulled with teeth. Sauerkraut for sourness, Emmental cheese to tame it, and a light rye loaf to pack it all in.
Everybody I know has a special fondness for the Mentaiko Spaghetti (P370), probably because it comes off as an adult carbonara. Swap the bacon for the little commas of cod roe, scatter with nori, and cosset in a cream sauce. I like adding a smidgen of spicy sauce to this for some reason.
You can’t have a name like Cake Club and not have exceptional desserts. Of course the ice creams (P150/2 scoops, dine-in only; pints available) here are “chunkified” scoops of glory. Mix-ins masquerading deliciously in chilled cream, I’m told that the ice creams are noble receptacles for ‘leftover desserts,’ whatever that might mean. You can’t go wrong with any of the flavors but my mood picks up perceptibly when I eat the Baked Cheesecake ice cream or the Supermoist (above; spelling theirs) Chocolate Cake.
The macarons at the Cake Club are some of the best in Manila partly due to two things. One, they’re large, and two, they strike an impossibly consistent balance of crunchy-chewy. Macarons aren’t just macarons as you and I know but here, they’re taken one step further by serving as a canvas and cover for desserts beyond reproach. If I’m to choose just one, it would be the Ispahan (first photo directly above). A Pierre Hermé original, this is a pair of raspberry macarons ensconcing a rhapsody in raspberry and lychee. Somewhere in there lingers an essence of rose which more sensitive palates will detect. By a Christmas contrast of sorts, while the Ispahan is red (ish), my other choice, the Vanessa (above), is green. Pistachio is one of my forever favorites, the flavor of my childhood and it goes exceedingly well with strawberries.
The Cake Club
UG/F Bonifacio High Street Central
East Superblock, 7th Ave corner 29th St.,
Fort Bonifacio, Taguig
(02) 621 3176
Sunday brunch from 9am-3pm.
A Little Loco At Poco Deli
I have my DCF readers to thank for getting me to Poco Deli. When more than a few mention the Chocolate Blackout Cake in a recent M.I.Y.O Monday question, I know I have to get over there.
Let’s begin with that cake. It’s everything my readers say it is and more. Impossibly black with a chocolate flavor that reaches deep down, its top is strewn with mini chocolate chips for texture and extra temptation. Heck of a cake and one that’s sold out my first time here so I only get it on my return trip.
It’s difficult to exhibit restraint with a menu like the one at Poco Deli. Maybe I’m hungry or maybe there’s just so much here that isn’t offered anywhere else but it’s torture keeping myself from ordering everything on the menu.
No fault can be had with the Sausage Platter (P300-P450) of which our server adeptly explains the nuances of the Kielbasa, Bratwurst, Cheese Krainer, etc. I don’t eat sausages often because I try to stay away from processed foods so when this is served, I fall upon it gratefully. And greedily.
The first time I’m at Poco Deli awaiting word on whether there’s a slice left of the Chocolate Blackout Cake, I’m standing beside the sill where all the orders come through. When I lay eyes on the Bacon Slab (P280), I can literally feel my eyeballs pop out of their sockets. There it is, slabs indeed of cured pork with a rim of fat thick enough to thwart all attempts at restraint. If I were any less of a woman, I would’ve grabbed that plate from the sill and claimed it as my own, to hell with whose order it may be. Oy. But patience, painful it is, yes, has its virtues and when I finally get to order my own Bacon Slab, it’s as marvelous as I imagine it to be. Bacon oh bacon, how blissful you are. And you come with your fried egg friend too.
As I mention earlier, I try – operative word here is: try – my best to avoid processed food so I’m not very open to the idea of sharing my Bacon Slab with my Bin and Boo. I love my daughter but shoot, the girl’s got eyes on my bacon. To distract her, I offer her my Bin’s Bolognese Pasta (P220). I’ll get right out and say that this may be the most authentic Bolognese in Manila. Very much like the one I have in Bologna, Italy it’s robustly beefy, evidence of a slow simmer and dominated by oregano. As they do in Italy, the sauce simply cloaks, not covers the noodles.
21 East Capitol Drive, Bgy. Kapitolyo, Pasig
(02) 477 4332
Studio Kitchen’s Laiskonis Egg
I’ll be direct and say that this restaurant may do better in Makati or the Fort instead of in Alabang. Chef-owner Mark Tan deserves a venue where he can further flex his culinary chops after honing them in noted LA-based restaurants The Bazaar and the two Michelin-starred Providence. The dining room practically echoes at lunch, my friend and I being the sole diners at noon today.
Our lunch is certainly stellar starting with Poached Oysters 3 Ways (P195); Braised Beef Short Ribs with Mushroom Risotto (P695); and Pork Belly (P540) anointed with anise, glazed with maple syrup and served with a chorizo paella rice.
These are all done impeccably and there’s much more I want to explore on the menu but for now, I want to talk about Studio Kitchen’s remarkable dessert, the Laiskonis “Egg” (P130; also cover photo). An ingenious take on an eggshell dessert, it’s the famed creation of prominent pastry chef Michael Laiskonis. The original consists of caramel sauce, milk chocolate crème brulee, and caramel custard foam; Chef Tan’s take hews very closely to this.
“Make sure to scoop all the way down.” A gentle reminder from the soft-spoken server as our dessert is laid down. Wise advice to heed in order to experience the orchestration of sensations. The egg shell holds and hides, melding maple syrup and caramel, fluffy-light, their sweet and sticky notes singular on the palate, lining the tongue as it’s clasped by the chocolate pot de crème. Maldon sea salt now – gritty, flaky, falling on the tongue like snowflakes, the irresistible streaks of salty stokes sweet yearnings.
A flight of flavors and textures, my only gripe is how tiny this dessert is. But perhaps nature has designed her perfect receptacle – the eggshell – that way: so that I keep wanting more.
Unit 202 Commerce Center Building
Commerce Avenue, Filinvest, Alabang, Muntinlupa (near Mona Lisa)
(02) 822 0508
11:30 am- 2 pm; 5:30-9:30 pm daily
On Facebook: Studio Kitchen Alabang