Sourdough Café: A Classic Take on European Gastronomy in The Modern City
Updated: Mar 9, 2020
Very rarely do we encounter a café that literally and figuratively begs to differ. From surprisingly also being a wine lounge to having a wide range of unadulterated European dishes, Sourdough Café overflows their cup and hopes to do the same for each of their customers.
2 concepts under one roof
The café/lounge is a joint business venture between Michael Lee and Chef Ryan Vergara; both take pride in having utilized their space to showcase 2 separate concepts under one roof.
Upon entering the café downstairs, you will be greeted by their spotless and straightforward interior. Admittedly inspired by a French riviera design, their wide glass windows along with their white brick walls allow for the sunlight and passersby to peek through their spacious but cozy, café-deli setting. Whereas, customers can enjoy a hearty meal or a cup of coffee on their elegant white marble tables whilst taking in the view.
While your eyes might need to adjust from the well-lit café to a much dimmer setting, a pleasant surprise awaits you as you ascend to their wine lounge on the second floor. In contrast to their Café, their so-called Glass lounge is furnished with black marble table tops, quilted accent chairs and curtains along with greyscale walls. All of this work together to create a modern and laidback living room setting where you can just sip your wine and talk about your day with good company—that is, if your living room includes a massive wine collection that is either lined up on the walls or displayed in a nearby walk-in wine vault.
Going back to the roots of European cuisine
Sourdough cafe goes against the current trend of fusion food (food that are a mix of several cultures); but aims to resonate as an establishment that serves simple, well-prepared and well-thought out European dishes that stays true to its roots.
“Medyo sawa na kami sa fusion mostly kasi there’s a fine line between fusion and parang you’re gonna lose the identity […] we would like to focus on the original ideas or recipes of all our items”, Chef Ryan Vergara shares.
The simplicity of their namesake is symbolic of their aim: Sourdough bread is basically dough made up of salt, water and bread flour. The quality of this bread , however, all boils down to the lengthy and tedious process of its fermentation that has been passed down from thousands of years ago. It really takes a skilled and patient baker to produce this kind of bread which nonetheless proves to be a worthy cause right from its rich aroma and hard crust to its moist crumb that has a certain depth of flavor and tartness. This naturally leavened bread is also undeniably much healthier than regular, mass-produced white bread.
You can order this well-known loaf of theirs that comes in different flavors each week, and pair it with some butter or you can opt to order one of their sourdough sandwiches like the Croque Monsieur which is an envelope of French smoked ham oozing with mozzarella cheese.
Their menu depicts a clear-cut selection that can be said to cater up to a 5-course meal. A dish that seems to be crossing a grey area, however, is their original beef salpicao which is in fact, a filipinized dish but that which presumably comes from Spanish influence. Nonetheless, this is a recipe they have proudly tweaked to bring out its European roots. Whereas, their 40 Clove chicken is one of those rare dishes or rare anything which proves that too much of something can be quite palatable with just the right conditions as it is balanced by a mixture of white wine and olive oil.
Aside from this, the café makes homemade pastas as well. A controversial one is their Cacio e Pepe —literally meaning (pecorino romano) cheese and pepper in French which doubles for half of its recipe—a pasta dish that delivers a straightforward and sharp taste. If you’re not ready for this level of simplicity, you can try their take on how the original and Classic Carbonara should be which has a moderate amount of its egg and oil-based sauce as opposed to the dripping, cream-based carbonara we’ve come to know.
While they may not have a wide range of desserts yet, their Basque burnt cheesecake rightfully shares half of the spotlight along with their chocolate tart. It must have been the weeks of perfecting this Spanish pastry that allowed them to achieve just the right balance between a rich, creamy but almost airy and delicate pastry irregularly outlined with just an ample amount of toasted caramel. This sellout of a dessert is a delightful break from the typically overwhelming cheesecakes in the market.
If you’re casually dropping by, everything can be paired with any of their specialty coffees or their French handcrafted teas. Although, if you’ve come to lounge, it goes without saying that they’ve got you all covered from entry level to premium wines.
On top of it all, being in the space itself gives you a palpable atmosphere of the passion and determination of the people behind it. Their chefs are well-versed and can go on about the advocacy and the process of their café and wine lounge coming together. You can tell that they’re not just doing it for the sake of selling and shoving foreign dishes down their customers’ throats. But instead, taking each day as a chance to make use of their expertise and to introduce new depths and horizons into the Filipino palette—all the while preserving the authentic roots of what they’re bringing us.
Co-owner Michael Lee says it best as he confirms that: “We don’t normally conform to what the people would love to eat, we normally set our standard and then we educate people on how the food really should be eaten or how it should be made. So that’s the difference between us compared to normal cafes.”
Sourdough Café is located at the JSB building in Tomas Morato Avenue, Quezon City. It’s open Mondays to Sundays, from 10 am to 12 am.
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