I’ll never forget the first time I tasted a cheese cupcake from Bakerē. A home-based bakery then, I’d heard about the famed pastry many times and when I finally got my hands on a few (yes, I devoured more than one), the experience was memorable. I had tried a variety of cheese cupcakes growing up, and I’m certain you have too, but this little macaroon-looking pastry was the best I’d ever eaten. It was so much more than just a sweet treat. Sure, it satisfied my sweet tooth to diabetes-inducing levels, but it also evoked a warm and fuzzy feeling, much like the sentiment you get when you reminisce about happy thoughts from your childhood, when you think about Sunday lunch at your Lola’s house. This unforgettable experience was almost five years ago.
Fast forward to June 2017. Bakerē opens its own shop in foodie destination Kapitolyo in Pasig City. And this time, they’re peddling more than just cheese cupcakes, they’re serving salads, sandwiches, and coffee as well. The café’s interiors are bright and welcoming, decorated with massive communal wooden tables and equally stylish seats.
At the helm is RJ Galang, who grew up in a home where food and eating was special. His mother, Eleanor or Tita E, was a pioneer in home-baking (she started her business in 1975!), and the genius behind the cheese cupcake and many, many more delectable desserts. She would whip up meals in her kitchen that could rival any Michelin-graded restaurant. In fact, many of the dishes served at Bakerē are inspired by the dishes Tita E would cook for her family.
The menu reveals familiar dishes, no fancy handcrafted, 10-hour, grass-fed adjectives. Like I said, it’s simple and straightforward. Even the presentation of the food is plain and unpretentious. The menu is concise, which I appreciate, because it makes choosing what to eat less daunting. Prices range from P200 to P450 and servings are on the hefty side. For lunch, I’m having the Caesar salad, carbonara, BXU sandwich, and tuna melt.
We all know what makes any Caesar salad stand out is its dressing. Bakerē’s version doesn’t disappoint. It’s as traditional as a Caesar salad gets. The components; fresh lettuce, crunchy croutons, slivers of Parmesan cheese, and perfectly crisp strips of bacon, which I later find out, are made in-house and baked in between two sheet pans, are all evenly coated with a dressing that’s both rich and slightly tangy.
Bakerē’s carbonara is beautiful: Each firm noodle is evenly enveloped with a thick, yolk-based sauce, even the generous chunks of homemade bacon are covered in this luscious liquid. Finished off with speckles of pepper and shards of cheese, this carbonara is an example of a familiar dish done perfectly. I find myself wiping the bowl clean with a piece of bread.
Among all the dishes, I was most excited to try the sandwiches, and the BXU stood out, simply because I had no idea what it was, then RJ blurted, “Butuan lechon.” Enough said. Evenly distributed in between thin slices of soft, chewy ciabatta bread you will find chunks of the renowned Butuan lechon (skin included!) mixed with a slaw and tossed in a savory-sour relish, every bite revealing a bountiful mélange of flavors and textures. It’s a seamless balance of lemongrass, aromatics, vinegar, and the occasional salty crunch from the pig’s skin. It was fantastic!
RJ tells me the Tuna Melt is one of his favorites. He shares it was a staple in their home during Lent. Coming from a self-proclaimed meat-lover, I was intrigued. I had to try it. Let me tell you, this is no Lenten sacrifice. Its filling is a creamy combination of the tuna mixture and a solid amount of gooey cheese, spread out evenly and sandwiched in between two substantial slices of lightly-buttered, crisp white bread. I loved how I could taste and feel all the elements of the sandwich. Not one ingredient overpowered the other. It hit home. How I wish this could be my midnight snack, everyday.
The last ‘sandwich’ I savor is RJ’s take on the classic Filipino pairing of ensaymada and tsokolate. Two fluffy, buttery pillows glued together with a layer of dark chocolate from artisanal brand Risa Chocolates, then pressed on a grill. Upon taking a bite, I cannot help myself, I utter the four-letter f-word, and I don’t mean food. I knew it would be good, but it was more than good, it was wildly indulgent, and surprisingly not overly sweet. Butter, cheese, chocolate, food we’re familiar with but somehow Bakerē successfully elevates this old favorite to the heavens.
Not to be missed are the espresso-based drinks, especially the bicerin (pronounced bee-chair-in), a warm, intense, and almost intoxicating drink-slash-dessert made with chocolate, espresso, and cream. Think café mocha on steroids. The best way to drink it, RJ suggests, “First, sip it slowly to taste all the layers, then mix the drink and enjoy!”
Bakerē Café is one hundred percent comfort food or as RJ prefers to brand it, “Mom-made.” The food is familiar but you can tell much thought is put into each ingredient and each dish has a story behind it. Ultimately, Bakerē is a celebration of memories and a deep passion for good food, which is very much evident in each bite I had.
Three Brixton, Brixton St., Kapitoylo, Pasig City
Mobile No. 0917-8421123
Operating hours: Monday-Saturday 9 a.m. – 9 p.m.