Dessert Comes First

An obsession with dessert and other unabashed opinions of a food writer

Magnum White King
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Manila’s Tsokolate Shop

posted by in Filipino, Restaurants

tsokolate, batidor, tsokolatera

It’s spelled Tsoko.Nut and pronounced “choco-nut,” not “choco-dot-nut.” The word, ‘Batirol,’ – also known as batidor or molinillo (photo here) – attached to the name is there to remind people that this is Pinoy tsokolate, as opposed to hot chocolate.

I’ve written about the process of making tsokolate, true Filipino chocolate made from 100% cacao. Grown, roasted, and ground locally, it’s unlike any other hot chocolate drink in the world: caressed by the sun, kissed by the earth, and tasting of smoke, chocolate, and nuts. Ironically, while this drink started out as a beverage of the elite during the Spanish times, it survives today as a proud marker of our heritage, a drink for every Filipino.

Tsoko.Nut interiors

It’s this concept that owner Marian Romano built Tsoko.Nut on. Her nationalistic pride was bothered by the number of people in foreign coffee outlets swilling down foreign liquid that she says is, “… a taste that isn’t ours.” But the trigger was when she and her husband, Jimmy visited Max Brenner. “We tried the chocolate, we tried the food, and when we saw the prices, we said ‘how come there isn’t any local outlet where the average Filipino can really taste what Filipino tsokolate is at the price that they can afford?”

Tsoko.Nut interiors 2

So they built Tsoko.Nut which Marian describes as a place “…with the ambience of a Starbucks (a place you can hang out in) but truly Filipino with native touches like the rattan, the lamps, the décor.” She adds that Tsoko.Nut goes back to the taste and captures the heart of what is Filipino. “The experience we try to evoke here is a homey one, like going home for lunch,” Marian tells me, her eyes bright with fervor.

While Tsoko.Nut is primarily a coffee shop, rice specials are served, and special they are. I’m told that the criteria for the meals on the menu is that they are the ones that would be difficult to cook at home, such as the callos (P140), rellenong bangus (P105) bangus belly and pangat (P105), and the dinuguan (P95). All the dishes are made from family recipes.

Tsoko.Nut sign 3

Nuts for Tsoko.Nut
But let’s talk about the tsokolate. Everything about Tsoko.Nut echoes its theme of tsokolate. There are dried cacao beans and bottles off to one side of the wall and three large posters serve as odes to this sweetest of beans. Look closely, and you’ll see that the poster in the middle is that of a sweet old lady merrily frothing a serving of tsokolate with her batirol. It’s a cute, cute photo, one that makes me smile. “Is that your mom?” I blurt out suddenly to Marian. She nods excitedly, and I see the resemblance.

Tsoko.Nut uses tsokolate from Leyte. A group there grows the cacao for the shop, including roasting and grinding it. Marian explains that she and her family conducted several cacao taste tests of tsokolate from beans of different origins. The beans from Leyte were unanimously chosen as the best. Why was it so good? “It doesn’t have that bitter, strong aftertaste, and it brought back memories as to how tsokolate should really taste,” Marian replies.

panyolitos dipped in tsokolate
panyolito dipped in tsokolate eh

Two kinds of tsokolate are served here. The tsokolate eh (P77) is very syrupy, very thick, much more akin to dipping than straight up drinking. Served in a demitasse, the beverage comes with a panyolito, their type of churros. It looks and tastes very much like unsweetened twirls of pie crust.

The tsokolate ah or tsokolate Batirol (P62/P72), as it’s written on the menu, is what all Tsoko.Nut’s tsokolate drinks are based on. To say that it’s “watered down” tsokolate eh connotes some kind of watery drink, but this ah is definitely more drinkable than eh, eh? The Pinoys of long ago watered down their tsokolate (eh) for many servings, and this is actually what present day Pinoys are more accustomed to. The tsokolate is cooked for a long time in their commissary, then re-heated in the restaurant and frothed with the batirol right before serving. Possessing the thin consistency of hot cocoa, it’s smooth with pronouncements of cacao which Marian is right about being very mild. An excess of sugar is absent here allowing the cacao flavor to really shine. There’s no bitterness in this beverage, a characteristic that I’ve come to expect in tsokolate. But instead of missing it, I consider this a beguiling alternative.

tsokolate at Tsoko.Nut
3 types of tsokolate batirol

Truly, this is a drink for those who want a balance between cocoa and the swarthiness of true tsokolate. For those who are accustomed to a nuttier tsokolate, try the tsokolate with mani (peanut – P74/P84) and my favorite, tsokolate with kasuy (cashew – P74/P84). Nut butter is blended into the tsokolate, an embrace of chocolate and nut, with some of the nut paste licking the lip of the cup. The cups, by the way, are handmade by potter Pete Cortez. Each mug is stone-fired so no two are alike. They’re an interesting color, what Marian describes as lahar or ash.

cashew paste
lick that lip

cashew paste in tsokolate
cashew paste in the tsokolate

ensaymada's drippy, buttery goodness
the buttery, drippy glory that is the ensaymada

While you sip, you must have something to dip. Marian has me try the bibingka (P75), a groan-inducing buttery pillow lashed with kesong puti and red eggs. It comes to me steaming, its sides slick with butter, its top glimmering with sugar. The ensaymada is its equally evil sister. One bite gets me weak in the knees and I pray for the resolve not to eat it all so that I can finish off my three kinds of tsokolate (I have to have eating priorities, you know). Then a plate of suman sa mangga (P66) is brought out. Wedges of glutinous rice drizzled with chocolate syrup are the bed on which three strips of large mango slices repose. At this point I just want to sit in a corner and stuff my face and drown myself in tsokolate, one of my fanciful food dreams.

suman at mangga

Tsoko.Nut serves coffee (P69-P89) made from local beans as well as hot tea and salabat, but I urge you to try the tsokolate and the other native treats. Ample and burdened in the most delicious way possible, they’re cooked with such time-tested perfection that they stand out as strikingly memorable. Tsokolate. One of the awesome reasons I’m proud to be Pinoy.

