'Coffee, fruit shakes, foods' -- its hand-painted signage reads. Barely one week old, this quaint shop embodies what a neighborhood hole in the wall is: personally run by its owners who cook the food, and offering a short (handwritten) menu of simple and affordable eats.
I stumbled upon DiCofi Vietnamese Cafe one evening before heading home on a little detour from my usual walking route. There were a couple of diners inside this coffee shop in San Agustin, Salcedo Village, having an early dinner, rice meals on their plate. A Vietnamese lady greets me as I enter, and with a little apologetic smile she explains they just opened and so don't have much on their menu that night, then hands me the menu.
Immediately I am smitten as I browse through it. Everything is handwritten--handwritten, designed, and colored. She sees me browsing past page one, then again reminds me, sorry, we don't have everything, just today's menu. I tell her it's alright, I just want to read everything. I was still full, had enough coffee for the day (three cups), but I wanted to eat something, as curiosity got me, the special way food gets my attention. I had to save coffee for another day; I sip on the water the waiter gave me when I seated myself by the corner.
DiCofi's quaint space could comfortably seat about a dozen customers; I counted 16 chairs
"Oh, Banh Mi!" I exclaimed. Their "final" menu had Bánh mì (P85), but again, it wasn't available that evening, so I asked the Vietnamese lady (her name is Jinnie, we introduce ourselves to each other) when they will have it ready. Later on this week, come back please, but we have good Vietnamese Pizza (P70), do you want to try?
I was assured it was a light snack, personal size, and at only seventy Pesos, why not give it a try? "It's very nice, we use rice paper and not bread, very crispy!" Jinnie says. She suggests adding more toppings (add P10 per topping: chicken, pork floss, or ham), and says pork floss is the best. And sure enough, my Vietnamese Pizza (Bánh Tráng Nướng) arrives on a paper plate, paper-thin and delicate, topped with egg, chicken shreds, spring onions, pork floss, and a drizzle of spicy sauce. Light and crisp was every bite, the hot sauce tying everything together for a delicious and affordable snack.
Still too full to have something heavier, I decided to order for takeaway. Jinnie says that they plan to deliver to areas within walking area soon, perfect for office folk and residents wanting Vietnamese comfort food at the comfort of their own spaces. I ask for her recommendation among the rice meals, which include Braised Pork Belly with Pepper Sauce (P160), Special Rice with Mixed Toppings (P105), and the 'Try our best' Shrimp/Prawn (P160). She says she likes the Chicken with Lemongrass (P160) the best. "It's very nice, but people like the chicken without the bone. We have the chicken with bones, is that fine with you?" I couldn't help but smile, and yes, of course it's perfectly fine with me, I reply. She then excuses herself and enters their kitchen (she later on tells me she does all the cooking herself). I really have stumbled upon a hole in the wall, and I hope that more mom-and-pop shops like this one will thrive, no matter how strong international brands and bigger food concepts enter the foodie picture in the metro. "Thank you come again!" she says, as I leave DiCofi.
I come again, after two days. It is morning, bright and sunny, and I was in need of good sustenance for breakfast: a combination of filling food and a happy kick of caffeine. I am greeted with a cheerful hello by another lady, still Vietnamese, and I assume she is Jinnie's relative or friend. And like Jinnie, she hands me the menu, and I order -- Bánh mì and Vietnamese Iced Coffee (P85) -- to go. "Thank you, please sit and wait," she says, then enters the kitchen. Ten minutes later, both food and drink are handed to me, and I couldn't resist unwrapping my sandwich to take a look before I leave. Stuffed inside was pork floss, fried egg, ham, cucumber, and parsley. I couldn't resist, I take one big bite, and my mouth gets excited -- there's hot sauce, a welcome flavor -- as I sink my teeth into the flaky, chewy, and crisp baguette sandwich. I am satisfied with my breakfast.
"Thank you come again!" she says, as I leave DiCofi. I sip on my iced coffee, and immediately it brings me back to my streetside cà phê sữa đá in Ho Chi Minh--a rich, sweet and silky, milky coffee drink so refreshing after that long day of shopping in Saigon Square. My Vietnamese iced coffee still is cool and refreshing after a long walk under the sun in Makati. Yes, I'll definitely come again.
Visit DiCofi at the upper ground level of Valero Plaza, Valero Plaza, San Agustin Street, Salcedo Village, Makati. It is located right next to Sultan Mediterranean Grill. Currently open Mondays to Saturdays from 8am to 10pm. Full menu will roll out soon; for now, daily menu is available, so it's best to drop by the cafe to check out what's being offered.