Kafé Batwan by the Sarsa Group Shows Us a Modern Take on Filipino GrubJune 23, 2015
Coffee has been brewing long enough to prove that it’s more than just a passing craze. Corner cafés in Paris, coffee shops and bakeries in New York, and kopitiams in Singapore are still thriving with people looking for their caffeine fix—and good food to go along with it. Locally, coffee culture has also grown from instant three-in-one packets on the breakfast table, to third-wave roasts from a food truck. Hip, independent cafés using local beans have also been easy to find in the metro. But to complete the local café experience, we need the other half of the equation. Like French pastries, Italian pasta, and American brunches, we need local café food to go with our local brews.
The people behind Sarsá Kitchen+Bar present their conception of the modern Filipino café through Kafé Batwan. Like Sarsá, it also pays homage to Negrense cooking through its very name, “Batwan,” which is a native fruit from Visayas. Some items on the menu actually incorporate the fruit’s unique flavor. With wooden fixtures and woven abaca droplights, even the simple modern interior of the café reinforces the strong Filipino identity it tries to build. And of course, the wide array of food items on the menu—from breakfast to dessert—are composed of uniquely Filipino meals with a twist. The dishes are Chef JP Anglo’s playful take on what contemporary Filipino café food should look and taste like. We feasted on nine different dishes from the eight-course listing, and none of them disappointed. For breakfast, we had the Kansi Corned Beef, served with a side of scrambled eggs and garlic coconut rice. This crunchy and flaky version of the typically moist and chunky beef was surprisingly just as flavorful, despite the missed juiciness inherent in good old canned corned beef.
Next, we got to try the Inasal Burrito, which tastes just as the dish’s name dictates. The Mexican wrap is made Filipino, with the citrusy grilled chicken used as a substitute to beef. The usual tomato salsa and sour cream combo are also traded in for pumpkin salsa, along with fresh green chili sauce. The rice, of course, stays. The Madrid Fusion Super Batchoy was a rich take on the classic pork noodle soup. You’d expect nothing less from a twelve-hour soup stock. But if you’d prefer something light, like a salad, the Ensaladang Espinada came with the chef’s recommendation. The kesong puti, pili nuts, crispy crablets and a mango salted egg dressing made for a great mix in the green toss.
For mains, we had three dishes. First, we had the Blanco Adobado Manok—the creamy yin to the soy-sauce yang of the traditional adobo. We also had the Batchoy Beef Ribs, one of our personal favorites. Sizzling on a plate in soy muscovado sauce, the meat was tender and succulent—easy enough to cut through without having to use a steak knife. The Sautéed Prawns in mixed bean sauce was also satisfying. With the help of Batwan’s homemade spicy sauce, however, it gave our taste buds that extra kick.
But Kafé Batwan’s Pancit Palabok proved to be the winner. It was, hands-down, our favorite. Perfect for afternoon merienda, the luglug noodles, bathed in the thick yet light orange sauce, go well with the sautéed squid and soft boiled egg. The crablets and chicharon added crunch that perfected the dish’s overall texture.
And, of course, it doesn’t end here. What’s a café without dessert? Although Anglo admits that he is no expert when it comes dessert, he decided to put his skills to the test. With only two items on the dessert menu so far, he had us try out his Sizzling Ubud-Ubud. The subtly sweet, brown rice cakes smelled heavenly as they simmered in ube butter and coco pandan coffee cream. It was a great finish to our little café fiesta. So, if you were curious as to what you’d find in a modern, all-Filipino café food menu, maybe you’d like to check out Kafé Batwan for family brunch next Sunday. We were certainly happy with what we found.
Have you tried Kafé Batwan yet? Which of the dishes above are you most keen to try? Tell us your thoughts with a comment below!
Pepper.ph was invited to feature the above establishment. Therefore, the feature includes no rating whatsoever, which can be influenced or biased.
Address: 122 Joya Lofts & Tower, Amorsolo Drive, Rockwell, Makati City