Tsoko.Nut

South Supermarket, Alabang
771-1608

SM Makati, 2/F
816-4305

Waltermart, Pasong Tamo
886-4171

Dela Rosa Carpark 1, Makati

Soon to open: Fun Ranch Frontera Verde, Pasig

Special thanks to Marian Romano, Ruzzell dela Cruz, and to Joy Cruz, who made this article possible.

24 Responses to “Manila’s Tsokolate Shop”

  • I love expensive things made affordable! Great idea.

    Your descriptions are fantastic. So vivid!

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  • lori, the pleasure was mine. thanks so much for the wonderful write-up!

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  • thanks for sharing those interesting tidbits about how this shop came to be! my tita from canada and i ate here and loved the tsokolate(ah!) but not so much the pancit molo…but the bibingka was indeed delectable. the only turn-off in the sm makati branch is that the magic sing salespeople in the nearby kultura shop kept singing loudly off-key

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  • Oh, I so love this place! I discovered it when it was featured in Phil. Star and I believed newly opened in SM Makati. Since I so love chocolate drink, I checked it out. I have brought balikbayan and foreign friends there for so long and we always enjoy it!

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  • It’s always heartening to hear stories like this. That’s so great that the owner’s nationalism drove her to put up a successful business, and how nice to learn they have four branches already!

    I first saw Tsoko.Nut when Waltermart opened next door to us, and of course with that name, I had to try it immediately. :-) Although I still prefer the thick Spanish-style hot chocolate, I enjoyed their tsokolate with peanuts. I’d never tasted that before. I also liked most of the food I had except for the cakes, which were just okay. Thanks for reminding me of this place, Lori. I’ll return soon for more of the tsokolate, and to try the ensaymada and bibingka.

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  • the mugs are so cute… :)

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  • wow not only is it a wonderful mission (the store) but the execution is absolutely gorgeous … it all looks very delish :) wish i could partake :)

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  • as original as we think this might be, i posit that it goes back to our ancestors in madrid. although the madrilleno version that i tasted off of that famous plaza 2 years ago is thicker.

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  • There’s a Tsoko.Nut right at my doorstep! Will definitely try the ah first thing tomorrow morning. Am glad you told us about it – I’m not going to step into Max Brenner again. Sobra grabe ang prices no!

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  • ive tried choco.nut 3 times already and stopped after my unpleasant last visit at their branch in waltermart..i had no proble with their choco drinks but when i ordered their beef cubana, i noticed after several mouthfuls that the fried saba had molds on them..white cottony molds…i told the counter lady and the kitchen person but all they did was to give me 2 new pcs of fried saba.. i lost my appetite after that cos gad knows what else had mold in them…i didnt make a scene but i made a promise never to eat there again… i even dissuade my mom who busy their sugar free cakes not to buy there anymore

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  • their tsokolate sucks, what are you talking about? it’s not the real thing. they don’t grind the peanuts in with the tsokolate, they put peanut butter on the mouth of the cup and then call it tsokolate “paste”. that’s probably why there were bits in that picture you showed. it’s a misrepresentation. it’s fine if you’re looking for a quick fix, i guess, but it’s like comparing burger mcdo with wagyu steak. balikbayans should not be brought here because they will get the wrong impression, the false impression that our tsokolate tastes as bland as the tsokolate served in this shop. even the tsokolate at marygrace in serendra now is better. you can also try cafe xocolat. but not batirol, please. our country’s cuisine is far better than what this pathetic shop serves.

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  • Thanks for the tip! I actually never would have eaten there otherwise … there’s something about their branding that I find unappealing. I’m imaging rows upon rows of Choc Nut chocolates on the walls and nothing else.

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  • to each his own i guess.

    but i like their tsokolate ah, spaghetti aligue and ensaymada.

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  • Yes, the mugs are cute.

    Good service also.

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  • I was just reading a listing of New York’s favorite hot chocolate shops. I think there’s enough going on in Manila to start listing our favorites. By the time all those chocolate places open up in Serendra, Manila will have quite a listing of hot chocolate stores.

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  • i have not gone to choco nut but your pictures look great i want to try it with my kids. i remember when we were small, when we visit our aunt in pampanga, she would serve piping hot chocolate, freshly ” batiroled” in her white with blue trim enamel jug and the chocolate was serverd with roasted pinipig topping, Yum! we would drink the liquid right away and burn our tongues in the process.

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  • try also choco-laté de batirol at serendra…great chocolate!

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  • I think the mugs are cute!! Do they sell those mugs?

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  • Hi Rodney!
    Yes, the mugs are really nice, actually, I’ve asked already if they sell those mugs but unfortunately as much as they want to, those mugs are a limited edition designs so they will have a hard time buying those kind og mugs again =(

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  • Hi Lori! Longtime lurker here ^^

    I love tsokolate batirol. I had my first cup in Cafe Tsokolate de Batirol (I think) in Camp John Hay in Baguio. I had mine with almonds, yum :)

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  • Why must their branches all be in the South? Ang layo naman eh. Hehe :)

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  • I will have to visit the place myself because I am totally addicted to chocolates!!! – Pinoy Pride

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  • taste of their tsokolate (tsoko.nut) is far enough compared to the one i’ve tasted in BBB, valenzuela. i just forgot the name of the stall.

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  • mr boy tapawan, caaj enterprises, is the name of that stall located there in BBB, valenzuela. it was just a simple stall but their tsokolate cacao was really then so good.

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