Eating out is like trying my luck at the lotto, give or take some factors. Lately, I’ve been on a “losing streak,” where every restaurant I’ve been to has me feeling a hunger in my stomach and soul. It’s terribly disconcerting. Unless my meal was especially horrid, I almost always go back to a restaurant a second, even third time just to see if the first time around was a fluke. Here then, are some of my hits and misses in three separate posts all to be posted in one day.
In this series: Cocorama, C2 Classic Cuisine, and Paul Calvin’s Deli.
Paul Calvin’s Deli
The instructions are: ”It’s at the Fort … somewhere on the road between McDonald’s and Market Market.” I agree, not too helpful yes, and in my search to find Paul Calvin’s Deli, I end up taking a tour of the entire Fort; that is, until a security guard who’s heard of the place, points me in the right direction.
There’s not much to dislike about the place, in fact, I fall in love with it at first sight. Hues of orange and butter yellow glide into one another effortlessly accented by touches of country home paraphernalia. A sufficiently stocked deli and shelves of imported products mostly from Italy are a diner’s backdrop.
My first visit here is just for coffee and a cupcake ”“ in this case, a banana-Nutella one. The cake has come straight from the chiller and since this is a butter-based batter, the cake has frozen right through. My teeth sink ”“ well, with much effort admittedly ”“ only to hit a rock-hard Nutella truffle center. I frown, and ask the server if she can heat up the cupcake for me. No, they don’t have a microwave so they’ll pop it into the toaster oven.
It doesn’t help much really, save for letting the damn thing melt in the sun, but at least the crumb has loosened somewhat. It’s a tasty cake, satisfying in its simplicity and the coffee’s not bad.
My second visit is a full-blown meal that starts out dismally and doesn’t quite pick up from there. The mozzarella sticks (P199) have obviously been sitting in the back of the freezer for too long that they’ve acquired the taste of whatever package they’ve been housed in. But I keep gnawing on them in hopes that they’ll taste better with every bite. The chicken fingers (P149; not pictured) are slightly better.
The homemade tapa (P149) is marinated in an absolutely tasty sauce that’s simultaneously sweet and peppery. Unfortunately, the meat is also so tough that every mouthful requires at least 30 chews before it can slide down the gullet. This is my Bin’s dish, and brave boy that he is, he’s actually finished off the entire thing but he looks thoroughly exhausted afterwards.
The smoked sausage and ham pasta (P199; not pictured), Boo’s dish, is safe and decent with just enough cheese and satisfying enough for a 5 year old.
Perhaps I should’ve ordered a sandwich since this is a deli after all, but the server recommends the rosemary-crusted salmon with parsley rice and mango salsa (P349). Each component stands on its own, leaving the diner with some tasty mix and match choices. The rice is pleasing to the bite and the salmon is cooked just ”˜til it’s opaque so it’s tender and not dry. The mango salsa, layering flavors of cilantro, tomatoes, and mangoes, is good enough by itself but it somehow loses translation when paired with the fish. Like a boat set for the Caribbean that somehow gets sidetracked to France, this salmon may not be the correct fish to pair with this dish. Perhaps a more neutral tasting white fish such as dory or sea bass will fare better.
We’re a family that believes in a dessert for every diner, and today’s dessert trio includes a chocolate cake (P75), lemon merenge (their spelling) pudding (P65), and a New York cheesecake (P75). Looking at the dessert display, I notice that what Paul Calvin’s Deli calls their paradise chocolate cake is actually Starbucks’ dome cake, and what constitutes their classic chocolate cake is actually Starbucks’ chocolate cake. The decoration and appearance of the aforementioned cakes is unmistakably that of Starbucks’ cake supplier. When asked who makes their cakes, the woman behind the counter (almost) defensively states, “Oh we make all these ourselves.” Sure you do. Take a look at Starbucks’ chocolate cake and tell me if it doesn’t look similar to the one above from Paul Calvin’s Deli.
I’m saddened by the lemon merenge pudding. An example of a good concept that’s gone awry en route to execution, it’s a mishmash of mashed bread topped with crumbly meringue. The lemon flavor is there, and it’s perfectly good, but I come away from my first bite feeling like there’s something missing here ”“ perhaps a good custard to moisten the dessert a little, or softer bread even, something that’s less rough around the edges, literally. As it is now, there’s not much that separates this dessert from an old sponge.
The New York cheesecake is the saving grace of the lot, and it’s also made by Starbucks’ supplier. It irks me when an establishment or a person passes off something as its or their own when it’s so obviously not theirs. It makes for bad kitchen karma, I tell you.
I really want to like Paul Calvin’s Deli, I do. Their servers are obviously eager to please, but my two visits don’t really shoot me through with optimism. Since it’s a deli, perhaps I’ll go back one day and try one of their sandwiches or their breakfast buffet that I hear is quite good, but I’ll stay away from the tapa.
Paul Calvin’s Deli
Unit F 111 Forbes Town Center, Rizal Drive, Bonifacio Global City
(632) 856 5900