This place for sweets is primed to become Manila’s best.
Sometimes, before even taking a single bite, I just know something is going to be good.
Like these macarons that Karen Yang makes. Shatter-light shells in rainbow hues, sometimes smooth, occasionally mottled, always slightly domed, each is thinner than a whisper. Elegant confections these are, ensconcing an imagination’s worth of flavors to savor. Passion fruit, pistachio, salted caramel, milk chocolate and more, they’re all here.
When bitten into, there’s the tiniest bit of resistance, a pulse of subtle sweet, and then the gentlest tug of texture and taste, crisp-soft, balancing-enhancing.
As someone who earned her Patisserie Diploma from Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, and trained under Pierre Hermé, the dubbed “Picasso of Pastry” himself, it’s no surprise that Karen’s macarons are unrivaled in Manila. Try one and see if you don’t agree with me. Karen was one of the macaroniers working in Hermé’s Rue Vaugirard commissary and at his boutique on Rue Bonaparte. “I made macarons for seven hours a day,” she recalls. “My colleagues joked that my stage [pronounced stahzh] was the “macaron stage” because that was what I was stuck doing for the larger part of my internship at Pierre Hermé.” No wonder then that this pastry chef considers the macaron as her signature product and Hermé as her greatest influence. “Working in his kitchen opened my eyes and honed my palate. It was where I learned to never compromise – always start with good ingredients, follow it up with good technique, and [the result] is an exceptional product.”
Karen’s patisserie, Chez Karine, which opens this Sunday, June 24, will be a showcase of the skills she’s learned and mastered. It’s also a homecoming of sorts for her, having come back to Manila after living in San Francisco for 14 years. The space in Serendra is envisioned to be streamlined and modern, highlighting the stars of the store, which is the pastry.
The majority of the products to be made available are decidedly French with Asian and American influences present as well. Expect the exceptional macarons of course, small cakes and tarts, panna cotta, and potato chip chocolate which are pecan shortbread cookies pocked with potato chips, doused in bittersweet chocolate, and finished with fleur de sel. Mmm.
I’m lucky to try what Karen calls Royal Pudding. A custard dessert set in fancifully-shaped bottles, its appearance fascinates as its flavors scintillate. Specks of vanilla bean speckle the smoothness of the Vanilla, its divine finish is broadcast in flavors of smoke and fruit. The Muscovado, such a dark and rough-hewn sugar, finds finesse in a liquid layer of burnt caramel. And the Chocolate, because chocolate is eternal, captures my attention and affection with its initial boldness backing up into a luscious flavor memory of a dream come true and eaten with a spoon.