To many, Pages Deli is just like any other deli-cum-restaurant.
It is located in a spot regularly treaded by upscale heels. A hotel nearby houses most of their clients. The place is small, but not too tiny. There are a number of comfortable couches indoors; many more seating options are available alfresco.
Like any other deli, a chiller congeals a handful of imported items, mostly cheeses and sausages, just by the counter. There are also a bunch of grapes on top and an uncut slab of turkey ham sitting patiently in one corner. All are priced reasonably.
Like any other restaurant, you may enjoy sandwiches, pastas, desserts, and a good cup of coffee in this little nook. Frothy and dramatic, the Pages Blend (P75) is the Pages customers' companion of choice when spending a lazy morning in here.
But to a bibliophile-- a person in dire love with books, Pages Deli is unlike any other.
I went to Pages Deli upon a tip from a friend that in Shangri-la Mall exists a restaurant for the book-lovers of the metro. At the door, I was enthused when I was greeted and welcomed by the one of the wait staff. My friend was right. The waiter's indeed in an Oliver Twist costume! I was sort of hoping he'd say “Please, ma'am, come inside,” ala Oliver but I figure that would creep-out customers who aren't familiar with the book. Nevertheless, I found the choice of uniform a charming touch.
As soon as I found myself settled in one of their leather couches, I was handed their menu. More excitement ensued.
Their sandwiches, which “Oliver Twist” reported as the best in the house, are named after well-loved titles in literature. Most are the kind one reads and loves as a teenager. Had I opted to order based from my personal taste in books, I'd most definitely get any from Gulliver's Travels (P250), Of Mice and Men (P200), and To Kill a Mockingbird (P250)-- all of which, I immensely enjoyed reading in high school. But since the success of the book isn't really directly proportional to the taste of the sandwich, I opted to have The Little Mermaid (P380), one of their bestsellers. “Snug in a buttery croissant bread, this smoked salmon delight had come to be part of our world,” the menu promised.
The Little Mermaid
“Wow, this looks gorgeous,” I told “Oliver.” The dish is a pretty picture. The slabs of bright pink salmon, freshly cut onion rings, and crinkly lettuce are so vibrant, they look like they are sliding their way out of the wrinkly croissant halves that trapped them. I stared at it for a good minute.
“Oliver” snapped me out of my frenzy when he told me to open the paper beside the sandwich. I was so enamored by the Little Mermaid, I failed to see the teeny scroll tucked beside it. Here's what it read:
A quote from the non-Disney version of the tale! How charming! I asked “Oliver” if all sandwiches come with surprise scrolls. He affirmed. I hope these little tidbits urge the non-bibliophile eaters into picking up a copy of the book.
It wasn't easy taking the first bite off The Little Mermaid. Hold it too hard or too lightly, and the smoked salmon pieces will slide off. Very carefully, I ushered Little Mermaid into my mouth.
I found the croissant flaky alright but it wasn't as moist and buttery as I'd hoped for. Nevertheless, it provided a simple base for the salty and cold salmon slabs. The generous serving of salmon didn't come across as distinctly smoked. It was more like sashimi. In my book, that means it's “way better!” The capers punctuated this dish very appropriately; the briny sourness is very well appreciated. As a whole, this is the kind of sandwich, I'd most likely come back for.
The Little Mermaid filled me but I didn't want to leave just yet. Like a good book that I can't put down, I wasn't prepared to leave Pages Deli that soon. I decided to try one more sandwich. “Ma'am, yung New York Times Bestseller, try niyo,” “Oliver” encouraged.
New York Times Bestseller Sandwich
The New York Times Bestseller Sandwich (P400), true to its name, is like a New York Times Bestselling Book. It sits high atop the recommendations in the menu. It is even priced like an NY Times Bestseller.
It's huge-- the biggest sandwich I've encountered so far. Like an NY Bestseller, it easily pleases its readers (eaters) with its hefty, imposing image, convincing them that they've gotten a good deal. The triple-decker sandwich has smoked turkey, salami, and variegated cheeses in between the challenging sourdough bread. You'll need the jaws of a large Viking before you can fit all three layers in your mouth.
New York Times Bestsellers are usually riveting enough to make you wanna finish in one sitting. I found doing so impossible in this sandwich. Though it was hearty and plentiful as a good sandwich should be (love the chorus of cheeses!), it just was too much for someone as tiny as me. “Can you wrap this for me?” I asked the dutiful “Oliver”. That same sandwich was able to feed two not-so-hungry friends later on that day.
My adventures in Pages never stopped in those two sandwiches. For each visit, I always find something new to enjoy. At times, I find myself hungry for a pasta. The filling Eggplant Parmigiana (P300) does the job. Other times, I just head there for desserts. I never get tired of their Classic Cheesecake (P150). I still am not through with my cheesecake phase.
Each visit to Pages Deli also entails me bringing a new book as companion. Its proximity to the bookstore is partially responsible for that. I cannot pinpoint why exactly, but I find Pages very conducive to reading. When I'm at Pages, it's just me, my book, and whatever food I fancy that time. To many, Pages Deli is just like any other deli-cum-restaurant. For me, it's the next best thing to a library cafe-- a home for the bookworms-slash-foodies like myself.