I was in the company of good people last weekend. We were treated to festive fare at Cafe Chino @ Casa Roces, a nice little cafe that’s nestled inside the Malacanang compound. Across the street you could already see a part of the presidential palace’s facade, and a part of the cafe itself is like a time capsule that harks back to a time of colonial aristocracy. What used to be a house owned by the Roces clan has been refurbished into a restaurant-cafe that serves an eclectic mix of Euro-Filipino cuisine.
The interiors and furnishings, especially on the second floor are beautiful no matter how dated the atmosphere is. Kidding aside, at one point I was waiting for an old lady in white to wander/float around as well, just like the movies. Oh well, I can fantasize.
Now onto the food. The spread was very generous. We had bread, salad, fabada, callos, ox tail, among other things. But there were three things that really stood out with superlatives.
Maybe eventually I’ll stop gushing about this simple plate of pork binagoongan, but right now I’m still floored.
It’s a blissful moment, really. You eat a spoonful, close your eyes, utter a choice curse word and declare your undying love for it. Crispy skin, salty sauce, succulent meat. I’ll be the first to say the photo does not do it justice.
The Malacanang frozen souffle is another winner, and it’s really sexy to boot. It’s a very light lemon custard, studded with pistachios on the side. It almost melts in your mouth. The prominent, zesty lemon flavor brings it up a notch and the pistachios manage to keep it grounded. Behind me, cherubs are giggling.
I’ve learned to develop a sweet tooth so I love a good dessert. I enjoy eating a dessert with contrasts in flavour and texture. It just speaks highly of how well the chef executes a work of art like this. It’s pretty obvious that I’m partial to pastries and desserts! But seriously, this was just stellar.
The surprise of the day came from the ensaymada con hamon y chocolate (ham and chocolate), with a little dollop of muscovado butter in top. This was very balanced.
The obvious sweetness from the chocolate and creaminess of the brioche plays well with the salty ham. But true to form, after I tried the souffle, this became just a good support to the main actor. It’s still really good though!
Casa Roces is a beautiful piece of work. What I have are a few of the menu’s bright spots, but I didn’t get to try everything so there’s the open invitation to come back – probably to try new things, but mostly for the pork and frozen souffle. If it rains once again and I find myself pleasantly cloistered, this gem isn’t a bad place to wait it out.