Pop culture and cuisine-wise, Korean influence in the Philippines has been going strong for a few years now. With all the Korean restaurants and cafes popping up in various locations across the Metro, I am, quite suddenly, no longer a stranger to many of their traditional savory dishes and desserts. The students of De La Salle University, among many other frequent customers, have already begun to breed that familiarity thanks to Cafe De Seoul setting up shop at One Archer’s Place along Taft Avenue.
A glance at the interiors alone gives you the idea that this is not just your typical Korean café. The typical browns and yellows one would expect to see in coffee shops are replaced with clean black-and-white lines with big splashes of aqua here and there. General Manager Jade Lee shares that everything in the café, from the furniture to the smallest tile, has been imported from Korea. A partnership with Samsung even ensures extra sources of amusement for customers, as some tables are equipped with tablets that are free for use.
The very first food item that we tried were Café De Seoul’s Rice Cakes (P50 per piece), which is a modern take on the traditional Korean snack. This comes in ten different fruit flavours, and we were invited to try some of the best-selling ones, which included strawberry, blueberry and banana. They are served chilled and lightly sweetened, making it a perfect summer snack. We also got to try out the delicious Brussel Waffle (P245), another popular Korean snack that is lighter, crisper and with larger pockets as opposed to the waffles that we see and eat more often. Ours was served with whipped cream and fresh peaches, which made for a refreshing combination.
One of the items that I love best is the Seoul Bing-Soo (P210 for 500 ml; P260 for 850 ml) a.k.a. the Korean halo-halo. The bing-soo is a shaved ice dessert that gains popularity during the summer season. Café De Seoul’s take on it boasts of red beans, rice cakes, gelato and sliced almonds, which, altogether, provide customers with a unique and refreshing chilled dessert that is highly effective for beating the heat.
The drinks at Café De Seoul are also fun to partake of. We were introduced to Ddalgi Sonagi (Eco – P155; Biz – P165), a very pretty and oddly fascinating drink whose very appearance tells a story of its own. This Korean term literally translates to “strawberry rain”, which is a fitting name for such a unique drink. A close investigation of the drink’s colour scheme draws one’s attention to the pink portion at the top, which represents the strawberry. As it goes down, the drink takes on a bluish gradient, which, in turn, represents the rainfall. I don’t want to spoil the taste experience for you (because it can’t be described), but believe me when I say it is amazing. It gains the honour of being my favourite Café De Seoul drink. There was also the Honey Yuja (Eco – P130; Biz – P145), a healthy drink that aids in digestion and relieves hangovers. It has high calcium and vitamin content and is also helpful towards relieving blood pressure. The taste is sort of a cross between orange and lemon, giving it a tangy, citrusy taste.
Other specialty drinks at the café range from smoothies to coffees. We were able to try the Banana Yogurt (Eco – P170; Biz – P185), which is another favourite of mine because I love the sweet-meets-sour taste. Also purchasable are the Blueberry Mocha (Eco – P160; Biz – P175), and Caramel Blended Drink (Eco – P135; Biz – P145) and Raspberry Yogurt (Eco – P175; Biz – P185). Coffee shop aficionados on the lookout for something different should definitely stop by Café De Seoul to sample one of these drinks.
Caramel Blended Drink and Raspberry Yogurt
Café De Seoul has set up shop in Taft because they felt that it would be a good place to start. Most of their customers are students, who stay in the café to study, hold group meetings or simply chat with friends. What it does have in common with other coffee shops—which is what we love about them—is that they are places where we can sit down, have a good snack and stay comfortable. They are, in short, homes away from home.
Photos by Marik Rama, additional images courtesy of Café De Seoul.