Manila’s Dean & DeLuca is Far From Its NYC RootsAugust 12, 2015
The Dean & DeLuca I know is more deli/specialized grocery than it is restaurant. I’ve only stepped in a few, but the appeal of the international chain, at least to me, has always been their goods and sundries. Endless rows of random bottled and pickled things, boxes of mixes that were more than the average powdered pancakes, exotic or at least rare eats to bring home and add to your boring pantry—this was the joy of Dean & DeLuca. It was more of a take-away place for you to get a quick bite or a cup of coffee in between errands, and never really one for you to eat a full meal in or lounge around.
In this respect, Manila’s Dean & DeLuca fails miserably. Their first branch, suitably parked in the more upscale Rockwell district, has one sad column of goods and has turned itself into a restaurant that seems to have the identity of Wildflour. There are a few wines and vinegars, some random gadgets like bottle openers and whisky rocks, and a small selection of edible goods that I couldn’t imagine even a Makati housewife shelling out for (canned tuna at an abominable price?). There is no deli here, which disappoints me.
However, as a restaurant (which we must judge this Dean & DeLuca by as this is what it is, unlike its foreign counterparts), the place is serviceable, if not good. It is Wildflour-lite with a less impressive but almost-as-delicious selection of pastries, and slightly better service (although that is not saying much). And the food, surprisingly, is not bad at all. Before its doors opened, the franchise here was rife with rumors of tiffs and odd stories. There was that one rumor about that baker from NYC’s Bouchon Bakery, then another about licenses, and after that something about other branches opening with entirely different partners. My point here is that Dean & DeLuca had a troublesome start, which had an impact on its early days. Early reviews of this place often began with, “Not good” or, “Overrated,” or simply, “Bad,” with food overpriced and the opposite of delicious. A first visit made me agree regrettably, no matter how much I wanted it to be wrong. Things were expensive and service was horrible. Several signs all over the place were misspelled, coffee was cold, food was meh, and I vowed to never come back. It felt like half a franchise—half a deli, half-trained staff, only half of the food even halfway decent.
Forced to revisit a month or so later, however, changes were a little noticeable. There were still some sore spots (spaghetti with bacon is an over-creamed excuse for carbonara, sandwiches are no bang for your buck, and generally the service was still all sorts of abysmal) but I was surprised that the food could rival any bistro or café of similar caliber in Manila. Their kouign amman is the best in the city, and a few of their pastries are almost perfect; flaky cheese rolls with a sweet and slightly savory filling, heavier babka rolls surrounded in dark caramel and candied nuts for example. Pizzas are a little pricey, but have great dough that are crisp and soft at the same time, and are not shy with toppings. Their house chicken is juicy, and make for a well-rounded bite with its jus and accompanying barley studded with chorizo. The pork chop is probably the most value for money thing on the menu, and is actually quite delicious, bathed in butter, and always rosy in its center.
Maybe the deli approach wouldn’t have worked in Manila. After all, who would buy expensive goods when you can get delicious local counterparts? Maybe the owners were right to convert it into a restaurant with dishes and prices geared towards the clientele that frequent the area. In spite of initial bad press, this Dean & DeLuca is slowly making up for its faults with a progressing kitchen. All they need to do now is re-train their staff.
Overall Rating: 6/10
What are your thoughts on Manila’s Dean & DeLuca? Is it just as good as its other branches? Let us know what you think below!
This review was conducted solely by the author, who did not accept any form of cash advertising, invitation, sponsorship or payment. It was paid for by the author or Pepper.ph, and the views represented are purely the writer’s own. It is based on several anonymous visits to the restaurant.
Dean & DeLuca
Address: G/F Edades Tower, Rockwell, Makati